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Bright prospects cause reverse brain drain to China

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-04-16 10:23
Visitors watch a robot painter developed by Chinese returnee students at the 2017 China overseas talent exchange conference in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. [Photo by Tanqingju/For China Daily]

BEIJING-Timothy Tian, CEO of SF Technology, recently made a trip to the United States to recruit talent for his company, one of five involved in LinkedIn's recruitment campaign for artificial intelligence or AI professionals.

"While working here (in the US), I felt that mostly I was enjoying the benefits of technology. But in China, I feel that I'm using technology to make a difference to people around me. And that's amazing," said Tian.

He returned to China six years ago after two decades in the US. There are many Chinese like him-"sea turtles" or foreign-educated, highly skilled professionals returning to serve a transforming motherland and, in the process, actualize their full potential amid growing opportunities to strike it rich.

Already, demand is high for overseas professionals in China. And sea turtles are in even higher demand.

During his hiring drive in the US, Tian repeatedly referred to the strong sense of accomplishment of working in China, which struck a chord among many compatriots in the audience like Leo Zhang, a data engineer with a robotics startup in Silicon Valley.

"Many friends briefed me about rapid changes in the tech sector, when I went home for Chinese New Year a few months ago. I was really impressed. Returning to China for a new career and life is worth a try," Zhang said.

SF Technology's recruitment event in the US attracted over 800 jobseekers.

"This is the seventh joint overseas recruitment campaign for China-based firms. We see growing interest among overseas-trained professionals and the Chinese working overseas to return to China," said Linda Wang with LinkedIn China.

The online network has helped about 100 Chinese firms find staff from overseas, especially those with expertise in AI, data analysis and cloud computing.

The clients used to be mainly big fish like Baidu and NetEase, but now startups and traditional sectors are also interested, Wang said.

The inflow of returnees picked up speed significantly in 2012. Over 2.3 million Chinese who graduated overseas returned to China in the past five years.

A report from the Center for China and Globalization showed that China is facing the biggest wave of returnees since 1949. The bright prospects for the domestic economy and stable society were the top reasons for returning alongside factors like family and culture.

"China is developing so fast and that is the biggest draw for them," Wang said.

Local governments also want overseas professionals. Emerging cities like Chongqing, Wuhan and Chengdu have partnered with Linked-In to bring more professionals from abroad.

"It's a rather good time to return now. Come back to China and visit Shenzhen or our company. See for yourself what is happening and what is driving things there," Tian said.

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