Essay: Why Millions of Elites Tarry Abroad

With the coming of the end of the enrollment in 2009 college entrance examination, it’s still uncertain whether the number of the exam attendants next year will increase or decrease, but estimated to be less than that of this year..Why? Apparently, many people have no idea of the secret that 840 thousand students gave up the domestic college entrance examination this year.              

It was the focus of the media in June that 840 thousand people gave up the exam, among whom some had no interest in attending universities as they might get no job or lowly paid job after graduation while some living in poor countrysides couldn’t afford it even after enrolled. Also, quite a few of these people voluntarily gave up the exam to study abroad, which attracted the public attention.

The statistic showed that the high school graduates who entered the overseas universities through the ‘foreign college entrance examination’ this year were over 10% more than the previous years. Some people of inside feel worry about the new tendency that the number of students abroad are increasing and their ages are becoming junior. Further more, it’s showed by the statistic that not only obviously more high school students attend foreign universities, the students who go abroad for high schools are also 20% to 30% more than before. The book ‘Talent Strategy’ published not long ago even spoke up that China has already become the country with the biggest talent loss now in the world.

Recently, Guangzhou Daily specially reported in an obvious position that many students abroad didn’t return but stay in foreign countries after graduation in the previous years, serving other countries instead of motherland, titled ‘Million Chinese Elites Tarry Abroad’.

A group of data several years ago deserve our attention. 80% graduates majoring in high technology of Qinghua University have gone to U.S. since 1985, and 76% for Beijing University. ‘It can almost reflect the current situation.’ said by Wang Huiyao, author of book ‘Talent Strategy’, director of China and Globalization Research Centre, ‘The outflow and loss of young elites showed the lack of attraction of the domestic scientific institutions and enterprises. There is a wide gap between China and some other countries in the respect of the personnel mechanism, the environment of scientific research, and salary levels’ in scientific institutions. Therefore, surprising data are striking people one after another.

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences admitted in the report ‘Global Policy and Safety in 2007’ that the loss of Chinese top talents listed first in the whole world. As reported by People’s Daily Overseas Edition some time earlier, over 580 thousand Chinese people went abroad for study from reform and opening in 1978 to 2002 (not including Chinese people who went abroad for business or travel) among whom over 60 thousand were sponsored by the government. Over 150 thousand people have returned to China to work till now, including over 50 thousand government-sponsored students while another 160 thousand people worked abroad after graduation. About 270 thousand people are still studying overseas. In terms of these data, the loss rate of Chinese students abroad is nearly 50%.

‘The number of students abroad has increased sharply in recent years. It may break through 300 thousand this year. China had already sent about 1.4 million students abroad till 2008, the most in the world. I estimate that the total sum has reached 1.5 million by far.’ Wang said worriedly, ‘The data of last year showed only 390 thousand people returned. It has been more than one million people who stayed abroad. Either the quantity or the rate is rare in the world.’

Wang directly conveyed the sense of the extremely urgent crisis in ‘Talent Strategy’. ‘In this world war without gunsmoke, China and India aren’t the countries with the highest rate of talent loss or worst suffering, but definitely the countries with the most and heaviest talent loss in the world now.’ It’s true that talent loss means improving opponents’ power by weakening the country itself. The number of Chinese students admitted by American postgraduate colleges was the most in all the countries in 2007. China has become the biggest high-tech talent supplier for the United States. As claimed by ‘China Yearbook 2004’, there were about 62500 Ph.Ds who were born in China but immigrated to U.S. at that time. However, the total number of the Ph.Ds in Chinese public scientific institutions was only 18493 till 2006.

Some countries take active measures to attract talents. As ‘It’s really an excessively profitable deal to attract Chinese students.’ said Zhang Guohua, project manager of the goabroad department of Guangzhou Student abroad Service Centre. A report of U.K. Higher Education Policy Institution in 2007 showed that each student from non-EU countries could bring the profit of 24.4 thousand pounds every year on average, estimated 25 thousand Canadian dollars by Canada. Once the student doesn’t return, the previous educational investment on this student will not be recovered. Considered that everyone devoted 20 thousand U.S. dollars to foreign countries every year, China has devoted 10 billion U.S. dollars to other countries only by the students abroad. But these countries are still fighting for talents in various ways. Wang Tongxun, vice president of Chinese Talents Society once summarized the 10 ‘weapons’ of talent war, including invisible way such as establishing research institutions in China, cooperation in running schools and giving awards, etc..It’s known that of the nearly 100 kinds of scholarship in Qinghua University around 2003, foreign capital enterprises accounted for 50%. Of the total scholarship over 4 million yuan in Beijing University, foreign companies accounted for 3 million. The statistic in 2006 published by the Ministry of Commerce showed that more than 800 research centres invested by foreign companies would be established in China, while there were only 100 in 2000.

On one hand, foreign countries can provide better educational conditions. On the other hand, they intensify efforts to attract Chinese talents, setting down favorable policies on immigration. While foreign countries are ‘pulling’, the domestic education, personnel mechanism and immigration policies are being reformed slowly which is kind of ‘pushing’. Because of the two effects of ‘pulling’ and ‘pushing’, it is no wonder that the number of students abroad in recent years has increased sharply. According to this serious situation, some insightful people in Chinese education field raised problems that why so many students want to study abroad? Why can’t the elites of the young generation be retained? What’s the problem of Chinese education? It’s time for the whole society to discuss it. Wang Tongxun said, ’21st century highlights the competition for talents. The result of talent war will change the whole world situation. Now it has been the period for us to force talents to return and to draw talent savings from overseas. The situation of “being in passive position under attack” must be changed.’

But some insiders expressed the opinion that many talents are hired in some places and given good salaries. However, these talents have little work except pretending a ‘vase’ for leaders, not to mention professional research. Doesn’t it disappoint the talents?

How to make Chinese elites abroad to return? Wang has many bold ideas, such as whether China can establish an immigration office? When can dual nationality be permitted? Can more overseas talents be admitted in the civil service?……In his opinion, it has been the critical moment to attract talents to return in various forms and ways. Some experts explained the talent loss to foreign countries by ‘man struggles upwards’. ‘According to the experience before, only when the personal GDP reached 4000 U.S. dollars would talents return to this country in great amounts. It’s a turning point.’ Wang said. There’re also data showed that only when the education budget accounted for over 5% GDP, R&D money accounted for over 1.9%, R&D money of scientists and engineers was over 60 thousand U.S. Dollars per capita, more than 1500 of each million people were scientists who worked on development would the returned overseas talents increase greatly. Now China’s economy has developed indeed, but can the funds be spent on talents or intellectuals? That’s the key point.

Currently, China is faced up with two problems in talents. There are many solutions to the problem whether the elite of the young generation can be retained. But only the public’s judgment of talent war and the sense of urgency and responsibility caused by it can be the motivity to improve the environment now. New measures should be taken as the first step to retain domestic talents, make them unwilling to go abroad, then to attract the elites overseas to return. The policies concerned must be established and carried out, not only orally or in writing.


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