Why Are Overseas Chinese Students Not Returning to China?

Chinese students studying abroad not returning to China.

The life of oversea Chinese students

From Netease:

Over 1.5 Million Oversea Chinese Students Not Returning; Xinhua News Agency: Why Aren’t They Coming Back?

Xinhua Viewpoint: Over 1.5 Million People Go abroad for Study And Don’t Return — As of the end of last year, the cumulative number of Chinese students who study abroad reached 2.64 million, while the number of people who studied abroad and came back is only 1.09 million – the “deficit” between going abroad and returning exceeds 1.5 million people. Since 2003, the “trade deficit” between the number of Chinese students studying abroad and the number of foreign students coming to China is close to or more than 40,000 students every year, with the highest being close to 70,000. Why do so many students not come back?

Xinhua News Agency Beijing October 24th report: Since the Reform and Opening Up, China has experienced a “wave of studying abroad” and “trend of returning to one’s country” that is the largest in scale, covering the most fields, and with the widest scope in history, and has also attracted more and more foreign students to come to China for study. However, behind this are two numbers of talent “deficits” that seem to be more worthy of attention:

As of the end of 2012, the cumulative number of Chinese students who study abroad reached 2.64 million, while the number of people who studied abroad and came back is only 1.09 million – the “deficit” between going abroad and returning exceeds 1.5 million people.

Since 2003, the number of Chinese students studying abroad increased from less than 120,000 to nearly 400,000 every year, while at the same time the number of foreign students coming to China increased from less than 80,000 to less than 330,000 —— The studying abroad “deficit” is close to or more than 40,000 people every year, the highest being close to 70,000 people.

The life of oversea Chinese students

The number of students returning home is increasing, but still “losing blood” when it comes to high-end talent

Since entering the new century, with the significant rise in China’s economic strength and the continuing European and American regional economic downturn, the number of Chinese students studying abroad and returning has increased dramatically, with the most recent five years being especially obvious.

Statistics show that in 2008, students who studied abroad and returned numbered only 69,300, exploded over 100,000 to 108,300 in 2009, thereafter increasing by nearly 40% in the following years with 134,800 in 2010, 186,200 in 2011, and 272,900 in 2012.

However, analysts pointed out that although the returned oversea students increased significantly, when looking at the difference in “quantity” and “quality”, a large proportion are ordinary people who relied on parental financial support to study abroad in recent years. They can hardly be said to be experts in their field much less “distinguished talent”, while the high-end talent who are truly specialized in their fields or have even obtained patents abroad aren’t actually many, and there may even be an increasing trend in such brain drain.

A representative for the Central Talents Task Group Office said that although China has developed from a country relatively deficient in human talent to the number one country in human resources, the numbers for China’s current brain drain is also the highest, with an average retention rate of 87% each for the science and engineering fields.

Europe and the United States Scholars Association Vice President and China Globalization Research Center Director Wang Huiyao believes that among the “going abroad wave” of the 1980s and 90s, the number of intellectual elites financed by the government or by themselves returning to the country are too few, while there is still a large brain drain among the newer generation of students who went abroad relying on skills and their assets.

“In Silicon Valley, the world center of high-technology, 35% of technology chiefs and laboratory directors are Chinese,” Wang Huiyao said.

Analysts pointed out that, although the total figures show that more than 1 million students studying abroad have returned to the country, the “talent deficit” of 1.5 million people is more worrisome.

The life of oversea Chinese students

Foreign students coming China rapidly increasing, but “wave of going abroad tide” still high

In 1950, the New China [PRC] received its the first batch of 33 study abroad students from the eastern European countries. Afterward, owing to the Cold War and reasons such as the country’s relatively weak national power and influence, the number of foreign students coming to China were few until the 1980s.

After entering the new century, China’s increasing power attracted more and more foreign students to study and live in China, increasing every year in the tens of thousands, starting from less than 78,000 people in 2003 and rapidly increasing to 292,000 in 2011. By 2012, China had 328,000 foreign students from 200 countries and territories distributed distributed across 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in 690 universities, scientific institutes and other educational institutions for learning, of which 28,768 were on Chinese government scholarships. In the four measures of total number of foreign students, number of countries and regions the students came from, number of organizations in our country that received students, and number of students on Chinese government scholarships, new records were established.

The life of oversea Chinese students

However, accompanying the trend of coming to China to study is our own country’s continued and growing “wave of going abroad”

At present, the proportion of high school graduates in our country choosing to go abroad for university is increasing, and there is no lack of outstanding individuals among them. Not long ago, the latest report on top gaokao [college entrance examination] scorers released by the China Alumni Network revealed that once the “top scorers” finish their undergraduate studies domestically in China, there were relatively few who chose to then directly take employment or engage in entrepreneurship in China, with most of them choosing to continue on to study abroad for a master’s or doctoral degree, with conservative estimates that the proportion of national “top scorers” going abroad reaching up to 60%.

Data shows that in 2003 the number of students who went abroad to study was nearly 120,000 people, and has since steadily increased. In 2011, it exceeded 300,000 and reached 340,000. In 2012 it reached a record of nearly 400,000.

Analysts pointed out that from the statistics of those going abroad to study and those coming in to study, our country in fact is in a “deficit”, passive situation. In 2012 the highest “deficit” reached nearly 70,000 people, while the U.S. maintained a “surplus” of over two to three hundred thousand people. “This in fact means that the ‘semi-finished’ human talent produced through the basic education our country has used a large amount of national power [resources] on, they are easily lured away in large numbers and cheaply by other countries and then primarily work for those countries after becoming ‘finished’ talent [uses the metaphor of product manufacturing], while we seldom directly benefit in this aspect, and what more, our current policies do not create the best conditions of entrepreneurship and employment for the top foreign talent that come to study in China.”

A spokesperson for the International Cooperation and Exchange Office of the Ministry of Education pointed out in an interview with media that developed countries have existing advantages with regards to the cultivation/fostering of human talent and related aspects, which is bound to attract intellectual resources to flow towards them. “We should be amply mentally prepared for this.”

The life of oversea Chinese students

How can China become a “hot spot for talent” or “accumulator of talent”?

Analysts believe that the brain drain caused by the ongoing talent “deficit” and especially the loss of high-end talent loss will have an impact on China’s rapidly booming economy, with lack of innovation being one expression. In the 2012 Global Innovation Index that WIPO published, China only ranked 34th among 141 countries.

In order to change this situation, China in recent years had increased efforts in “attracting talent”, such as the implementation of the “Thousand Talents Program“, the construction of incubators in various places targeting study abroad returnees, and strengthening the work of attracting foreign experts, etc.

Wang Huiyao said: “I think the Chinese government is very motivated to solve the problem of brain drain, whether it be with the Thousand Talents Program, the Youth Thousand Talents Program or the Foreign Experts Thousand Talents Program, or the establishment of the talent special zones, this series of programs–including the new Ten Thousand Talents Program that just came out–may be a Chinese characteristic but they nonetheless have a very positive effect on attracting human talent.”

But simultaneously some experts believe that these government-led plans for introducing/attracting [talent] still have room for improvement. Sun Yat-Sen University Hong Kong, Macao, Pearl River Delta Research Center Deputy Director Yuan Chiping said that our country emphasizes the “provision of money and housing” and such material benefits to attract high-end talent while neglecting improvements in the accompanying aspects of entrepreneurial environment and scientific research systems/organizations.

Experts believe that a talent “deficit” for developing countries remains a problem that for the time being cannot be completely solved. Based on maintaining sustained and healthy economic development, conforming with the trend of globalized talent development, improving the environment for the development of talent, and actively creating favorable conditions for students to return home, building an economic model led by knowledge and innovation, are the key for our country to break free from “brain drain” to become a “place that accumulates talent” and a “hot spot for talent”.

(Original title: Piercing The Talent “Deficit” Behind The “Going Abroad Wave” and “Trend of Returning to the Country”)

The life of oversea Chinese students

Comments from

小编你麻痹 [网易山西省太原市网友]:

As long as someone is not using public funds/quota to study abroad, where people want to go is their own freedom.

网易广东省佛山市网友 [光电元器件]:

Young Li wants to emigrate to the United States,
The leader asks him: “Are you unsatisfied with your wages?”
Young Li says: “I am satisfied.”
“Are you unsatisfied with your housing?”
“So are you unsatisfied with the internet environment?”
“Also satisfied”
“Satisfied with health care, education, and all that?”
“All satisfied!”
“Since you are satisfied with all of these things, why do you still want to emigrate?”
“Because not being satisfied is allowed there!”

网易广东省珠海市网友(113.76.*.*): (responding to above)

Classic. For example, in news involving the government these days, the comments below are all praise, flattery. What difference is there between this and burying your head in the sand?

网易上海市手机网友(101.80.*.*): (responding to above)

Fenqing once again talking nonsense. The reason for emigration is not about human rights at all, but an admiration for the assimilation in Western civilization [notions of multiculturalism, melting pot] and a pursuit of a Western material life. Immigrants simply are too lazy to even vote, much less drag in issues of human rights. So childish.

网易山西省晋城市网友 [cwxfyjm] : (responding to above)

Voting is the only human right? If so, then you don’t even have that one. Being able to enjoy the welfare that human rights bring, and you still don’t admire it? Retard! Is it not better than having others represent you on your behalf? And what are they doing? Did you have them do these things?

网易浙江省杭州市网友 [插入林允儿的屁眼]: (responding to above)

The third floor [commentator: (101.80.*.*)] is not a fenqing but an insect. HeHe. Brother Xun says, the young can also become insects. Drank too much dead pig water from Jiaxing.

网易上海市手机网友(180.175.*.*): (responding to above)

The fourth floor [referring to cwxfyjm], you are just a dung beetle who has narrow vision, and dung beetles like you are plenty in Western countries, always unsatisfied with society, with no ability themselves, only demanding of others, only venting shit, but not daring to actually rebel/revolt, with courage even smaller than that of foreign devils. It has nothing to do with whether a society is a democracy or not.

网易上海市手机网友(180.175.*.*): (responding to above)

The deep-rooted bad habits of Chinese people in the new era are just like a dung beetle who has narrow vision, and there are plenty of dung beetles of this type in Western countries, always unsatisfied with society, with no ability themselves, yet still demanding of others,, only venting shit, but not daring to actually rebel/revolt, with courage even smaller than that of foreign devils. There are plenty of people like this in every country, and it has nothing to do with whether a society is a democracy or not. Look, isn’t the thinking and conduct of you guys similar? The nature of the citizens determines what a society is like, so Chinese society becoming like this is caused by itself. So don’t whine all day like Lin Daiyu.

有保有压 [网易上海市网友]:

Rivers and mountains are only in my dream,
It has been difficult to be close to the motherland for many years.
But no matter what
It cannot change my Chinese heart. [A patriotic song’s lyrics]

Overseas Chinese will return en masse to build up the country when The People’s Daily, Global Times, etc. enter museums.

网易黑龙江省哈尔滨市网友 ip:113.4.*.*

Attracting top talent needs three points to be addressed: 1, social environment; 2, salary and benefits; 3, development/advancement opportunities; Another point which is also an important reason is that most of the people going abroad are sent by family and relatives with their money, and those who are willing to come back are patriotic, while those who do not come back need to be understood, as all people are concerned with seeking advantages and avoiding disadvantages [self-interested].

90000y [网易云南省昆明市网友]:

Send me [overseas] and I’ll definitely persuade them to come back.

网易浙江省杭州市网友 ip:183.129.*.* :

Reflect on the current domestic situation and you’ll know [why the students don’t come back].

yuezheng2004 [网易广东省深圳市网友]:

Who would be willing to return to Hell from Heaven?

yuzhengmen [网易浙江省杭州市网友]:

Since 2003, the “trade deficit” between the number of Chinese students studying abroad and the number of foreign students coming to China is close to or more than 40,000 students every year, with the highest being close to 70,000. Why do so many students not come back?

没事就骂骂删贴的 [网易加拿大手机网友]:

Among 1.3 billion people, there is of course no lack of talent, but if the most outstanding among this pool of talent leaves, not staying in the mainland after finishing university, then this trend is very discouraging. High-level competition is about the level of the experts/elite talent. The software that 1 billion people in China can’t produce, Bill Gates just needed several days and nights to work out. By the time you’ve learned how, they’ve already made Steve Job’s mobile phone. They will always be designing and we will always be working for them [manual labor] and who will be living the good life in that situation is one anyone can figure out.

为什么会这样子 [网易美国网友]:

Sitting in my school’s library preparing for a test and I saw this piece of news. The pictures in this piece of news indeed reflected a disappointing part of study abroad students’ life, but there are more positive parts that were not shown [referring to a photo slideshow included in the article but not directly related to the Xinhua article itself].
To be honest, I feel really studying for a doctorate in the United States is indeed very hard, but this hardship indicates that I am constantly improving. If a person can easily deal with all kinds of things tomorrow, it only shows that he is marking time [not making headway, not making progress, not overcoming new challenges]. The language barrier is overcome for most after a few years.
No matter where you are, just do your best.
Alas, there is no related facilities in China for the field I am specializing in, and I would be a nobody/useless if I were to go back.

遛弯者 [网易河南省郑州市网友]:

When foreigners call the police, it only takes one hour, while when Chinese call the police…
In China and overseas [Chinese people] are second-class citizens, so why come back?

网易北京市网友 [安石之殇在于宋]:

Xinhua: Why don’t they come back?
Brother: Why come back?

奇星寄寒 [网易广东省惠州市网友]:

Why come back? Are the wages high here [in China]? Are the housing prices low? Is the tax rate low? Is seeing a doctor [getting medical treatment] easy? Is speaking the truth on the internet not censored?


Written by Bing


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