“Back to China”: the Reverse Brain Drain in China

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“Back to China”: the Reverse Brain Drain in China
Every autumn, American students are busy with applying for undergraduate or graduate schools, so are an increasing number of Chinese students. Chinese get to realize the significance of being transnational. “Transnational” means involving in many countries. Now, human capital, especially those who have international experience, is significant to the development of a country in the internationalized world. However, plenty of overseas students from developing country tend to stay abroad for a better future, which is a great loss of developing countries. But, recently, more and more Chinese students go back to China after they complete their study, which is a good news to China. Looking through this new trend, there are three main factors that may drive overseas scholars to come back to China: the growth of economy in China, the support from the government to overseas scholars, and the bond between overseas scholars and home land. Reverse brain drain is a term of migration. The definition of this term is the phenomenon that talented people who once studied or worked in developed country go to a less developed country which is developing in high pace. Recently, this has been common in developing countries, such as India, Brazil, and China (Llana, Ford, Marquand, Pflanz, & Ibukun, 2012). Conversely, in the past, People’s Republic of China (PRC) was not as open as it is now. PRC even ceased the communication in education with other countries once because of the Chinese Culture Revolution which lasted from 1966 to 1976 (Liu, & Li, 2010). Not until 1978 when China renewed the policy of international academic communication did China send students to go abroad (Yao, 2004). As China’s policy became looser, “outgoing tide” and “incoming tide” appeared (Zhang, 1997). “Outgoing tide” is a description of the phenomenon that plenty of students go abroad and the “incoming tide” means those students go back. Since 1978, according to China statistical yearbook 2011, more than 632,000 Chinese, or 33 percent of those who studied abroad, have returned home and both the rate of increase of overseas Chinese students and the rate of increase of returning Chinese scholars have grown sharply in recent years. For instance, in 1989, 3,329 went abroad to study. In 1990, the number of students who went abroad even decreased to 2,950 , only 1,593 scholars went back to China. In contrast, the total of students who studied abroad in 2010 increased to 284,700. In the same year, 134,800 students return after their study in foreign country, up 24.7 percent from 2009 (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2011, 20-10). Statistics show that the reverse brain drain to China has already begun. In the past, the reason why the majority of overseas scholars chose staying abroad instead of returning was that they found there were obstacles blocking their way back to China. Those scholars were concerned about the factors linked with money, especially the living condition and career. Compared with working in China, it would be easier for scholars to have convenient places to live and earn relatively high salary when working abroad (Li, 1998). As for career, in China, when some young scholars applied for research funds, they were not able to get funded, which means they could only be assisted by institutions and companies abroad or study further overseas. Ruizhang Guan is one of the scholars who went abroad because of lack of fund. He did not have a Ph.D. at that time. He said, “It was difficult to get any funds without a Ph.D., and without funding it was very hard to produce any results” (Yan, 1998, p. 59). Furthermore, Zweig, the chair professor of Social Science of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology who is known for his research on Chinese politics and political economy, pointed out in his paper “Competing for talent” (2006) that the economy of China was in poor condition, most of the...
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