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For China, brain drain key to brain gain
Updated: 2005-12-08 15:08

For the last 25 years, many of the best and brightest in India and China have left for western shores in the belief that study and work abroad offer greater opportunities.

However, unlike India which has been wringing its hands over this "brain drain", the Chinese have systematically encouraged their best to acquire valuable expertise abroad¡ªand then wooed them back to set up businesses or work in top government posts. Often, at the expense of western universities.

Apart from direct incentives, the Chinese have succeeded in creating a dynamic macro-economic environment to attract students back.

Overseas-educated researchers are playing a predominant role in China's prestigous scientific projects, such as the space programme and human genome mapping. Returnees have founded nearly all the country¡¯s high-tech companies listed on NASDAQ.

These returnees include Charles Zhang, founder and CEO of Sohu.com, China's premier online brand and Internet portal; Edward Tian, head of China Netcom, the country¡¯s second-largest fixed-line carrier; Robin Li, CEO of Baidu, the leading Chinese language search engine.

"Returnees are a force to reckon with in every significant area," says Jeff Huang, an entrepreneur who spent more than 10 years in the US before setting up his own cross-border merger and acquisitions advisory firm, Chisurf Ltd, in Beijing.

"All major financial institutions, like the central bank and the securities regulatory commission, are full of overseas educated personnel," he says, adding, "These people have practical experience in the US and they come back to try and shape the future system and policy here from within, bringing best practices with them."
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