China science

Win a science Nobel and be in the running for a Chinese ‘green card’

Permanent residency on offer for top talent willing to help deepen China’s research ranks

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 November, 2017, 10:03pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 November, 2017, 10:03pm

Two Nobel laureates will be granted Chinese “green cards” as the central government rolls out the red carpet to try to lure the world’s top overseas scientists for its research programmes.

Dutch chemist Bernard Feringa, who won the Nobel for chemistry last year, will be able to pick up his green card next month for agreeing to head up a team investigating “self-healing materials” at Shanghai’s East China University of Science and Technology, according to Liberation Daily. A research centre has also been established Feringa’s name in the coastal metropolis.

Another recipient is Swiss scientist Kurt Wüthrich, a 2002 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry and head of a research team at ShanghaiTech University looking into human cell receptors.

Green cards entitle holders to permanent residency in China, enabling them to stay in the country without having to renew their visas every year.

The government launched the scheme in 2004 to attract top talent to help China keep up with the United States and Europe. They are also awarded to investors, executives and individuals who make “outstanding contributions” to the country.

China launches revamped ‘green cards’ for foreigners

But China has set a very high bar for foreign passport holders – to qualify, an applicant must have a high-level position in a key national project or invest at least US$500,000 in western China or poorer regions, among other criteria.

In the decade from 2004 to 2013, China granted just 7,356 green cards, compared with the million or so the United States issues each year.

But China has stepped up processing somewhat, issuing 1,576 green cards in 2016, more than double the total for 2015, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Public Security.

Shanghai has been particularly active in the scheme, with the ministry introducing special rules in the city a year ago to help it deepen its research ranks with streamlined processing of applications.

The Shanghai Zhangjiang National Innovation Demonstration Zone, a hi-tech park run by the Shanghai government, has recommended that 30 foreign scientists be granted the green cards.

Efforts are also under way elsewhere in the country. Hebei governor Xu Qin reportedly told English biochemist and Nobel laureate Richard Roberts this month that the province planned to develop a “Nobel town” for laureates in the Xiongan New Area, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s planned “dream city”.

Five things you should know about China’s ‘green cards’

While China has the world’s second-biggest economy, its record in winning Nobel Prizes is less impressive. Tu Youyou, a 2015 joint recipient in medicine, is the only scientist who studied and worked exclusively in China to win one of the science prizes.

Physicist Chen-Ning Frank Yang, also known as Yang Zhenning, won in 1957 when he was in the US. Yang was naturalised as a US citizen in 1964 but renounced it for Chinese citizenship in 2015.

About 900,000 foreign passport holders live in China, which has become less welcome in general to citizens of other countries. In 2016, China launched a ranking system based on their “talent” and experience, banning non-native English speakers from teaching in some regions.