Nearly half of China's wealthiest citizens are considering emigrating, with the United States and Canada the most popular destinations, according to a new report from the authors of China's rich list.

The survey by the Bank of China and the Hurun Report, which publishes luxury magazines and runs a research institute, found that 46 percent of Chinese with assets worth more than 10 million yuan ($1.6 million) were considering moving abroad.

Another 14 percent had already begun the process, it said. Many said they were seeking a better education for their children and cited concerns about the security of their assets in China.

Nearly a third of the respondents said they already had investments overseas, in many cases to enable them to emigrate. Some countries offer residency to foreign citizens who are prepared to invest large sums.

High inflation and the difficulty of investing overseas were also cited in the survey, which took in 980 people in 18 Chinese cities.

More than 30 years of booming economic growth have allowed some Chinese to build up vast fortunes once unthinkable in the nominally communist nation.

China now has 271 dollar billionaires, according to Hurun's 2011 rich list, up from 189 last year, despite the global economic crisis.

The latest report said that 960,000 people in China are now worth more than 10 million yuan, up by 9.7 percent from 2010.

Many of the country's wealthiest citizens have made their money in China's construction and property sectors, as well as a growing domestic retail market.

But the rigid education system, rising living costs and widespread corruption have led many to look for homes abroad.