Viewing from the school reports, Deng Xiaoping could not be considered outstanding during his overseas studying life, however, most people believe that without this experience, Deng would not have made himself China's ever greatest revolutionist and reformist.
Sixteen-year-old Deng arrived in France in October, 1920, where he started his overseas education life with the hope to save the nation through industrial development.
Unfortunately his studying life was forced to halt after fewer than half a year because he could not pay the tuition fees.
During the four years afterwards, Deng worked in local steel plants and rubber factories, feeding himself with meager earnings of ten francs everyday.
"I am also a worker", said Deng in 1984 when he met the US labor union delegation.
"I worked in France at the age of 16, with the hope to earn myself some tuition, but I failed", he said.
Though his own overseas studying experience was not satisfying, the sagacious statesman fully recognized how important the abroad students were to China's future construction.
He delivered a speech in June, 1978, stressing that China should expand the academic communication with foreign countries, and send more students to study abroad.
"We are going to send thousands or tens of thousands of students to receive overseas education", said Deng in his speech.
"Deng's decision has changed China's entire overseas education situation and also changed my life", said Li Jian, researcher of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. An expert on finance and the securities now, Li was chosen to be one of the first batch of students who were sent to Germany for doctor degrees in the 1980s when he graduated from Shanghai-based Fudan University.
During the 25 years after his speech, over 580,000 Chinese people have gone abroad to receive education in over 100 countries and regions.
About 150,000 returned overseas students have become the mainstay of China's construction in all fields today. Eighty-one percent of academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and 54 percent of academicians of the Chinese Academy of Engineering have overseas education background.
Deng hoped that every student studying abroad could return to the motherland after graduation as he expressed in 1992 when he inspected in south China provinces, "they should love their own motherland, and make it stronger and more developed. If they want to start a career, they should come back to China."
However, Deng did not forcefully demand all the students abroad to come back and made policies saying that the students had the freedom to decide whether they would return or not, while the government should make efforts to improve the living and work environment of the returned overseas students.
As a matter of fact, the polices prove highly effective today. So far China has established 110 business parks specially for returned overseas students, attracting more than 6,000 enterprises, with an earning of 32.7 billion yuan (US$4 billion) in 2003.
The reform and opening policy engineered by Deng, which brings China's economic development miracle in the past 25 years, has become the main reason why more and more overseas students prefer to come back.
Zhang Hui returned to work in an IT firm in Shanghai when she was conferred MBA in Britain.
"The situation is quite clear now", Zhang said, "in foreign countries I could only have a job, but in China I could have my career."
"In the past, returning to China means the abandonment of a rich life to most students abroad", said Xiao Zuoxing, expert of communication history between China and foreign countries, "and Deng's greatness lies in that he has discharged the burdens from the students by uniting serving the country with their own life goals."
"From this perspective, Deng is the most successful returned overseas student", said Xiao.
(Xinhua News Agency August 16, 2004)