China’s Talent is Leaving

Published on Author Mitchell Brister

Millions of talented and educated Chinese citizens are leaving the mainland for jobs, clean air, opportunity, and other reasons. Many are leaving to protect their wealth, scared of President Xi’s new war on corruption. They are leaving also because they don’t have a ton of faith in the economy, in terms of being regulated tightly enough to protect their wealth. Those who aren’t educated are leaving for better education, and to go to a place where their talents are better appreciated.The Chinese are also leaving due to the terrible pollution conditions in China. To most health is the most important factor.

This “brain drain” has taken the attention of the government in China, who realize how serious this issue is. They have started a program called the “Thousand Talent Program” that target the top academics, scientists, and entrepreneurs to stay in China. It hasn’t been very effective and it will be interesting to see how big of an issue that this “brain drain” turns out to be.

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4 Responses to China’s Talent is Leaving

  1. See the post by “G” on China on the Move. This CNN snippet cites the stock of emigrants, not the flow – surely many have been abroad for decades, for example in Chinese restaurants around the world. There may be 20 such Chinese just in Rockbridge County. Now in Chinese terms they certainly are middle-class in that they own cars and have perhaps built houses in their home villages. But that is hardly a “brain drain.” Not all foreign students stay overseas, though they may work for a couple years before returning home. And if money is earned via corruption, are such families really leaving the golden goose to leave eggs for others, or merely establishing a nominal legal status elsewhere? Now some of those with ill-begotten wealth are skilled, but others are just good schemers (or outright scammers) to whom China might say “good riddance.”
    So cross-reference earlier posts, and be skeptical of such stories when they aren’t accompanied by hard numbers. If for example there actually is a “brain drain” of 1 million, put it in perspective: that’s less than 0.1% of the population!

  2. It seems that over time, though, even if this phenomenon may be exaggerated in calling it a “brain drain” at the moment, the fact that so many Chinese citizens wish to leave the country should not be underestimated. People want to be happy, and if that can be better achieved outside of China, then what is to stop China’s top talent from leaving? (Especially if programs like that “Thousand Talent Program” are ineffective.) I think China needs to prioritize the quality of life of its citizens if it doesn’t want to risk losing its top human capital moving forward.

  3. How best to prioritize “quality of life”? Could it be that keeping the Chinese happy at home rests on the Central Gov’s ability to promote what Miller (China’s Urban Billion) calls “healthy urbanization”? That is, halting the rapid and slipshod new development of rural land and focusing instead on the sustainable development of attractive cities? (better hospitals, schools, buildings, cleaner water, less airborne pollutions by regulating cars and coal/steel plants and better roadway planning, more public parks, etc).