Gather global talents together

By Lu Rucai
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Today, July 17, 2017
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A symposium on brain science and artificial intelligence is held in Beijing on May 8, 2017. [Photo/China Today]

Intellectuals, as the name suggests, are people with a high level of knowledge and education, many of whom are experts specializing in certain academic fields. This definition was given by President Xi Jinping at a meeting with a group of scientists, researchers, model workers and young people, during his inspection tour of Anhui Province, in eastern China. Xi extended his greetings to them ahead of International Workers' Day (May 1) and Youth Day (May 4). He highly praised the role of intellectuals in the development of national revolution, construction and reform throughout history, and encouraged them to take the lead in the country's new innovation drive and contribute to the country's economic and social development as well as to improvement of public welfare.

China has never before paid more attention to the important influence of intellectuals and talent in national development. During the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976), intellectuals were referred to as the "stinking ninth category (the lowest of all the social classes)." Since reform and opening-up began – and especially since the 18th CPC National Congress – Chinese leaders at all levels of government have continuously strengthened the role of intellectuals in social development. They have formed a new concept with Chinese characteristics of intellectuals and have developed a new strategy of employing personnel. On July 1, 2016, at the 95th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping said that the country should "gather global talents together."

Encouraging Chinese talent to return and serve the homeland

When speaking of Chinese students returning from studying abroad, we need to first mention the surge in the numbers of Chinese studying abroad over the past few decades. In 1984, the State Council released Provisional Regulations on Self-financed Overseas Studying, which opened a door for Chinese students who wished to study abroad at their own expense, making China a net exporter of talent for a long period of time. According to statistics from the Ministry of Education, from 1978 to 2004, the total number of Chinese students studying abroad was 815,000, but the number of students who returned from studying overseas was only 198,000 – a mere 24 percent.

Overseas students were unwilling to return due to low incomes, poor equipment for research and development, inadequate funds and the difficulty of developing research projects into physical products.

With the improvement of China's comprehensive national strength and the change in talent policies, these problems gradually began to be addressed.

In 2007, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Science and Technology and 13 other national ministries jointly issued guidelines entitled Opinions on the Establishment of Green Channels for Overseas High-level Talents to Return and Work, which provided detailed information on expected wages, arrangements for spouses and children as well as offering preferential tax policies for entrepreneurs to entice talent back to China.

In 2008, the central government decided to implement the Recruitment Program of Global Experts, also called the "1,000 Talents Plan," in a bid to rally high-level professionals to work at national key innovation projects, national key disciplines and laboratories, state-owned enterprises, and financial institutions, and various industrial parks and high-tech development zones. The program called for prominent scientists and leading talents who are able to achieve breakthroughs in key technologies, in hope of enhancing China's high-tech industries and emerging disciplines.

So far, more than 6,000 overseas talented high-level workers have been introduced through 12 implementations of the "1,000 Talents Plan." They include Rao Yi, a neuro-biologist from Northwestern University; Shi Yigong, a biophysics professor from Princeton; and Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, who recently gave up his American nationality to become a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Dean of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Information Sciences.

Ministries and local governments have also introduced various initiatives such as the Changjiang Scholars Program from the Ministry of Education, the "100 Talents Program" from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the Beijing Overseas Talents Program, as well as the Shanghai Rising-star Program. Once having returned to China, these talented people play a positive role in scientific innovation, technological breakthroughs, talent development and hi-tech industry development, and are an important force in the construction of a new innovative country. The "100 Talents Program" implemented by the CAS has introduced more than 2,000 talented innovators since 1994. Over 90 percent of them have studied or worked in technologically developed countries in Europe and North America. Over the past 20 years, about 30 academicians of CAS and CAE (the Chinese Academy of Engineering) were part of the "100 Talents Program," and more than 500 won the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars.

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