Living the dream

Updated: 2013-03-15 07:56

By Chen Yingqun and Luo Wangshu (China Daily)

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Living the dream

Wang Huiyao says the China dream shouldn't only be about material wealth, it should be about spiritual wealth as well. Provided to China Daily

Studying and working overseas has driven Wang Huiyao to create an environment in his homeland that will attract overseas talent in the country

While many Chinese head overseas in search of a dream, their compatriot Wang Huiyao has dedicated himself to encouraging the opposite.

The 55-year-old director of the Center for China & Globalization and vice-chairman of the China Talent Research Society aims to bring talent into China, either in the form of returning Chinese expatriates or foreign professionals.

He has been responsible for a considerable amount of research into international talent flows and has initiated and contributed to China's attempts to attract talent for the past decade.

His latest work in this field is a book, The Path of Public Management Elite at Harvard, which talks about his experience conducting talent research at the Harvard Kennedy School three years ago.

According to Wang, about 1,000 Chinese, including 70 to 80 government officials at and above the ministerial level, have studied at the Harvard Kennedy School, which is famous for cultivating and training world leaders.

Wang's book talks about the teaching style and course structure, and also includes transcripts of discussions with scholars and officials at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Wang has also authored three books on global talent published in 2012 by Chinese Social Sci-ence Academy Press.

David Ellwood, dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, is happy with Wang's portrayal of the institution.

"Part of our style of teaching is actually to learn from the students, to bring the students to teach us," he says. "This book is to teach China about how the Kennedy School has learned from our students from China."

According to Ellwood, the goal of the Harvard Kennedy School is to make the world a better place and that is a responsibility that students at the prestigious institution embrace.

He believes the school makes a difference to the world through its students, whom he describes as "remarkable people of character and huge intellectual capacity." It also shapes attitudes through its approach to ideas, spanning everything from social policies to environment and how to react to natural disasters, he says.

The book offers a third route for spreading the school's methods and ideas, he adds.

Wang was among the first Chinese students to study overseas. He studied for an MBA in Can-ada in 1984 and after graduation worked for the Chinese government and as a senior consultant for a number of international companies including GE, Siemens and Alston.

In 1992, after hearing about former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping's South Tour Speeches on economic reform, Wang sensed the potential of China's economy and returned home to launch his own international business consultancy. Many international investments were completed under his assistance.

As Wang's business began to take off, he started to consider how he could use his skills to help society and realized that his experience in international business could prove valuable to China's future development.

"Competition among countries has already developed into competition for the resource of international talent. It is critical for China to compete for the world's first class talent," he says.

Wang is also a vice-chair of the Western Returned Students' Association (WRSA), a non-governmental group formed around 100 years ago by Chinese who had studied overseas. He believed the group's knowledge of international business could be helpful to China's government in developing its position in the world economy, and in 2002 founded the WRSA Chamber of Commerce as a platform for its voice. The group, which now has around 2,000 members, holds forums and activities aimed at promoting economic cooperation and trade between China and the West. It began without funding and Wang used his own money and staff to keep the organization running.

In 2008, he set up the Center for China & Globalization, with the idea of building a think tank. The center has already put forward dozens of research reports to the government on Chinese emigration, green card policies, international business and how to attract and keep talented individuals.

Among the projects his work may have inspired is China's Thousand Foreign Experts Project, launched by the Chinese government last year. The project is expected to attract between 500 and 1,000 non-Chinese professionals to China.

Wang is proud of what's been achieved but believes more needs to be done.

"Compared with other countries China's policies are not attractive enough, as there are still many barriers. For example, it's much easier for people to obtain a green card in the US than in China," he says.

Moreover, although China has attracted high-end talent, getting people to stay in the country remains a problem.

"The Chinese government has offered a good physical environment, but their management concepts and models need improvement," he says.

Last year, Beijing conducted a 100-day crackdown on foreigners working illegally in the capital and demanded all residents from overseas register with a local police station within 24 hours. Incidents like this make foreign workers feel uncomfortable and unwelcome, according to Wang.

To attract and retain talented individuals in the country the government must create an envi-ronment where people can realize their "China dream", he says.

"It should be that talented people can develop their careers and families in China," he says. "They should be able to make money here and spend money here. But the China dream shouldn't only be about material wealth, it should be about spiritual wealth as well."

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(China Daily 03/15/2013 page20)