Talent hunters mean business

Updated: 2011-07-27 14:39

By Zhang Yuwei (China Daily)

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Immigration limits

Groups that favor tighter immigration restrictions think the US already has a system that allows 8 million foreign workers to hold jobs when nearly 14 million Americans are unemployed in a slow-growing economy. Republicans, in general, support a tighter immigration policy to preserve more jobs for Americans.

A recent Gallup survey showed that Americans continue to show a slight preference for lower immigration levels over maintaining current levels, while a much smaller percentage favors increased immigration.

Talent hunters mean business

Zheng Zhongli and Zhang Penghua (standing, from left) check information about a protein test with a laboratory staff member in the bio-medical high-tech zone in Weifang, Shandong province. The couple, who earned PhDs at Yale University, returned to China in 2009 after years of studying in the United States. Many top companies, like those in Shandong's high-tech zone, have adopted policies to attract high-caliber overseas Chinese. [Photo/China Daily]

Li does not agree, saying immigrants have contributed so much to the United States, historically an immigration country. "It makes sense to make the immigration policies more friendly to foreign workers. The thing is, how can (the US) attract more Chinese students to stay when more opportunities are rising at home?"

Li changed his major from biomedical engineering to marketing, a field he said is much more open in China because of a large number of domestic companies' branding needs. Meanwhile, many US companies are cutting back on marketing and advertising budgets and on personnel to save costs.

Talent hunters mean business
What companies want

The reality in China now is that talented people, especially those who have a foreign education, are in high demand at both Chinese and foreign multinational companies.

New Corporate Executive Board research indicates that many Chinese are increasingly interested in working for domestic rather than Western companies because of China's economic growth and compelling career opportunities.

"Our Western multinational clients are increasingly concerned about their ability to attract and retain highly skilled Chinese talent," said Conrad Schmidt, executive director of the board's Corporate Leadership Council.

Rein, from China Market Research, said the majority of the Fortune 500 companies his firm interviewed said their biggest obstacle to growth in China was recruiting and retaining talent. Rein, who is bullish on China's economy for the next decade, is concerned about the weak talent pool in the country.

"The university system here does not train people to think analytically enough for a global business world," he said. "Many students realize this so they travel to the US, UK and Australia to study.

"Fifteen years ago, many Chinese who studied abroad stayed abroad because the opportunities in China were limited. However, many are now starting to return to China because this is where the great growth is and job opportunities abound."


Culture shock, he said, is a new hurdle these returnees are facing because they have spent so much time abroad. "China has changed so much in the last 10 years that many who went abroad are basically seeing a different country."

The major challenge for Li, if he chooses to return to China, would be the high living standard in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, where he prefers to live.

"But it is just like if you live in cities like New York," he said. "True, housing in China is a big issue, with the rising prices. But I am not able to get a house here in the US anyway if I choose to stay."

Fang Zheng, 23, from Chicago University doesn't see a promising employment picture for students like him, with a major in applied math.

"I think the job market for my major in the US is better than it is in China," he said. "The US needs science and high-tech graduates, and it has a more transparent system and more opportunities in that field."

Fang is looking into getting a green card when he lands a job after graduating, and he said about 80 percent of the Chinese students around him have the same idea.

"I prefer the lifestyle here," he said. "After spending several years in the US, if I return, I will have to spend more time in adjusting myself to the new environment."

Li Aoxue and Qin Zhongwei contributed to this report.

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