By Michelle Winglee
Since China’s crack-down on intellectuals between the late 1950’s to 1970’s, the country has taken significant measures to reform its education system. Sending students abroad has been a significant aspect of training bright minds, but China must also be able to recruit its top talent back.
Chinese students made up over one-fifth of international students at higher education institutions in wealthy OECD countries, and over one-fourth were studying in the United States in 2014. But out of the Chinese students who study abroad, only about one-third returned according to the Ministry of Education. A 2017 study by the the South University of Science and Technology of China suggests the number of returnees has improved dramatically in recent years due to policy initiatives and better career opportunities.
This June, a Chinese delegation of 20 government officials from various organization departments and ministries from Shaanxi Province, central China, attended a program on talent development and attraction organized by the University of Maryland’s Office of China Affairs. Through cross-cultural professional engagement and site visits – including the University of Maryland BioPark and Maryland General Assembly, the participants gained insights on the differences and commonalities between the two systems.
"China is waging a talent war -- it's the most active state in the world in terms of reversing migration," said David Zweig, a professor at the University of Hong Kong Science and Technology and specialist on returnee scholars in China, in a CNN interview.
In 2008 China initiated the “Recruitment Program of Global Experts,” also known as the “Thousand Talents Plan.” The plan, aimed at enticing top overseas talent, offers recruits salaries several times more than what a local Chinese-educated hire would receive in addition to other research funding and family benefits. Since the plan’s founding, about 6,000 “talents” have been recruited back.
Shaanxi Province, a hub for high-tech, aircraft and aerospace industries, as well as home to leading research institutes, has made headway in recruiting talent from abroad and within China.
During the two-week program, Shaanxi officials engaged with human resources professionals around Washington, D.C. to learn about talent development in the United States. Tom Hoffacker, Human Resources Officer at the University of Maryland discussed human resource best practices as well the strategic planning of the University System of Maryland from an HR perspective. Meeting with Sarah Jagger of the American Society for Public Administration DC Chapter, the delegation further discussed talent acquisition in the United States.