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China sees "brain drain" reversed
( 2003-12-18 15:41) (Xinhua)

After opening its doors to the outside world 25 years ago, the Chinese people's enthusiasm for studying overseas was re-ignited.

Until recent years, long queues could be often seen in front of the TOFEL (Test of Foreigner's English Level) exam registration stations, as the exam was then the only access for Chinese students to the United States. And the phenomenon of hundreds of thousands of well-educated Chinese living abroad permanently had sparked concerns that economically backward country would never recover.

Today's China is more open, but the once perplexing "brain drain" is beginning to reverse.

The obvious sign is that the number of people registering for the TOFEL exam has sharply decreased since late 1990s.

At its peak in China in the 1980s and 1990s, more than 100,000 Chinese attended the exam every year, while this year, the figure dropped to just 10,000. At the same time, a growing number of students who studied overseas, are coming back to start careers in their homeland.

Statistics released from the Ministry of Personnel show that from China's implementation of the reform and opening-up policy at the end of the 1970s to this October, about 580,000 Chinese have gone to more than 100 foreign countries to study. And 160,000 have come back.

A senior official with the Ministry of Personnel said the number of returned overseas students will grow by 13 percent on last year.

"The high-gear economy in China and the high unemployment rates in many developed countries have caused China's 'brain drain' to reverse," said Xu Xiaoping, a consultant for immigration affairs.

Currently working in the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games as a project manager, Chen Jingyuan embarked on his self-funded architecture study in Japan in 1989 and won wide acclaim there by designing a hotel in the port city of Yokohama.

After returning to Beijing with his wife and daughter in 2002, Chen told Xinhua that Japan's architecture market has been saturated, while the market in China is booming.

Just after graduating from Cambridge University in 2002, Zhong Shuang came back and served in a domestic law affairs office.

"When I was young, my parents encouraged me to go overseas to study, because at that time, the income of a university professor was even lower than that of an ordinary worker. But today, everything is changing. I can lead a more comfortable life at home, so I came back," said Zhong.

"From China's entry to the World Trade Organization to Beijing' s successful bid for the Olympics Games, China become a magnet for overseas Chinese students," said Liu Xiaozheng, a computer studies major in Canada.

Yu Kongjian, general manager of a city landmark design company in Beijing Zhongguancun High-tech Zone said the favorable policies for returned overseas students were very attractive.

To date, the Chinese government has established more than 70 industrial parks for returned overseas students to start businesses. In these industrial parks, returnees can easily get loans to start business and their relatives can also get permanent residency.

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