Will Overseas Chinese Students Come Back?

Chen Jing

New research show that 320,000 Chinese students studied abroad between 1978 and 1999 and that one third returned home upon graduation.

As the trend of economic globalization accelerates, the struggle for talented people involving all countries, especially the developed countries, is intensifying. Headhunting companies from Europe and the United States have been targeting the developing countries, including China, India, Mexico and Brazil, especially China and India, in search for talented people in the fields of IT and biotechnology. It is said that some IT companies in the famous Silicon Valley are mainly operated by Chinese or Indians.

Now, there is a fresh surge of Chinese seeking to study abroad. Some with high educational background resigned from their jobs to go overseas for further study. Some rich families, lured by favorable conditions in foreign countries and disappointed with Chinese colleges and universities, have considered finding a better studying and living environment for their children abroad. As a result, a great number of middle school or college students leave for foreign countries before their graduation. This has lowered the average age of Chinese students studying abroad.

Since last February, over 160 universities and educational institutions from 18 countries and regions including the United States, Britain and Canada made an exhibition tour in China. Last August, an exhibition for studying in Japan was held in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. All these activities aroused a strong response around China.

China is engaged in entering the World Trade Organization and opening up its remote western areas to development, both requiring a large number of talented people. It is a pity that so many young people are being lost to other countries. So what can China do to attract these talents back? And what will it do to attract foreign students and high-tech elite in China?

The Chinese government is now drawing up and carrying out preferential policies to improve the environment and provide opportunities for overseas students. The latest data from relevant department shows that only 20 percent of Chinese students studying in the United States are unwilling to return home. Of those willing to return, 60 percent say they hope to do so in five to 10 years, or, in some cases, even longer. These talents, with a grasp of advanced management and the technology, want to make sure that China has created favorable conditions for their future.

Not long ago, the President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lu Yongxiang, said that talented people from all over the world were welcomed to conduct scientific research in China's hinterland. Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have plunged into the struggle to lure fresh talent.

More relaxed policies have appeared recently for returned overseas students. For example, one stipulation allows high-level overseas students to keep their long-term or permanent right of residence in foreign countries. Through fair competition, returned overseas students can hold a leader's post in banking, insurance and securities institutions, or become a technology leader or senior administrator in state owned enterprises, colleges and universities and scientific research institutes. Their spouses will also receive good treatment from the government.

Now, many students studying abroad have noted the development opportunities in their home country. In 1998, 7,300 students returned to homeland upon graduation, nearly five times greater than that of 1990. To date, more than 1,000 returned overseas students with advanced high-tech qualifications have settled down in Shanghai's Pudong New Area, establishing over 150 enterprises with a registered capital of US$30 million.

The Chinese government is also trying to attract high-grade foreign talents. Meanwhile, Chinese educational departments are going out and introducing Chinese education to other countries so as to attract more foreign students to study in China.


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