Since 1978, about 80 percent of Chinese overseas students have returned to China after finishing their studies, official data said.
According to data from the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE), a public organization under the Ministry of Education (MOE), from 1978 (the year reform and opening-up began) to 2015, about 4 million Chinese people studied abroad. As of now, around 1.26 million of them are still doing research or studying abroad, and of the 2.77 million that have finished their studies around 2.2 million have returned to China.
Many of the students who returned cited either their job prospects in China or family concerns as reasons for their return.
Liu, who has a master's degree from the University of Edinburgh, told the Global Times that “My family and my girlfriend are all in China. Actually, I am fully capable of staying in the UK or going to the U.S. to start my career but I found China has more potential, and another reason is that China is safer than the West.”
“My parents were really worried when I went to Paris last month, because they know that due to the migrant crisis, Europe is not very safe, but in Beijing, they don't check with me every day. After the attack in London last week, they said I made the right decision (in going back to China),” he added.
The majority of perpetrators in the recent terror attacks in France, Belgium, Germany and the UK were either born or raised in Europe, not recent migrants. Khalid Masood, the criminal behind the London attack, was born in England.
Fang, who has a doctoral degree from New York University said apart from opportunity and family, a key reason for his return is that “China has good policies for returned overseas students, for instance, people like me are able to become permanent residents of cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and this is an attractive privilege.”
Permanent residents can buy houses, get license plates and access public education resources.
While today's returnees bring fresh ideas and skills into China, as they have done for decades, the job market encounter is more competitive than it was for their predecessors.
“In the past, returned overseas talents represented 'highly-educated' and 'high-income,' but today, returned overseas students are finding it increasingly difficult to get a good job,” according to the Blue Paper of the Employment Situation of Chinese Returned Overseas Talents 2016, published by the CSCSE in January. The paper added that the main obstacles include returnees' limited range in majors, since many hold similar qualifications, and their lack of knowledge about the fast-changing domestic situation.
On Saturday, the CSCSE held its Spring Job Fair for Returned Overseas Talents in Beijing. About 2,400 returnees and 136 companies or institutes participated.
A Nestlé China HR worker surnamed Zhao who attended the fair said “We are a foreign company, so English is a basic skill we require, and returned overseas students are an ideal community for us to recruit from.”
An HR manager from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) told the Global Times that “academic institutions like us prefer talents with doctorates, but in this fair, we found they mostly had master's degrees.”
The CASS HR also said “we can offer very good conditions to talents with doctorates, but so far, we have only received three CVs that are worth further consideration.”
“I hope the CSCSE can organize a fair that only focuses on PhDs, so that institutions like us can find the right people more easily,” he added.
An anonymous HR manager from Canon China said “We want people who understand the technology of photography, but unfortunately, so far I didn't see too many graduates who have studied the relevant majors.”
According to the CSCSE blue paper, about 80 percent of returnees have master's degrees from abroad. Their majors are mostly those related to business studies, economics, finance, management and similar subjects.
Qi Mo, the head of the returnee bureau (responsible for serving returned overseas personnel) at the CSCSE, told the Global Times that “Among Chinese returned overseas personnel, people with doctoral degrees only account for 10 percent, so if we organize a fair that only includes doctoral degrees, the scale and effect would be very limited.”
“In order to create better career prospects for their students, some U.S. universities are communicating with us. They want us to organize internships for their Chinese students at some famous Chinese enterprises, but the problem is that they are only interested in enterprises like Alibaba and Baidu, and ignore other Chinese companies which are also outstanding. So we need to help them better understand China,” one CSCSE source noted.