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145 Int'l Lab. Rev. 65 (2006)
Competing for Talent: China's Strategies to Reverse the Brain Drain

handle is hein.journals/intlr145 and id is 73 raw text is: International Labour Review, Vol. 145 (2006), No. 1-2

Competing for talent: China's strategies
to reverse the brain drain
David ZWEIG*
F or many years, governments and scholars have been bemused by
brain drains that rob developing countries of their valuable human
talent, as their best and brightest people who go abroad to study opt to
stay in the developed world (Dickson, 2003). Despite its authoritarian
regime, the People's Republic of China has been just as vulnerable to
this phenomenon. In recent years, however, tens of thousands of people
trained abroad have been returning to China.
During the mid- to late-1990s, the average annual increase in the
number of returnees was approximately 13 per cent, but since 2000,
the rate of increase has risen sharply (see figure 1). According to Saravia
and Miranda (2004, p. 608), this is also reflected in a sustained drop in
the number of doctoral students from China ... who planned to remain
in the United States beginning in the late 1990s. Admittedly, liberaliza-
tion of China's policy on travel overseas has also led to a massive increase
in the number of people going abroad, so the proportion of returnees has
not increased. But China still looks set to follow the path of the Republic
of Korea and Taiwan (China), where a thriving economy and liberalized
polity turned a brain drain into a brain gain - although China's return
migration has picked up despite its authoritarian regime and low per-
capita income.
* Director, Center on China's Transnational Relations, and Chair Professor, Division of
Social Sciences, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. This article is based on a pres-
entation given at the conference on Competing for global talent (Singapore Management Uni-
versity, Singapore, 13-14 January 2005) and reproduced in Kuptsch and Pang (2006, pp. 187-213).
It is part of a larger study carried out in collaboration with Professor Stanley Rosen of the Uni-
versity of Southern California, Los Angeles, and Professor Chen Changgui of Zhongshan University,
Guangzhou, China. The research was funded by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong and
the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Research assistance was provided by
Dr. Chung Siu Fung.

Copyright © International Labour Organization 2006

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