Outdated barriers to foreign talent hold nation back

Source:Global Times Published: 2011-3-10 8:35:00

Illustration: Liu Rui

By Liu Guofu

At present, most global talent flows to developed countries and regions such as the US and the EU. China should re-examine and re-adjust its long-term policy of strictly managing foreigners and excluding them from permanent residency and naturalization.

In an international metropolis, foreign residents should make up at least 10 percent of the population. But even in Beijng and Shanghai, the percentage of foreigners is far below this.

China must institute a competitive policy for skilled immigrants that is more flexible than the existing systems in developed countries. It needs to create more categories for work visas, and encourage foreign talent to take up long-term residence, or even settle permanently, in China.

Investment in foreign talent could pay off in the long run. Foreign talent is needed for China's social and economic development, and we must master the supply and demand of foreign talent to predict and track the inflow of skilled immigrants.

Currently we focus on attracting high-level talent from developed countries and offer them favorable treatment. Excessively focusing on subsidizing high-level talent from developed countries may not take any effect but will neglect some foreign talent from other countries or levels. This means raising the level of living standards and development to a point where they can attract high-level foreign talent.

Currently, what China can offer is far less than the conditions they enjoy in developed countries and regions.

Current work visa policies mandate that the applicant must be employed by a specific firm. We should alter this policy, and create more of a free market in foreign talent, as well as loosening control over foreign students' employment after their graduation. Foreign students make up a considerable pool of talent, and we should encourage them to take up internships while they are in colleges, and also encourage foreign graduates to work in China.

We need to think about the long term. The short-term jobs and frequent shifts of foreign employees not only increases employers' costs, but also affects the personal development of foreign talent, as they need time to adapt to working in China.

Permanent residence should be opened up to foreign talent by making it easy to transfer from a work visa to permanent residency. Foreigners who take ordinary jobs in China should be allowed to accumulate work experience and time as residents, which would help them apply for permanent residency in the long run.


The development of skilled immigrants depends largely on the comprehensive national strength, potential of economic growth, internationalization of enterprises and a high quality living environment.

Therefore, to attract more skilled immigrants, China has no choice but to improve the general social and economic conditions. The country can only retain foreign talent to work and stay steadfastly by providing an environment in which foreigners can display their talent.

Compared with countries and regions like the US, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the Chinese mainland still needs to develop an environment that can attract skilled immigrants and talent from abroad. The steps outlined above can create such conditions.

Moreover, China should also provide better education for the foreigners' children, better social security, and more improved living conditions such as the right to purchase housing, cars, and obtain a driving license without residence restrictions.

China should formulate an immigration policy that is suitable to Chinese society, economy and culture. In this way, the talent and wealth can be attracted with the immigrants' rights protected, and the role of skilled immigrants will promote China's modernization.

The author is a professor at the School of Law, Beijing Institute of Technology. forum@globaltimes.com.cn

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