China's brain drain at the high end: Why government policies have failed to attract first-rate academics to return

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Between 1978 and 2007, more than 1.21 million Chinese went abroad for study and research, of whom only about a quarter have returned. The Chinese government's policies of attracting first-rate overseas academics back have yielded mixed results at best. This article discusses why overseas Chinese academics hesitate to return at a time when China is in desperate need of talent to turn itself into an innovation-oriented society. Common reasons relate to low salaries, problems of education for children and jobs for spouses, and problems of separation if some family members still reside abroad. More important are institutional factors. Guanxi still matters. The opportunity costs in career development are too high. In social science research, there are still taboos. Rampant misconduct has also tainted the Chinese scientific community. The article concludes that unless the research culture becomes conducive to doing first-rate work and meritocracy is rewarded, China is unlikely to witness the return migration of first-rate academics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-345
Number of pages15
JournalAsian Population Studies
Volume4
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Brain drain
  • China
  • Overseas academics
  • Research
  • Return migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography

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