Reverse Brain Drain

I read an article in newsweek about the reverse Brain drain in China. China was losing talents when it first startedopening its doors 20 over years ago. But now the brightest and the best are coming home in droves and helped in nation building with their invaluable skills and experiences.

I wil post this article here, because it will give us some food for thought of how to reverse our Brain Drains. Many Malaysians are overseas, holding top positions, and their skills and experiences will be invaluable to help Malaysia move forward to become a developed nation. These people are willing to come back, but do we have the will to change our policies and turn Malaysia from a race-based nation into a meritocracy-based one?

This is the article:

From Newsweek International
China lures home best and brightest, with some westerners as well

AUG 19 — China has fought a battle against brain drain since Deng Xiaoping opened the nation’s doors 30 years ago. Many of the country’s brightest have streamed out and few have returned: of the estimated 815,000 who left to study abroad from 1978 to 2004, only about a quarter came back, according to official data.

Yet now, with the country’s economy booming and its prestige growing, more and more Chinese expats, or hai gui (sea turtles), are starting to swim home. Lured by patriotism, family, market forces and generous government schemes, they and even some Western-born academics are moving to China in growing numbers.

Most cite adventure and the chance to make a difference. Huang Ming is typical. Born in China, he went to the United States for grad school in 1985, eventually becoming a US citizen and getting tenure at Cornell.

But he moved back a couple of years ago and now teaches at Beijing’s Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business. The difference is stark. “In the US I teach 24-year-olds,” he says, whereas in China two-thirds of his executive-MBA students are company bosses. That means that “here we can make an immediate difference in the decision making of senior executives,” Huang says.

For Daniel Bell, a Canadian political philosopher, the biggest draw was the chance to get an up-close view of China’s young elite. “One has to have an appetite for risk,” says Bell, who now teaches at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. But being an insider-outsider at China’s most prestigious school has supplied material for his latest book and enhanced his reputation.

Though more Western schools are willing to share their faculties — letting academics like Huang keep their tenure while they move home part time — going to China still carries risks. The pay is often low, and abandoning the US system can mean losing seniority and job security.

Also worrisome are the lack of free speech in China and the risk of political interference, as well as the prospect of facing passive students used to rote learning.

Yet the lure of China can prove irresistible. Funding schemes set up to entice scientists home offer returnees full professorships as well as research grants of 2 million yuan (RM963,000) and the chance to lead a research team. But there’s a catch — they have to give up their foreign citizenship to make sure China gets full credit for their research. Nonetheless, the main scheme has attracted nearly 1,000 returnees since 1994.

There are no national statistics on how many foreign academics now teach in China, but business and finance professors are the most visible — in part because their fields are relatively lucrative. Chen Fangrou, a Wharton Ph.D. with a tenured post at Columbia, is now working to recruit 40 overseas staff for Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s business school, where he is on a three-year secondment as dean. The school rakes in about US$17 million (RM56 million) a year in fees, giving it plenty of cash to lure foreigners.

China is also an attractive research environment, a giant field lab with 1.3 billion subjects undergoing rapid transformation. “If somebody is concerned with the big themes of social and political change, Beijing is the place to be,” says Bell. And the country offers rich opportunities for business professors, since its industries are exploding in an economy that breaks all the rules. Access to key players is also good: “I have more opportunities to talk to manufacturers here than in the US,” says Chen.

As for academic freedom, most migrants have no complaints. Bell, who previously taught in Singapore, says he suffered more political interference there than at Tsinghua. “I’ve designed my own courses [here]” — including one on democratic theory — “with no constraints,” he says. And the students’ passivity quickly evaporates once they discover they’re expected to argue, says Peking University economist Michael Pettis.

Some academics worry that giving up jobs at prestigious US schools to head to China could lead them to become too isolated. Though the Internet makes things easier, “nothing beats face-to-face contact,” says Huang. But most scholars agree that the prospects of being able to return to the West depend on how much they can publish, which makes the light teaching load they’re offered another advantage. Even academic isolation can prove useful, since there are fewer rivals jostling for access to the same research materials. As all this suggests, moving to China can still prove risky. But like much else in the country’s full-tilt economy, while the dangers may be great, so are the rewards.


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. monsterball
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 14:46:36

    Simple….once Malaysian Chinese can feel there is a complete change in government and no race and religion …dirty politics….they will also come home…if People’s Party ……under Anwar’s leadership….call them to come home…and promise jobs…equal to what they are doing.
    Firstly….Anwar may have to terminate all the deadwoods…non productive government workers…to show he has guts to practice what he preaches…….and make very strict jail one….for a minimum of 3 years….taking even small bribes…no more trials and small fine …and get sack. Just a rule…to get real..get serious and permanently cut off briberies.
    Then taking 10k bribe.. is 10 years jail…and ofcourse…life sentences for those in the millions.
    Just watch…so many UMNO guys will follow like Mahathir…..who is planning to run for his life…..if Anwar is PM!!
    Meanwhile…..using Saiful is the one and only most low class..idiotic…weapon….UMNO have…hoping the law will disqualify Anwar or put him to jail.
    The only thing UMNO is afraid of… the vast majority……people”s power….supporting ….respect and love Anwar sincerely.
    And the law and police… and large…will think for Malaysians….and not respect their Commander in Chief….the PM…whom they know is so unfair and unreliable…to their opponents.
    Just look at Pakistan.
    The Dictator …..Musharraf has resigned!!
    When will Malaysians be brave enough to real free??


  2. petestop
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 16:14:21

    Many of my friends are working in China.

    So, not only Singapore is draining our brainpower,
    but increasingly China now.

    About the only advantage we have over China now is our better command in English, which China is increasingly narrowing the gap with their better educated (local and overseas) young generation.

    Still in this increasingly competitive international environment, we still have so-called University/Institute that promotes mono-race.

    Really “katak bawah tempurung”.


  3. Killi Valavan
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 17:13:13

    what’s happening in BolehLand is complete opposite of that in China . Eventually due to it’s mono-race mentality it’s going to fail in it’s vision by 2020 . Then we’ll see leaders cracking their head how and why we fail . Then they will pay million to overseas consultants to analyse their failures . This is for sure as long as the racial party rules the govt .


  4. novice101
    Aug 19, 2008 @ 19:30:15

    To do one’s work effectively one needs security and that encompasses many areas.


  5. romerz
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 01:12:51

    Dr Hsu,

    Have you finished the book by Suflan Shamsuddin? I think he also addressed the meritocracy aspects of this issue.

    I have written a little on the book over at my blog but would love to hear what you think and whether you liked the book as much as I did.

    I’m feel so bombarded with different views these days that I no longer trust my own views, whether they are in sync with moderate thinking Malaysians or otherwise.

    Its like a churning cauldron of everything, from emotions to beliefs, to knowing truth from falsehood, to patience against impatience, etc.



  6. Monk
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 10:46:44

    The ant and the grasshopper story. Thousands of ants are migrating from their nests to greener pastures and freer environment.

    The grasshoppers are hibernating in corruption and savaging whatever left out of greed. The corridors of the insects are disillusioned with the incest of the “Never Ending Poor” policy.



  7. Justin Choo
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 11:30:52

    Anwar is our only hope.

    Please read Harris Ibrahim’s open letter to Anwar:


  8. Dr Hsu
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 12:10:48

    romerz, I went to MPH mid-vally after you told me about this book, but could not find it on the shelf. I will try to go MPH I utama this evening, and hopefully i can get the book..


  9. monsterball
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 18:23:36

    hi Doc….Romerz and Justin are meeting me ..on Monday…..when I am at Permantang Pauh on Sunday.
    Please email my HP number to Justin.
    Many thanks in advance.


  10. monsterball
    Aug 21, 2008 @ 11:20:22

    Doc…Romerz so sweet.
    Offered me a room to stay in his house….if I cannot get a hotel room in Permatang Pauh.
    I turned it down with many thanks…and will rough it out….with my friends…..sleeping on a sleeping a school hall.
    Come back…..may need few pain killing injections….like Anwar……hahahahahaha


  11. Dr Hsu
    Aug 21, 2008 @ 11:29:19

    monsterball, romerz is not only sweet, he is a sincere person,. I can judge a person from his writings and his emails to me. Glad that you finally got to meet him.

    BTW, I have emailed your phone to justin as requested. 🙂


  12. monsterball
    Aug 21, 2008 @ 19:37:55

    Yes….we talked!
    Thanks again…. Doc!!


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