http://blogs.forbes.com/timferguson/2011/02/05/5-million-chinese-abroad-but-indias-got-more/ Frequent stories appear on the Chinese investment reach around the globe, including increasingly the U.S. What I find further of interest is the outflow of Chinese themselves, either employed by Chinese businesses abroad or in pursuit of their own aims. This number has been subject to conjecture because Chinaâ€™s official counts, like most countriesâ€™, vastly understate the number of expats. They show only formal visa approvals for work or study. Yet we read stories of a surprising Chinese presence not only in Africa, Latin America and other emerging regions, where Chinaâ€™s state enterprises are taking strategic stakes, but in pockets of developed nations like Spain and Italy. (Kudos to the Financial Times for reporting on both of those.) Now come figuresâ€“the Global Bilateral Migration Database, still a work in progress or â€œforthcomingâ€ as the social scientists sayâ€“that put meat on the bone. This joint project of the United Nations population division and the World Bankâ€™s research division has used extrapolation from the 2000 census round (latest available) to project where things stood in 2010. Estimates sometimes have supplemented where census data were lacking. The headline numbers: *An estimated 5.42 million mainland Chinese-born are living abroad. So the offhand references to â€œ5 millionâ€ that Iâ€™ve seen in press accounts are close to the mark. BUTâ€¦approximately 2.2 million of those are in Hong Kong. (Those in Taiwan arenâ€™t included.) *Yet, China is not the leader. Indiaâ€™s total is an estimated 5.95 million, not including those in other parts of South Asia, which at 3.45 million is partly an outgrowth of Partition. *The Philippines, though only the 12th most populous nation, ranks third with an estimated 2.97 million migrants. And both the Indian and Filipino numbers likely are diminished by inadequate root census data from the Persian Gulf economies where so many have gone for jobs in recent times. *Russia is fourth, with 2.05 million, and that does not include those in other former states of the USSR. Add those, and the Russian total jumps over 10 million. *Nigerians? Only 680,000, though the internal migration data for Africa are weak and therefore a comparative undercount is likely. *All told, 214 million of the globeâ€™s 6.9 billion people have migrated. Surprising to me: 49% of them are female. This is fascinating stuff. Thereâ€™s no better measure of the â€œsoft powerâ€ exercised around the world than the migrant presence, especially if those people are commercially active and, ideally, creating work for others as well. My sense is that the Chinese are very much in this game. And these numbers only reflect a first-generation presenceâ€“not the overall diaspora. Why the Indian lead? Chalk it up to colonial ties, plus English-language facility that has permitted access to more labor markets, especially at higher income levels that can support bringing an extended family along. I am indebted to Caglar Ozden of the World Bank and Bela Hovy of the U.N. for giving me an insight into this. They are careful scholars who recognize the limitations in such a project, but also its vital use. Readers who want to dig into these â€œforthcomingâ€ data, presented in a matrix of origin and destination countries, can go to http://www.migrationdrc.org/research/typesofmigration/global_migrant_origin_database.html. Some â€œcellsâ€ in the matrix are still being filled.