Presented at the 8th Guangzhou Conference on Returnees, Ministry of Education, Guangzhou (in Chinese), 27
Zweig, David


A unique quality of China’s efforts to encourage people trained overseas to return and work in China is the fact that so many levels of government and organizations actively promote returnees. While the national government sets broad guidelines for policy, and moulds the overall socio-economic and political climate, many institutions have actively engaged in generating a return wave. Also over the past 20 years, these different levels of government and organizations have changed the way they view and recruit returnees largely due to their divergent interests.

Early on, city governments learned to compete among themselves over returnees. However, the central government had to go through a serious learning process, where it recognized that the best way to improve science and technology in China was by letting people go abroad freely, and then compete for them in the international marketplace by creating a domestic environment that could attract them back. And while leaders of academic, scientific and business institutions initially may have harboured serious concerns about returnees, because their knowledge threatened those who did not go overseas, China’s internationalized economic, scientific and educational system has led most institutions to value, if not overvalue, the contributions that returnees can make.