[photopress:Zhang_Xinsheng_vice_minister_of_education.jpg,full,alignright]The Daily Telegraph in England has an article which shows two contradictory and totally opposing forces at work.
First China is trying lure some of the one million graduates who have left the country in the past 30 years. This will involve offering lucrative perks including high pay and generous tax breaks, as well as freedom from some of the regulations that have deterred many from returning.
Until now, few expats have been keen to follow in his footsteps. Of the 1.07 million Chinese who have gone to overseas universities since the country started allowing people to study abroad in 1978, just a quarter have returned.
Part of the reason is what happens when they return to China. They are not ready for the hostile attitude towards them of the general population which has not been abroad. Those who have come back are known dismissively as ‘sea turtles’. That term is much at odds with China’s vice-minister of Education, Zhang Xinsheng who described them as ‘the country’s greatest treasure’. A treasure viewed with suspicion by the majority of the population.
Those graduates who return frequently face discrimination rooted in a deep-seated distrust of those who have left the motherland for the West. Under the government’s new incentives, returnees will be able to work wherever they like, regardless of which city they have a residence permit for, and will be offered higher pay, while their families will receive preferential treatment.
Those who want to set up hi-tech companies are being enticed with loans and tax breaks, as well as places in the more than 100 entrepreneurial parks being set up for them across China.
Meanwhile the ordinary Chinese show strong feeling towards the ‘sea turtle’.
The newspaper interviewed several. Their stories all sounded similar — they were treated with suspicion for having studied or worked abroad.
Hung Huang, whose mother was Chairman Mao’s English interpreter and whose step-father was briefly foreign minister, was one of 28 privileged teenagers selected to go to high school in New York in 1973. She stayed on to attend Vassar College in New York state and to work in New York City, before returning to China to start a publishing company.
She was shocked at the hostility she encountered from people who had not been abroad.
She said: ‘I’d go into a meeting and it would be like the Spanish Inquisition. People would ask, “Have you ever dated a Westerner?”, “Do you want to marry a foreigner?”.
Many of those who do come back prefer to set up their own businesses than to try to fit in at a Chinese company. But starting a company isn’t an option for many of them. Some end up unemployed and are known as haidai, ‘seaweed’.
Source: Daily Telegraph