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Report raises 'brain drain' alert

By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-02-13 06:48
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China's top think-tank has warned of a "brain drain" as a result of large-scale emigration.

More than 300,000 talented Chinese emigrants are working in high value-added industries in other countries, according to the 2007 Blue Book on Global Politics and Security, published by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences recently.

The number is rising as tens of thousands of well-trained university graduates depart the country every year.

By 2006, about 1 million Chinese students had studied abroad since the 1980s. The figure was 580,000 in 2003, according to statistics from the Ministry of Public Security.

But two-thirds of them have chosen to stay overseas after graduation, a ratio higher than for any other country.

Europe, the United States and Australia are the three most preferred destinations.

"It has been a great loss for China which is now in dire need of people of expertise to see well-educated professionals leave after the country has invested a lot in them," said Li Xiaoli, a co-author of the report.

Li attributed the emigration wave to the increasing involvement of China in the world market.

However, some experts said that it is by no means a real brain drain in a country with millions of professionals.

According to Yang Kaizhong, an economist at Peking University, China has benefited vastly from emigrants, who help ease the job market and send money back.

According to a UN report in June 2006, China receives about $20 billion every year from emigrants, and is one of the largest beneficiaries globally of remittances.

Also, a "diaspora effect" has led to 32-60 percent increases in trade volumes between China and countries where ethnic Chinese account for more than 1 percent of the total population, said a 2005 World Bank study.

Some experts such as Yang have called on the government to make the job market more attractive to professionals overseas and set up incentives to facilitate their return.

There are already some preferential policies in place, such as low-interest loans for start-ups by those returning from overseas which have paid off.

The number of overseas-educated Chinese returning home for work soared to about 30,000 in 2005, from 25,000 in 2004 and 20,000 in 2003.

Since 2002, more than 100,000 students have gone abroad to study each year, according to the Ministry of Education.

There are about 35 million people of Chinese origin scattered in more than 150 countries and regions making China one of the largest source of emigrants in the world, according to the report.

(China Daily 02/13/2007 page1)