Ushering innovative policies in China to embrace global talents
Wang Huiyao
The Hainan International Talent Service window in Hainan Government Affairs Service Center, May 29, 2020. /VCG

The Hainan International Talent Service window in Hainan Government Affairs Service Center, May 29, 2020. /VCG

Editor's note: Wang Huiyao is the president of the Center for China and Globalization. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Given the rampant COVID-19 pandemic, airline meltdowns and the tightening of national travel policies may occur from time to time, causing inconvenience and uncertainty between China and abroad. And talent flow in some fields will also be restricted and to some extent decoupled.

Global need for talent will become even stronger in the post-pandemic era, with countries scrambling to introduce new policies to attract talent. In order to change the situation that China has long been restricted to core technologies, the country needs to make greater efforts to attract the best international talents.

In recent years, despite the political chaos in the United States, its talent system remains a strong magnet for the world's top talents. In November last year, Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2020 released by the U.S. authoritative institutions states that since 2010, the intention of doctoral students to stay and work in the U.S. after graduation has been on the rise.

By the 2020 academic year, 73 percent doctoral students intend to stay and work in the U.S. In the 2020 academic year, 90 percent doctoral students from Chinese mainland and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are in Science & Engineering (S&E) fields, with fewer than 700 Chinese students in non-S&E fields, and more than 81 percent doctoral recipients from Chinese mainland intend to stay and work in the U.S.

According to U.S. statistics, 85,000 people from China received U.S. study visas from May to August in 2021. More than 300,000 Chinese students are currently in the U.S., remaining the number one source of talent in the U.S.

It is worth noting that while the U.S. continues to attract and retain overseas scientific and technological talent, China has continued to lose foreign talent in recent years. The American Chamber of Commerce in China says that the number of foreign talent in Shanghai has fallen from 208,000 to 163,000 over the last decade.

One of the pivotal reasons for the rapid rise of the United States after World War II was the large number of top international talents in cutting-edge technology fields. At present, artificial intelligence, quantum technology and genetic engineering are ultimately a competition for talent.

Therefore, the competition for talent also involves the competition for international talent attraction ability. Given the current long and limited domestic talent training cycle, scientific and technological innovation opportunities are large, attracting international talent is a more efficient way to achieve breakthroughs.

China has implemented many policies to attract international talent in recent years, such as setting up the National Immigration Administration and adjusting the Green Card policy. However, we need to further deepen institutional reform, free our mind, improve supporting policies and create a more open and inclusive, convenient and livable social environment.

Fortunately, the U.S.-China Fast Track Travel Channel program has been in operation since January 7, which is expected to "provide a more efficient, predictable, and reliable channel for essential U.S. company executives, technical personnel and their dependents to enter China."

The program is a glimmer of hope for China and the U.S. to improve the flow of people as the COVID-19 continues to spread, and also provides a reference for China to moderately liberalize international movement of people in the business sector with other countries.

China International Talent Exchange Conference at Shenzhen Convention and Exhibition Center, April 15, 2017. /VCG

China International Talent Exchange Conference at Shenzhen Convention and Exhibition Center, April 15, 2017. /VCG

Against the backdrop of regular COVID-19 prevention and control, local governments may consider the necessary needs of international students and business people, and provide more fast-track channels for eligible persons in due course. This will partly reflect the warmth of the city, as well as the professionalism and internationalization of its policy formulation and implementation in the face of the pandemic.

China can also provide greater policy incentives to attract the best international talent. The country has been providing a more open and equitable environment for international talents to innovate and start businesses, including easier visa application, more humane residence management, broader green card treatment, and an international living environment. The experience already developed by Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao in the reform of the talent system and mechanism can be replicated and promoted in other cities.

To further build an internationally competitive talent system, a direct overseas application channel for Green Cards can be piloted. At present, China's green cards are mainly issued to those who have been in the country for a certain period of time, which is not conducive to attracting talented foreigners, including overseas Chinese, who wish to come to China to innovate and start businesses. Beijing can set up a pilot system for skilled migrants. Chinese embassies and consulates abroad may also set up immigration offices to publicize China's policies of attracting outstanding international talent.  

High-skilled international talents, who want to develop in China can be allowed to apply for permanent residence online. Restrictions on overseas Chinese returning to China will be relaxed and the "Overseas Chinese Card" can be introduced as soon as possible to facilitate the application for long-term and permanent residence of outstanding overseas Chinese.

As the global competition becomes more intense, to fundamentally transform China's science and technology from following to paralleling and leading, China needs to be more proactive and open in seeking international talent, showing our open and accommodating attitude to the world, guiding talents to China for innovation and entrepreneurship, and continue to strengthen the links between China and the world.

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