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Chinese graduates at Columbia University in New York in 2016. The government said 82.23 per cent of students who studied abroad returned to China last year. Photo: Xinhua

Seeking better job options, more Chinese students returning home after graduating

Government figures show higher ratio of students coming back to China last year, with better employment prospects and support networks cited by many

More young Chinese studying abroad are opting to return home, many of them citing better job prospects in China.

The government said this month that 82.23 per cent of students who studied abroad returned to China last year, up from 72.38 per cent in 2012.

Wuhan-born Will Tong Chen was studying and working for 17 years in New Zealand, but returned to China four months ago, citing more opportunities due to a vastly larger economy.

“I came back to [work in] Beijing because I love the atmosphere and I see the opportunities for doing business here,” said Chen, a project manager.

Chen said many other young Chinese he knew had also left New Zealand because the country’s market was too small. “Most of them came back to China because they probably can’t get a decent job in New Zealand,” he said. “Reality is tough.”

Qinyue Yu, a student at Columbia University from Nanjing, said it would be easier to find work in China, where she and many of her Chinese classmates already had connections.

She wanted to stay in the US, but said the difficulty of securing a work visa had also forced her to reconsider.


“While we are here struggling, we see back home that there are tremendous opportunities and everything’s on the rise. A lot of people start asking: ‘Why the hell do I have to stay here?’”

Changsha native Oliver Mao returned to China to work two years ago after graduating from Tufts University in Boston.

“As a Chinese person in the American workplace, I know I am limited in my career advancement,” said Mao, who now does quantitative trading in Shanghai.

He said around half the Chinese students he knew in the US stayed afterwards to work on the visa allowing graduates a one-year practical training period.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said foreign countries’ job markets could not accommodate the surge in Chinese students. He added that unlike in the old days, when scholarships were virtually the only way to study overseas, wealthy Chinese parents could now send their children abroad.


“In recent years, more mediocre students went overseas and many of them came back, driving the overall number up, obviously,” he said.

National Institute of Education Sciences researcher Chu Chaohui said returning students had more resources and better networks in China to look for a job.


“When [they] come back to the mainland, the resources of their parents can help them,” he said.