Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Chinese Coming Back to China

Although millions of young Chinese people dream of studying in America, the ones who actually get the opportunity don't necessarily want to stay in America after they graduate.

From The Los Angeles Times:


Reporting from Shanghai and Los Angeles -- Xun Jia, a doctoral candidate in theoretical physics at UCLA, expected to find a job on Wall Street crunching complex financial formulas upon his graduation.

But after meeting with 10 recruiters to no avail, the Chinese native is looking for new opportunities -- in the country he left behind.

"I'm definitely considering moving back," said Jia, 27, who always envisioned himself establishing a career in the U.S. first but is now firing off his resume to contacts in China. "They need people to go back."

The Chinese government is counting on people like Jia -- nicknamed "sea turtles" because they journeyed across the ocean and then came back -- to help retool its economy and find paths to expansion beyond the cheap exports on which the country has relied for so many years.

Late last year, the government launched an aggressive campaign to lure them back and is spending millions to entice accomplished investors, bankers, researchers and engineers to come home.

Read On
Most Americans believe that their US citizenship is the dream of every other person living outside of America. It is true that hordes of people from around the world still want to immigrate to America and do so, but it probably isn't alluring as it has been at other times in history.

As one Chinese man stated in this LA Times article:
"You can find most things you were used to in the U.S. in Shanghai now," said Greg Ye, a graduate of Harvard Business School who returned to found NewMargin Venture, a private equity fund. "I feel like there's lots more opportunity here."
Now I'm not going to try to argue that China is a better place than America or anything. I'm just pointing out that the creature comforts that define America's lifestyle can now be found in many major Chinese cities.

While a Chinese person living in Shanghai may not have the "freedoms" that he or she would have living in New York City, there are other benefits (such as culture, language, food, being closer to family and friends, etc.) that are reasons for a Chinese person to want to stay in China. And although China is not immune to the economic crisis, things are probably going to be better for a US-educated Chinese person in Shanghai than it would be in, say, New York City.

This issue does hit close to home with me. My fiancee, Qian (Jackie's given Chinese name, pronounced like this), and I are planning on making the transition from China to America later this year.

We're excited about this next stage in our life and the life we can begin in America, but it has never been Qian's dream to go to America. She's never disliked America , but at the same time, it's not been one of her goals in life to go to one day go to the United States. She'd be perfectly happy if we stayed in China for the rest of our lives.

I believe that America has lost some of its appeal to foreigners in the past few years. The economic crisis has a lot to do with this, but I believe it is even deeper than that.

One shining example of this is while I was back in America in 2007, I was charged $1,500 for a blood test at a hospital. I couldn't believe this at the time and thought that there had to be a mistake. We called the insurance company and the hospital to see if the charge was an error. After a few phone calls, we found out that it wasn't. A freaking blood test actually cost $1,500.

As upset as my family and I were about this, Qian nearly lost it. I can still remember her saying, "You had to pay over 10,000RMB for a blood test! What is wrong with your country?!" I didn't have a very good answer for her. A similar procedure in China would cost less than 100RMB, or about $10.

Medical care is only one area where America has really lost its edge. With the recent economic crisis, the list is nearly endless.

Qian and I are still excited about going to America later this year. But it is, by no means, a fairy tale-like story of Qian leaving repressive China for the "land of the free." Qian's life has been very comfortable in China and she doesn't necessarily feel as though she's "upgrading" by going to America.

With the directions the two countries are heading, I'd be lying if I tried to convince her otherwise.

8 comments:

Taylor O said...

Like all developing nations; the flow of immigrants will slow as their nations develop themselves into more hospitable places. This is a natural and wonderful thing as nations come of age.

I am concerned that what drew immigrants to the statue of liberty is eroding. Most of our constitutional rights are fading away, in the name of good intentions, but paving the path toward destruction of what was special about America, what enabled its success.

Comparing direct dollar amounts does not tell us much. Something like percent of monthly income, would be more useful.

Also, the defining factor here is labor prices. The US has a minimum wage above that of the market price for low skilled labor and it restricts immigration. Think of the supply chain from the oil factory that makes plastic, the steel needle factory, the trucks to drive the parts to another assembly factory, the cotton ball factory, hospital employee wages and so many others. The labor cost permeates everything, increasing exponentially for us. Low skilled jobs like garbage men or simply factory jobs pay $20/hour, artificially so from union, city and other actions, which distort the market.

I also, absolutely, believe our medical system is broken, however, it is because of over regulation, government research and science, and unpredictable government action. Tort law with juries awarding unpredictable amounts for dubious injuries and 'emotional damage' (actual damage and true injury lawsuits are fine of course) increase the cost of care. Medicare setting rates at which doctors can charge for their time, etc. causes them to up the fees on other areas.

Even with all this I would much rather have the system as it is than Massachusetts or Canada or the UK or Sweden's failed experiments in socialized medicine, waiting lines, set government decisions, and stagnation of innovation.

I would still trust a U.S. hospital far more than most European ones or Asians, with its stronger cultural affinity for reason versus mysticism and stronger systems in place behind it.

Trying to substitute political decisions for market ones will always bite you in the ass in the end; there is no way to fool reality. I've recently had some experience with this firsthand, and I think there is much room for integration, computerized records and better thinking, however, these are problems for individuals and organizations of all kinds to solve.

America could grow too, if left free like Hong Kong sort of was, if immigrants could flow in and entrepreneur's were free to act without red tape we could build a better future.

China, however, will have it's own not so small challenges.

Anonymous said...

Comparing China's health care system to the US's is probably not the best means of convincing people that you won't be "upgrading" your lifestyle by coming to the US.

In fact, I'd say most of this post comes off as incredibly naive.

Yes, China has malls and five-star hotels and Gucci. What it is lacking is a little more basic: a functioning legal system, police that actually do something other than rob people blind, a health care system that is anything other than a sick, corrupt system of robbery, food that isn't poisoned, air that is breathable. Should I go on?

I didn't even get to the usual political points.

Funny how you read these articles about Chinese eager to go back to China, yet I have yet to meet one. There is what Chinese tell foreigners and there is what Chinese do -- they are rarely the same thing.

And, no, I'm not a China-basher. I lived there for 6 years. There are positive things about living there, definitely. But anyone who thinks they won't be upgrading their lifestyle in a fundamental way by moving from China to the US or Canada, etc., is ridiculously naive about China.

Mark said...

Well Anonymous, I hope you're right. I'm going to be going back to America later this year for at least a couple years. I hope that I'm foolish to be thinking that the lifestyle I enjoy in Xi'an will be dwarfed by what I go back to in America.

I'm very curious to see what kind of job I'm going to be able to find and salary that goes with that job once I return. Although I have some decent work experience, I'm just not real optimistic that things are going to be smooth sailing once I get back.

I do know that in Xi'an, I can eat out at any restaurant or do any activity I want whenever I want to. My salary compared with the cost of living is awesome. Lord knows that this has never been the case for me in America. And my salary also affords me the opportunity to get medical insurance that would cover me in a place like Singapore if I really needed to get something important done and didn't want to do it in China.

And as for:

Funny how you read these articles about Chinese eager to go back to China, yet I have yet to meet one. There is what Chinese tell foreigners and there is what Chinese do -- they are rarely the same thing.

I can think of a couple Chinese people off the top of my head in Xi'an who've lived abroad and have chosen to come back to China to live. So there are at least some people doing this.

Anonymous said...

>>So there are at least some people doing this.

Not to be snarky, but generally speaking those are the ones who couldn't get greencards. They then announce that they "planned" to come back all along.

For some reason, leaving the country for medical care is not much of an advertisement for the China lifestyle. I guess it is all relative, but the intangibles like dealing with the pollution, the corruption, the poison, the government, the education system, etc. outweighs being able to afford meals at restaurants for most people. I'd say 99% of the Chinese agree.

Mainly because they don't get to live life in China as a foreigner like you and I do.

I realize that is not the story you'll hear, though. I can't even count how many times I've heard from Chinese in the US that they plan on going back to China, etc. I've never seen it happen except when forced. (not proving something, just my experience.)

Anonymous said...

$1,500.00 blood test must be several blood tests, and it is the amount that hospital charge to the insurance company. Your out of pocket would be $30-$100.And if you really don't have money just don't pay it.I have friend did that.Nothing hospital can do about it! In china, no money then no test to be done most of time.!!
We treat hundreds if not thousand of people a year without any money in the hospital that I work.This is America!You pay more if you have some money and you pay none if you don't have any money.It is not fair but better than other options.

Mark said...

You're probably right about me enjoying the luxuries as a foreigner living in China that normal Chinese wouldn't. I don't know what it's like to be a Chinese person living abroad or in China.

Right, China's medical system sucks. America's sucks too, just in a different way. It's ridiculously expensive.

I don't want to get into details of the $1,500 blood test, but that was indeed the cost.

As far as Chinese never coming back unless they have green card problems, well, I know a Chinese woman who's married to an Australian guy and the two of them have moved back to Xi'an. They lived in Australia for five years and then were ready to come back to China. I believe they are here for the foreseeable future.

Now I know that you're not a big fan of these western news sources reporting that the Chinese are coming back, but here are a few more. They seem fairly legit to me:

http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_11803885

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Jobs/Americas-loss-is-India-and-Chinas-gain-US-study/articleshow/4210958.cms

http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/02/the-real-high-tech-immigrant-problem-theyre-leaving/

From the last one:

In the last two decades, Mr. Wadhwa estimates, 50,000 immigrants left the United States and returned to India and China. In the next five years, he projects that 100,000 more will make the return trip. “A trickle is turning into a flood,” he said.

Economics, not visa headaches, is the main engine of the shift, according to the two-year research project, which surveyed 1,203 Indian and Chinese workers who had studied or worked in the United States for a year or more before returning home. Growing demand for their skills and shining career opportunities back home were cited by 87 percent of the Chinese and 79 percent of the Indians as the major professional reason for returning. Most also cited the lure of being close to family and friends.

Most of the returnees were young –- in their early 30s -– and nearly 90 percent had master’s or doctorate degrees. And 66 percent said that visa considerations were not a reason for returning home. “Addressing this issue is going to entail more than solving the visa problem,” said Mr. Wadhwa, referring to the waiting list of 1 million H-1B visa holders and their families who are seeking longer-term work visas.

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Anonymous said...

I immigrated and lived in Canada for 10 years already. And now I have the Canadian citizenship.

I am glad I have made decision to go back china , to leave a land different language are spoken.

I think Canada is a good country, but it is not mine. As immigrant, I always feel I am second class citizen.

We can only do the most tough jobs and no career.