Project 211

Reversing the talent drain

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2011, 12:00am


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Prominent economist Professor Li Daokui has been appointed to a top position in the mainland's 'Silicon Valley', a move viewed as part of the government's efforts to encourage top overseas-educated talent to return home.

The Harvard-educated scholar has been appointed deputy director of Beijing's Zhongguancun Science and Technology Park, home to many of China's leading hi-tech firms and top higher education and research institutions, including Tsinghua University and Peking University, China News Service reported.

Beijing's municipal government has taken a lead in the talent drive by recruiting top academics and scientists, including from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, into the ranks of its officials.

Last year, the central government released a blueprint for talent development for the next 10 years.

Among other objectives, The National Medium- and Long-term Talent Development Plan (2010-20) includes the aim of attracting talented students who have studied abroad back home.

The central government has assigned Zhongguancun the task of pioneering the national programme, with the leadership recognising that overseas educated talent is of vital importance to the mainland's development.

Since the mainland began opening up in the late 1970s, nearly two million youngsters have gone overseas to continue their education, with most going to developed countries, particularly the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia.

Li has no background in hi-tech industry, but he is one of the most prominent overseas-educated scholars to have returned to the mainland. He is the director of the Centre for China in the World Economy at the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University and a member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the People's Bank of China,

'Professor Li's appointment is apparently based on the desire to use his overseas experience to help build up a programme to attract top talent,' said Professor Pan Chenglie, vice-president of the China Enterprises Management Science Foundation, who also taught at the Tsinghua school.

Li is one of the most influential economists and academics on the mainland, making frequent, high-profile public comments on the domestic and global economies.

After obtaining his PhD from Harvard in 1992, he taught at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, was a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

While about 30 per cent of overseas-educated mainland students return home, the percentage of highly qualified personnel - such as PhD graduates like Li - who return stands at only 8 per cent. Li's appointment will expire at the end of next year.

Meanwhile, the Beijing municipal government has appointed Wu Weihua, an academic and agricultural expert at China Agricultural University as deputy director of its municipal agricultural commission. Wu specialises in plant physiology and biochemistry.

Three years ago, another academician from Tsinghua, Huang Wei, was appointed one of the capital's deputy mayors.