BEIJING — China is in the middle of its biggest ever influx of foreign-educated graduates.
According to a survey released on Aug 30 and jointly conducted by the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and two other state-level organs, more than 2.65 million people who had studied overseas had returned to China as of the end of 2016, 70 percent of whom returned after the 18th CPC National Congress in late 2012.
In 2016 alone, more than 432,000 foreign-educated Chinese had returned to the country, up 58.48 percent from that in 2012, according to a recent survey carried out among returnees by the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), a major Chinese think tank.
While reuniting with family remains the main motive for most returnees, selected by 70.6 percent of those surveyed, favorable policies for overseas-educated students played a big part as well.
Another survey by China Youth Daily (CYD) showed that up to 71 percent agreed that their fellow returnees who chose to start businesses did benefit from the policies.
Zhang Shuhao, an entrepreneur who provides customized overseas journeys and a returnee himself, is among them.
“The benefits include special project incubators, funds, tax cuts, easier access to permanent residence in first-tier cities and others,” he said. “From an entrepreneurial standpoint, they’re quite appealing.”
His words were backed by the numbers. For example, China has so far set up 350 industrial parks exclusively for the foreign-educated, where over 27,000 enterprises have settled.
Gu Zhijie, former researcher at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, is another beneficiary. In the summer of 2016, he received 5 million yuan ($770,000) of support funds from East China’s Zhejiang province, and thus returned to China to start a business in photoelectric conversion materials.
“You can’t get such favorable entrepreneurial conditions in Japan,” he said.
According to Kuang Jianjiang, an educational secretary at the Embassy of China in Britain, the CPC Central Committee’s growing emphasis on talent over the five years is the root cause to such an influx of returnees.
It was a similar case for returned job hunters.
“A lot of headhunting companies favor overseas graduates, especially for finance jobs,” said Wang Yuxuan, a graduate of the University of Miami and a data analyst in Shanghai, who admitted that regardless of the policies, returnees do boast advantages in some cases.
The CCG survey showed that the top three advantages of overseas-educated graduates lie in their international perspective, foreign languages and cross-culture communication. Wang said factors such as career fairs and details including his dress code from life abroad are what helped him most in his career.
“They helped me a lot with my transition from campus to office,” he said. “That was why I could get into form immediately after taking the job.”
For some, however, both returnees and local governments could make improvements in work readiness.
According to the CCG survey, many overseas returnees saw their lack of adaptation to Chinese society and market environment as disadvantages in job hunting.
Their lack of knowledge about the employment situation and employers’ demands back in China, as well as the lack of guidance in the direction of their careers also made the list.
“Some of them also miss the period for China’s campus recruitment season,” Wang added.
As a result, 59 percent of those surveyed would like a communication platform to be set up for young returnees.
Same goes for returned entrepreneurs. Lang Jing, secretary-general of a union of returned entrepreneurs, suggested local governments improve the service system for entrepreneurs, especially in targeted services and the protection of intellectual property.
“Despite the favorable policies, returnees should improve their own abilities, proactively learn more about the domestic environment and take advantage of the existing platforms,” he continued.