Homebound: More overseas talents return to China #Oriental Outlook #-Sino-US


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Homebound: More overseas talents return to China #Oriental Outlook #
Since the 18th CPC National Congress in late 2012, the country has seen the biggest increase in the number of returned overseas talents, a very rare trend in the nation’s history.
 
By the end of 2016, 2.65 million overseas talents had returned to China. In 2016, there were 432,500 returnees, 159,600 more than in 2012, an increase of 58.48 percent.
 
China has been acting like a magnet to attract talents from across the world. Many returnees believe that the country will see vigorous development of the socialism with Chinese characteristics and rising international influence. 
 
In the 43th issue of 2017, Oriental Outlook magazine under the Xinhua News Agency ran a cover story on the trend of more overseas students returning to China, discussing the reasons and the outlook.
 
Below is an excerpt of the article.
 
Call of the heart
 
In early 2014, President Xi Jinping wrote a letter to all Chinese students in Germany, urging them to put their belief in patriotism, hard work and innovation and contribute to their motherland with knowledge and skills.
 
In February, the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced that Yao Qizhi, recipient of the 2000 Turing Award, was admitted as academician after he renounced the US citizenship and resumed his Chinese citizenship. 
 
In fact, Yao resigned from his post in Princeton University 10 years ago, and set up computer and quantum information centers in Tsinghua University. He has fostered batches of leading professionals in the computing field.
 
His return has become a signpost of attracting high-level overseas talents back to China.
 
Like many other overseas Chinese, Deng Weiwei, associate professor at Virginia Tech, also faced identity question for many years and was in a dilemma over whether to return to China.
 
Beating off the chalk ash on his hands after the last class on April 27, Deng, who worked in the university for 7 years and lived in US for 15 years, bid farewell to students after he resigned on January 26 to return to China.
 
On September 15, China launched the space lab Tiangong II successfully, and Deng, an expert in aerospace engineering, could only learn of the situation from his university classmates controlling the launch on social media.
 
Deng finally decided to return. The rapid development of the country acted like a strong magnetic field, attracting him to join in the process.
 
Yuan Junhua, a physicist who reigned from Harvard University to return to China five years ago, said that “he worried if he returned too late, he would miss the country’s development.” His wife Zhang Rongjing also returned to China.
 
The couple He Li, expert in groundwater pollution, and Lu Hongwei, expert in water resources, returned from Canada, and they are in the country’s “1,000 Talents Program” and “10,000 Talents Program,” respectively.
 
Lu said that “we joined in the country’s important projects after return, which gave us the sense of achievement. It is hard to have such a feeling if we still stay overseas.”
 
More elites in their respective fields returned, such as biophysicist Shi Yigong, single molecule enzymology expert Xie Xiaoliang, high-energy physicist Wang Yifang and AI technician Gan Zhongxue.
 
Ge Jun, born in 1980s, who returned after getting a post-doctoral degree from Stanford University, said that the domestic scientific research conditions have a narrowing gap with the US. He now works in Tsinghua University.
 
“Since the opening up, especially the 18th CPC National Congress, we have seen the largest number of overseas talents in widest range of fields return,” Chen Zhu, president of the Western Returned Scholars Association, said.
 
Efforts to draw talents
 
When the financial crisis swept the US in 2009 and led spending cuts on scientific research, China launched programs to attract overseas high-level talents to further the country’s strategies.
 
“Only being there, you could feel how serious the crisis was for the US,” said Yan Shaojiu, a professor from Aero Engine Corporation of China, who was a visiting scholar at University of Wyoming that year.
 
“A lot of research programs have been suspended, and new programs were hard to get approved. Fewer postgraduate students were enrolled,” Yan said.
 
In December 2008, the CPC Central Committee General Office issued guidelines from the central personnel work coordination group to attract overseas talents. 
 
Sun Xueyu, director of the central human resources management office, said that most of the talents were attracted through programs at central government level and province- and city- levels. 
 
The central government launched the Thousand Talents Program. Local governments have kinds of programs to attract overseas talents, such as 100 Talents program in Shaanxi province and Peacock program in Shenzhen.
 
Many local governments have set up offices overseas, especially in Silicon Valley in the US, to recruit talents.
 
Within 10 days, Yang Hanjun, the former head of the organization department of Wuhan city, would travel five cities in three countries, taking part in 24 official activities and talent talks, visiting three important scientists and 10 overseas leading teams in their fields. 
 
“Importing a high-level talent means creating an innovative team and even bringing along an innovative industry,” said Yang.
 
A recruitment team led by Cui Ping, former head of the Ningbo Institute of Industrial Technology Under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, held lots of job fairs overseas, bringing in hundreds of talents to elevate the institute into a leading position. 
 
To help returned scientists focus on on their work, the central and local governments issued many preferential policies in fields such as household registration, tax, social insurance, children’s education, and project application.  
 
Official data showed that in 2016, the total investment into scientific research reached 1.57 trillion yuan, increasing 52.5 percent from 2012, with an annual increase of 11.1 percent.
 
China was the second country with the largest investment into scientific research, after the US.
 
Wang Junfeng, the first among the eight returned scientists to set up the most advanced strong magnetic field experiment facility in Hefei, Anhui province, said that the scientific research conditions have improved a lot in China where they could have independent lab, but not in the US.
 
Examples of famous projects includes Guizhou's 500-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), also known as the "Eye of Heaven", artificial sun facility in Hefei, and light sources in Beijing’s Huairou district. More large projects are also planned. 
 
The huge market has provided a broad stage for returnees. The industrial upgrading needs high technologies. Returnees can set up high tech companies in the environmental protection, new energy, biological and financial fields. 
 
Impact of returnees 
 
Some 150 years ago, the country’s early returned talents Rong Hong, Zhan Tianyou and Mao Yisheng have become the pioneers in pushing forward the country’s modernization.
 
Mroe than 60 years ago, returned talents including Qian Xuesen, Qian Weichang, Qian Sanqiang and Deng Jiaxian had become the pillars for building a new China.
 
Now, overseas Chinese students are spread across more than 100 countries and regions across the globe. They have experienced different cultures and global visions, and they have a strong sense of innovation and willingness to start a business.
 
“Returned scientists could help transfer the knowledge and technology, and they are a major force in China’s academic development and innovation, a promoter of high-tech application and a leader in starting a business,” said an official from the central personnel work coordination group.
 
According to incomplete statistics, the heads of 70 percent of the colleges and universities under the education ministry and 80 percent of the academicians have studied or worked overseas. 
 
The “1000 Talents Program” have attracted more than 7,000 talents in 13 batches to China, most of them from famous universities, scientific organizations and multinational enterprises, including six Nobel prize winners and 80 academicians in the US and Europe. 
 
Shi Yigong has led researchers in the School of Life Sciences of Tsinghua University to publish more than 70 articles in international journals such as Nature and Science since 2009, increasing their influence worldwide.
 
Pan Jianwei, a renowned quantum physicist in China, and his students Zhang Yuao and Lu Zhaoyang all returned and formed a charming team to provide China’s quantum communication backbone.
His team is behind the 2,000-kilometer fiber-optic link connecting Beijing and Shanghai and building the world’s first quantum satellite Micius.
 
Returned overseas students have set up a large number of high-tech companies, promoting the development of the entrepreneurial culture, bringing new vitality to the country’s economy.
 
Robin Li has set up Baidu Inc, and 73 companies set up by talents in the “1000 Talents Program” have been listed. 
 
Ding Lieming, a professor in the “1000 Talents Program” and chairman of Zhejiang Beta Pharma has successfully developed the country’s first cancer drug and the third worldwide, Conmana.
 
The contribution rate of science and technology to the level of national economic growth increased from 50.9 percent at the beginning of the 12th Five-Year Plan to 56.2 percent in 2016.
China has the largest number of applications for patents worldwide. The overseas returnees have made a great contribution to that.
 
Now, there are more than 300 innovation parks for overseas Chinese students across the country, accommodating 24,000 companies. Their total revenue reached 280 billion yuan in 2015.
 
China successfully conducted a trial of combustible ice mining in May 2017 in the South China Sea, making important contribution to the energy production. Lu Hailong, an expert in “1000 Talents Program” led the trial.
 
Returned overseas students have also worked for the country’s manned space mission, high quality computers, BeiDou satellites and Jiaolong submersible. 
 
When more overseas Chinese students returned, they pushed for international academic meetings to be held in China, joining in setting international rules, which promoted the country’s status.
 
Bringing in the overseas talents also have boosted the reform of the country’s personnel system.
 
“China has never had such a good atmosphere like today to pay attention to talents, attract talents and use talents,” said Wang Pijun, secretary general of the Western Returned Scholars Association.

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