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China to make green cards easier for skilled workers

Updated: 2015-04-10 12:19
By Wang Ying in Shanghai (China Daily USA)

The central government is testing out some new policies to attract more talented expats to live in cities like Shanghai, part of an ongoing bid to accelerate innovation-driven development in China.

In a meeting of the city government late last month, Vice Mayor Zhou Bo said that establishing a technology innovation center was also a main priority, the Oriental Morning Post reported.

He said the municipal government will initially test out 15 measures. These will award more green cards to top talents from overseas and offer lower tax rates to angel investors, among other benefits.

Such moves highlight the urgent need for more highly skilled expats in the city, said Du Tao, a professor who specializes in international law at Shanghai's Fudan University.

"If we look at major high-tech companies like Xiaomi, Huawei and Alibaba, none are headquartered in Shanghai. This bitter reality tells the city's decision-makers that there is much work to be done in terms of attracting talent," he said.

It also reflects a general problem nationwide, he said.

The new rules should make it easier for those who do not hold a Chinese passport to gain permanent residence permits, while those who already have green cards will enjoy the same benefits as locals if they start tech-based enterprises, he added.

There are also many talented overseas Chinese working in high-tech corporations, top universities and leading institutions in the US and they are perfect targets for China to attract, Du said.

"They speak Chinese, they eat Chinese food, and many of them grow up in a Chinese-friendly environment. If China can offer attractive and favorable policies, they would be willing to emigrate," he said.

China established its green card system in 2003 but had only issued 4,900 as of last May.

"Many foreign students and overseas Chinese are trying to come to China, so we need to adopt more open polices to make it easier for the best of them to do so," Wang Yaohui, director of the Center for China and Globalization, was quoted as saying by

The experience of immigrant countries like the US and Canada may not be easily applicable to China, which should instead take inspiration from the likes of France and Germany, Du said.

Germany launched its current green card policy in the 1990s when it was facing some of the same issues that China now has to deal with, such as an aging population and a shortage of talent in new technological fields, he said. Immigrants now make up over 10 percent of Germany's population.

However, China must be cautious to avoid legal loopholes that allow poorly skilled laborers to pour into the country, which could trigger new social problems, Du added.

"Highly skilled immigrants will be of great service in helping Shanghai and China achieve greater technological innovation," he said. "But it's just as important to retain local talent and provide them with a good living environment."


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