China's talent problem

Whilst the Chinese government has done a great deal at the national and local level to attract Chinese talent back into the country, some evidence suggests that other factors are attracting them back.

by Far Eastern Economic Review
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

Good government policies and political stability, for instance, has encouraged some scientists to come back, while entrepreneurs believed that the introduction of technology into China would result in attractive profits.

The people who do return also may not be the most successful ones either. Some returnees were unsuccessful abroad while the very best scholars and scientists tend to remain abroad.

The large numbers of returnees can be misleading. Half of 30,000 of those who returned in 2005, for instance, had earned undergraduate or one year master's degrees, which made them relatively unskilled and less likely to find work abroad. These people (known as hai dai or sea-weed) tend to fill middle-management positions and will not be the cutting edge scientists, scholars and entrepreneurs that the government would hope for.

Domestic concern arises from the fact that many of the returnees are the only children of recently retired government officials, who will depend on them for financial assistance. The market will take care of this distortion as younger Chinese realise it is not in their interest to take such courses abroad.

The opportunities for high-quality engineers is high, for instance, and people may train in this area. Meanwhile, the large wave of returning talent is less about numbers and more about quality.

Source: China Learns Education Lessons
Author: David Zweig
Far Eastern Economic Review, July/August 2006

Review by Morice Mendoza

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