China's launching of the reform and opening up drive in the late 1970s triggered a kind of "gold rush" for young Chinese to study overseas. At one time, some critics cried out against the so-called "brain drain" and feared that China might lose her young, energetic talents forever.
Between 1978-2002, over 580,000 Chinese students and scholars studied on foreign campuses, mostly in developed nations. Of them, merely 63,533 were financed by the government and the majority went overseas at their own expense.
By the end of 2002, 160,000 of these people had returned home and are now working in different fields. Almost 77 percent of the government-financed students have returned home.
Among the over 200,000 young Chinese who are currently studying in foreign schools, almost half of them plan to come back to China once they accomplish the goals of their overseas education.
An official with the Ministry of Personnel attributed the increase of returning students to the successful policies by the government to lure Chinese students to return home.
Deng Xiaoping, the late Chinese leader, once said he would like to see the number of Chinese studying overseas go up. Since the 1990s, the government has adopted more flexible policies to give greater freedom to these students.
Over the past 25 years, a series of favorable policies have been issued by the government to help returned students in various forms. A large number of government officials have been trained specially for dealing with the issue of returned students.
Early this year, a dozen central government departments established a coalition meeting to coordinate on the issue, so as to better serve those in need of assistance.
In today's China, it is up to returned students to decide whether to join a local company or institution, to work for a foreign-funded company, or to set up their own business.
Over 76 industrial parks have been established across the country particularly for returned students to develop their own businesses from scratch. So far, over 4,000 companies run by 15,000 returned students have been hatched in these parks.
Currently, returned students and scholars make up the majority among the country's top scientists and engineers, as they account for 81 percent of the academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, 54 percent of the members of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, 72 percent of the leading scientists of the country’s national research projects, particularly the "863 High-Tech Program", initiated in March 1986.
Returned students are playing a major role in China's top development programs like manned spacecraft, the research on high temperature super conducting technology, and the sequencing of the human gene, as well as the strenuous battle against the deadly SARS this year.
(Xinhua News Agency October 13, 2003)