China bleeds talent

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-1-23 0:28:01

Photo: IC

Graphics: GT

The US used the "American Dream" to lure global talent in the past. As the world has changed, more and more foreigners are starting to view China as their new "dreamland."

However, the unfortunate reality for China is that despite needing talent, it is instead cultivating talent for developed Western countries.

The annual blue book on Chinese International Migration (2014), conducted by the Center for China & Globalization (CCG), was released on Wednesday, revealing that China's small number of immigrants and huge number of emigrants has caused a severe "migration deficit" for the country.

Intellectual elites and wealthy people represent the bulk of the new generation of China's emigrants overseas. With the rise of the "new emigrant," the deficit has become more obvious, and it does not tally with China's title as the world's second largest economy.

"Migrant flow is not a zero-sum game," Wang Huiyao, chief editor of the report and the director of the CCG told the Global Times before the report was published.

"China should build an immigration office as soon as possible to capitalize on talent flow, and try to narrow the deficit caused by globalization," Wang said.

Torrent of talent

The 2014 report summarized 14 trends regarding the current situation facing China in terms of international migration, based on analysis and research of the group.

The report includes trends like the rise of Chinese "new emigrants" overseas, China's ascent to second place in terms of the most people migrating into the US, Europe becoming a key new destination for China's new emigrants and that environmental pollution has become an important factor in China's emigration.

In 1990, there were 4.08 million Chinese or former Chinese citizens living overseas, while the number of immigrants living in China stood at 376,000, meaning a deficit of around 3.71 million.

Over the following 10 years, although the number of China's immigrants increased, it still lagged behind the growth in the number of emigrants. In 2013, the deficit stood at 8.49 million.

However, the deficit recorded in the 2014 report was shocking. In 2012, the number of emigrants from China to the four largest destinations: The US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, reached 148,034. In the same year, China only issued 1,202 permanent resident permits, which represented the most permits it had issued since it has started to issue such permits to foreigners in 2004.

By 2013, there were an estimated 9.34 million Chinese living overseas.

China had 1.13 million people studying overseas in 2012, with only 326,300 foreigners studying in China, and only about 100,000 were seeking degrees.

The number of Chinese laborers living abroad stood at 850,000 in 2012, and in the same year there were around 200,000 foreign laborers in China.

Outbound tourism also showed larger figures of people traveling overseas in 2012, with 70.25 million people traveling abroad and only 27.11 million foreigners visiting China.

The 2014 report said that the likeliest emigrants are members of China's middle classes, aged from 35 to 55 years old, who are among the most influential members of society.

This mass emigration has caused losses of assets. In 2012, 6,124 Chinese people emigrated to the US by investing there.

Meanwhile, China has become the US' second largest foreign buyer of property. A total of $12.3 billion worth of property was bought by Chinese people in the US from March 2012 to March 2013, which took up one eighth of the total value of foreign purchases of US property.

More surprisingly, 69 percent of the $12.3 billion was paid for in cash.

A newly released report conducted by the Hurun Research Institute said that 64 percent of Chinese millionaires have already emigrated with their wealth or are preparing to do so, and that the US is their favorite destination.

Youth spent overseas

"This imbalance has caused a drain of talent and wealth, and we are not getting a matching inflow," Wang said.

Wang said that China should be more open-minded to attract international talent and investment.

China still has high barriers to introducing talent, and the related laws and policies should be improved.

An American Community Survey conducted in 2010 showed that well-educated emigrants and legal emigrants from China took up a large portion of Chinese emigrants in the US.

Zhang Chuan, the US-based author of the Credit Card Empire, said that the well-designed immigration system of the US ensures that those who get permanent residence are real talent, while those who cannot graduate or find work have to return to their homeland.

An open attitude toward immigration and nationality policies demonstrates a country's self-confidence, Zhang said, adding that China's current lack of confidence in terms of its policies isn't in line with China's developing national strength.

Talented future

The blue book noted that the number of international migrants in 2013 reached 232 million, which accounted for 4.2 percent of the entire world's population. The figure had increased by 18 million compared with 2010.

Wang told the Global Times that immigrants can make contributions to both their country of origin and their destination country. It is not a bad thing for Chinese to emigrate to other countries as it raises the public awareness of the development gap between China and other regions, which can drive the country's improvement, Wang said. Although emigrants have taken skills and capital away, they have formed an overseas talent pool which can contribute to China in the future.

Zhang Yiwu, a sociology professor from Peking University, told the Global Times that while China has more emigrants than immigrants, the public should not be too concerned.

"In the past, Chinese were eager to go abroad even if they could only make a living there washing dishes. Now, only wealthy people consider emigrating," Zhang said.

Zhang said that many developing countries and some developed countries have faced the same situation as China, but that they took appropriate measures to persuade talent to return home.

India - the source of significant technological and engineering talent - has started to offer "overseas citizenship" to those emigrants. This allows them to set up businesses in India but doesn't give them the right to vote. The policy has attracted many returnees and has helped boost the development of the Indian IT industry.

Experts suggested China should offer more open policies to attract international immigrants, in a bid to balance the loss of homegrown talent. Those policies could include offering intern visas to foreign students and long-stay visa or even permanent residence permission to foreigners who work in key industries, they added.

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