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2 The Brain-Drain Issue The value of sending thousands of students abroad is self-evident, but the policy is not without considerable risks. Not unlike the Chinese Viceroy, who in 1858 observed, "When the Emperor rules over so many millions, what does he care for the few waifs that have drifted away to a foreign land?") Deng Xiaoping also speculated, during his 1980 visit to the United States, that the inevitability of some students not returning should not negate the value of the exchange programs. This has been the standard response by Chinese officials for some years, but as the number of students and scholars going abroad has grown, so, too, has the number choosing, at best, to delay their return and, at worst, to change their visa status and not to return at ah. Beijing's concern is understandable, for the country is no longer losing waifs, after all, but the cream of China's youth. And, as the Chinese officials like to point out, it is often the most talented individuals who manage to find a way to remain abroad, or at least to postpone their return. Although, as we shall see, the Toss of students to foreign coun- tries has been essentially limited to those who were privately funded, the acute concern is evident in official statements and reflected in iMary Roberto Coolidge, Chinch Immigration (New York, Arno Press, 1909), p. 57. 36
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THE BRAIN-DRAIN ISSUE 37 the many articles on the subject in various Chinese journals. Recent college graduates have been chastised for ignoring the needs of the country and applying for further study abroad as soon as they are as- signed a job. One commentator propounded that too many students go abroad "to 'pan for gold,' 'become gold-plated,' and 'worship money"' and China can no longer "sit back and relax" and let "one by one the bees and butterflies fly across the wall.~2 Be that as it may, the State Education Commission now be- lieves that enough significant progress has been made in upgrading higher education at home to change the makeup of students and scholars going abroac] and thereby to at least decrease the likelihood that they will not return. Clearly, with approximately 2 million stu- dents enrolled in institutions of higher education, for most disciplines undergraduate study abroad is a luxury More important, the previ- ously almost nonexistent graduate education has also expanded and improved. Enrollment of graduate students increased from 21,600 in 1980 to 110,000 in 19863 and, according to He Dongchang, serving in his capacity as Vice-President of the State Council's Academic De- grees Committee, between 1981 and 1987 China granted 53,300 MAs and 664 PhDs.4 Reflecting this development, a recent circular issued by the State Education Commission stated that "China will mainly rely on its own efforts to train graduate students and set up a grad- uate education system with distinct Chinese characteristics."5 As graduate schools expand] and improve, China is essentially limiting foreign education to PhD and postdoctorate students and scholars. This means, of course, that a decision to remain abroad by these more highly trained individuals would not only be a lom to the country, in terms of both money spent on their education and their potential con- tribution to China's development, but also be a painful loss of face. It is somewhat ironic that the already mentioned policy, which limits government funding to one or two years and expects the students to find their own financial support through foreign sources, runs counter to the new expectations- loosening the bonds to the motherland and promoting the kind of independence and self-sufficiency that could encourage students to remain abroad. 2L.aowang (Outlook), No. 10, March 10, 1986; JPRS-ECPS-86-055, June 16, 1986, pp. 65-66. 3 BR, No. 9, Feb. 2, 1987, p. 25. 4CD,Nov.16,1987,p. 3. 5Xinhua, Dec. 20, 1986; JPRS-CPS-87-010, Feb. 27, 1987, p. 26.
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38 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA Finally, it is worth noting the obvious; China's brain-drain prob- lem would be insignificant were it not for the United States. This being the case, it is important to distinguish clearly between scholars and students sponsored (but not always paid for) by the Chinese government (~-1 visas) and students who go abroad using private funds (F-1 visas). G OVERNM1 :NT-SP ONS O RED STUDENTS AND SCHOLA1IS The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in China issue J-1 visas to individuals who are formally nominated by the Chinese government or research or work units (and approved by the government) and who have obtained an lAP-66 form to show that they have qualified un- der one of the programs designated by the U.S. Information Agency (USTA). A large proportion of the ]-1 visa holders are scholars or professors already established in their fields (mostly in science and engineering) who go abroad for advanced study, or they are man- agers and other officials sent by their work units for more specialized technical study.6 The number of undergraduates with J-1 visas has decreased even further since then. In a 1986 article, Li Peng, then Minister of the State Education Commission, once again emphasized that state selection of students for study abroad should focus pri- marily on advanced students and scholars and that "we will not send undergraduate students abroad, except for those studying languages or other specialized subjects."7 The most important point to be made with regard to the holders of J-1 visas is that, at least through 1986, the overwhelming majority have been returning to China on completion of their programs. This is the explicit belief of the legal stab of the USIA, and it is supported by the statistics on J-1 visas presented in the second half of this 6 Chinese sources report that by the end of 1984, 78 percent of ~tate- financed individuals were "taking refresher coursers (i.e., scholars catching up with developments in their fields that occurred during the decade of the Cultural Revolution, when China was isolated from world scholarship), 18 percent were graduate students, and only 4 percent were undergraduates (Xinhua, Nov. 28, 1984; JPRS-CPS-84-089, Dec. 19, 1984, p. 39~. These figures differ from visa statistics presented and discussed in Part II of this study. 7Li Peng, "Some Issues Concerning the Reform and Development of Higher Education," Zhongguo Gaodeng Jiaoyu (China's Higher Education), No. 7, July 13, 1986; JPRS-CPS-86-085, Dec. 12, 1986, p. 1.
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THE BRAIN-DRAIN ISSUE 39 study. In part, this is due to the "two-year rule," which states that, with very few exceptions, holders of J-1 visas cannot change to immigrant status without first leaving the United States for at least two years. According to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), since 1982 only 265 state-sponsored J-1 visa holders managed to adjust their status: 35 in 1982,43 in 1983,20 in 1984,50 in 1985, 53 in 1986, and 64 in 1987. In contrast, the numbers of F-1 visa holders who adjusted their status during the same years were 1,895 in 1982, 1,163 in 1983, 607 in 1984, 739 in 1985, 825 in 1986,- and 744 in 1987, for a total of 5,973.8 Nevertheless, both sides seem to agree that the seeds of a more difficult problem are present. Beijing complains that despite presumed legal restrictions, scholars on J-1 visas are managing to change their status or to extend their stay in the United States. The unofficial U.S. response is that as long as they remain students and do nothing illegal, no one will seek them out for deportation. The early arrivals were usually older scholars who were profes- sionally secure and with family ties. They could be fairly sure, based on the experience of others, that a year or two spent abroad would further enhance their positions within their institutions or otherwise advance their careers.9 China's current concern is with the younger graduate students who are now completing their studies. These young scholars, many of whom are not attached to wife, children, or work unit, ostensibly are more apt to search for ways to circumvent the immigration laws in an effort to remain abroad. PRIVATELY SPONSORED STUDENTS Whereas J-1 visas are issued to both students and scholars, only students who are not nominated or supported by the Chinese government are issued F-1 visa. The first small group of students went abroad at their own expense as early as 1978- an unheard of 8 Figures for 1982 through 1985 were assembled from Statistical Yearbook of the Immigration and Natwalization Service (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice); for 1986 and 1987 figures obtained by telephone from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It is interesting to note that during the same six years fewer than 200 J-1 visa holders but approximately 9,000 F-1 visa holders from Taiwan adjusted their status to permanent resident. 9See, for example, Otto Schnepp, University of Southern California, aThe Impact of Returning Scholars on Chinese Science and Technology. Report prepared for the National Science Foundation (1984~.
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40 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA occurrence during the preceding 30 years. Since this occasion was publicized in the Chinese media, word spread rapidly and soon large numbers of urban youths who had the necessary scholastic quali- fications started searching for well-to-do relatives or friends living abroad. And because by far the largest number of overseas Chinese in the West reside in the United States, it is not surprising that the overwhelming majority of the prospective students managed to find sponsorship in this country. Nevertheless, the number of F-1 visas issued by the U.S. Embassy and Consulates continues to be much smaller than the number requested, in part because of the large proportion of the privately sponsored students who remain in the United States and also, perhaps, because of steps to pacify re- lated Chinese fears. In 1986, for example, the U.S. Embassy and the four U.S. Consulates in China were turning down more than half the F-1 visa applicants. Most were said to have inadequate evidence of financial support and/or were suspected of pursuing emigration, not education. Despite the careful screening the suspicions continue to be confirmed by the large proportion of the F-1 visa holders who, after a year or two in the United States, seek to adjust their status from "student" to "permanent resident." As already discussed, some of the regulations with regard to self-supported studies abroad fluctuated over the years. For a time, undergraduates were not permitted to leave China until they com- pleted their studies and spent two years working. There were also restrictions with regard to certain professions, such as university lec- turers, engineers, and high-level physicians. All these impediments were introduced to decrease the chance of losing specialists already in short supply. In 1985 the reins on self-supporting students were again loosened and, as mentioned earlier, anyone who was accepted by a foreign institution and had the necessary funds could get per- mission to leave. It is not always possible, however, to match changes in Chinese policies with the fluctuations in the actual number of visas issued. Privately supported students constitute a serious dilemma for Beijing. Theoretically, they increase the number of foreign-trained specialists at no cost to the state. On the other hand, too many of them opt not to return. Perhaps, however, there is an ameliorating factor to be considered. About one-third of the F-1 students come to the United States as undergraduates. Given the difficulty of passing college-entrance examinations in China and the limited number of university slots, it is possible that many of the students accepted
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THE BRAIN-D~4IN ISSUE 41 by U.S. colleges had, or would have, failed to get admission into a Chinese institution of higher education. If so, then the loss to China is not quite as great as generally assumed, and it is conceivable that Chinese students with a U.S. degree who choose to remain in the United States are, at least potentially, more useful than if they remained workers in China with a secondary education, especially if the remittances that are customarily sent home are considered. As for those who came here for graduate education, it is very likely that a large proportion of that group, too, would not have been selected to fib the limited number of slots in Chinese graduate schools. And someday they might return. There is a special problem with regard to F-1 visa holders who do opt to return. The jealousy-inspired discrimination against all returnees is said to be especially bitter toward those whose education was paid for by relatives or friends. Beijing knows that this situation must be corrected before more students with F-1 visas can be enticed to return. Following the 1984 conference on foreign study, the State Council issued detailed Draft Regulations on Self-Supported Study Abroad, which have since been frequently and selectively cited by numerous Chinese officials.~° In brief, the regulations assure self- supported students who have not returned and those planning to leave that they will be provided equal job opportunities and in general be shown the same consideration as those sent and supported by the state. Complaints of returnees with degrees in scientific and technical fields could be referred to the State Science and Technology Commission's Bureau of Personnel for resolution and placement. Individuals who are leaving jobs for foreign study "may have their posts reserved for them with their pay suspended." Efforts will be made to help them solve any difficulties and problems they might encounter. If necessary, the state will even pay their return fare. One announcement went so far as to encourage these students to express their professional interests and preferred work locations to officials at Chinese embassies and consulates and promised every effort would be made to comply.ilInquiries of embassy personnel in Washington, however, indicated that no one was aware of arty such regulation nor has any student attempted to take advantage of the offer. One Hong Kong observer presented an anecdotal, yet usefully 0Xinhua, Jan. 11, 1985; FBIS, Jan. 15, 1985, pp. 12-15. 1 1 See, for example' Zhongguo Xinwen She (China News Agency, Hong Kong), Feb. 10, 1987; FBIS, Feb. 11, 1987, p. K2.
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42 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA descriptive listing of representative groups of privately sponsored Chinese students in the United States: 1. Earnestly studying. 2. Earned a degree and either planning to continue studies or found a job and seeking to change student status. 3. Not in school, either because never intended to go or because of financial, language, or classroom difficulties; most try to earn money in any way they can and end up becoming illegal immigrants. 4. Another and closely related group uses education as a cover to work and earn money and consists of students who are enrolled in "irregular schools"; they pay their tuition but seldom or never go to class while they look for various opportunities. 5. Individuals who use education as an excuse to get abroad but, once they have done some studying, try to find a way to change their status, with marriage as a frequent shortcut (especially among women students. Although it could not have been a scientific study, anecdotal in- formation supports the identified categories of privately sponsored students. TEE STUDENTS' PERSPECTIVE Despite policy fluctuations, it is relatively easy to understand and describe the official position on sending students abroad; to the- orize on the rationale behind the individual plans made by tens of thousands of Chmese students contemplating their future Is much more problematic. There are two reasons why this discussion is espe- cially speculative at this time. First, since early 1986, the thinking of Chinese students and scholars has been undergoing a transition. Sec- ond, whereas statistical evidence on the returnees for the 197~1986 period is in hand, later data are not yet available. Consequently, how shifting policies and conditions are affecting attitudes and reasons can only be surmised. Nevertheless, it ~ important to review some factors that students surely must consider as they mull over whether to stay in the United States or return to China. Given the example of other foreign students who have studied and remained in the United States, it is striking that, at least through . 12Pa' Shing Scrru-Mor~hly (Hong Kong), Aug. 16, 1985; JPRS-CST-85-038, Nov. 5, 1985, p. 78.
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THE BRAIN-DRAIN ISSUE 43 1986, almost ad of China's government-sponsored and perhaps one- third of the self-supporting students and scholars who completed their studies returned home (see Part IT). Even in 1986, according to a survey of Chinese students in North America, only 9 percent of the 395 respondents indicated that they planned to remain in the West permanently.~3 The Chinese Alliance for Democracy, which took this survey (an organization that is most belligerent in its criticisms of Beijing's policies toward intellectuals) concluded that "if China were only to adopt a policy of progressive liberalization, and provide an increasingly favorable environment for scientists and researchers, there would be no cause to worry that students would not return." Let us consider first some reasons why Chinese students and scholars have been returning and then examine some of the factors influencing them to remain in this country. Aside from the legal impediments to be overcome, there are strong push-and-pull factors that account for most foreign students' return home. There is attachment to family, friends, and familiar surroundings. There is the attractive prospect of being "a big fish" (though probably in a much smaller pond), which is usually the status they return to. For the Chinese student, unproved economic and social conditions at home should make the decision to return easier than it might have been some years ago. On the "pushy side, there is the accumulation of problems associated with living in and adjusting to a new country. There is also the difficulty of acquiring proficiency in a complicated foreign language that is a prerequisite to success in most professions a problem which is particularly aggravated for those who tend to spend their free time in Chinese enclaves. No doubt reflecting his own feelings while studying in Moscow in the 1950s, Li Peng affirmed that "studying abroad is a painful experience," just as it was for Chinese students in the Soviet Union.~4 Only a few years ago China observers would not have hesitated to list yet another set of reasons for Chinese students to return home, even though for those who did not have a sense of China, these reasons would have been difficult to understand. In the late 1980s these additional reasons may seem especially outdated-and yet, because i3"A Survey on China's Policy Toward Studying Abroad," China Spring D*cat, July-August 1987, pp. 39-41; translated by J. A. Williams from the January 1987 issue of Chung-kuo Chih-ch'un (China Spring). i4L~aowang Ovcrecas Edition (Hong Kong), No. 51, Dec. 22, 1986; JPRS- CPS-87-011, March 13, 1987.
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44 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA of their proven timelessness, they cannot be ignored. To Americans, many of the strongest motivations for Chinese students and scholars to return home may seem foreign or out-of-date-loyalty, patriotism, a desire to contribute to the development and modernization of their country, and a feeling of obligation for expenses incurred by the state and/or work unit in sending them abroad. These reasons are often disregarded, not only because they seem almost quaint in today's milieu, but also because they parallel Beijing's polemic. In China's case, it is a mistake. The ingrained pride associated with being a part of the oldest continuous historical and cultural entity is very real for the Chinese people. Propaganda that extolIs the virtues of being Chinese and living in China is a needless reminder especially for Chinese intellectuals. A survey of Chinese students in the United States showed the overwhelming proportion intend to return home and, according to the survey, the main reason for this decision is "because they are Chinese."35 The China ~magnet" is not new. Of the millions who migrated in the past hundred years, the overwheirning proportion left not be- cause of a special attraction for or the ~pull" of foreign lands, but because of the ~push" created by the inordinately difficult economic and political conditions in their homeland.46 And if these same cir- cumstances prevented them from returning sooner, most hoped to be buried in their native province or village. The historical and cultural factors which translate into a traditional attachment to the mother- land may be less visible among the much more sophisticated Chinese students now in the United States, but for most of them, nationalism and the desire to be part of a Chinese renaissance are still present. Conversely, China's ~bra~n-drain~ concerns would be baseless if there were not compelling reasons to remain in the United States. Career considerations would be paramount for scientists and engi- neers, who would undoubtedly find greater professional satisfaction i5CD, Aug. 15, 1986, p. 3. It is no wonder that this survey by a Taiwan- educated scholar was picked up in the Beijing press. 36A colorful contradiction to this statement was expressed by two Chinese Treaty Commissioners in 1880: "Being from a race of dwellers upon the sea- coast, they "Chinese laborers] have desired to go thither and have regarded California as a land of abundance and as furnishing grew C}~OF6Ulllblt::S. ~ llC) have also rejoiced in the freedom of the United States. Hence they have not gone there as a result of deceit, or by being kidnapped, nor under contract as coolies, but have flown thither as the wild geese By." As cited in Mary Roberts Coolidge, Chinese Immigration (New York, Arno Press, 1909), p. 49.
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THE BR4IN-DRAIN ISSUE 45 here especially in subfields in which China lags behind world levels. Moreover, the attraction of the United States for anyone interested in pursuing basic research is recognized by scientists not only from third world nations but even from Japan-a viewpoint recently ex- pressed by that country's first Nob e! Prize winner in medicine. Dr. Tonegawa was quoted as saying that any free-spirited researcher must leave Japan to thrive and that universities in his country are too au- thoritarian, too focused on seniority, and too inflexible to let young researchers pursue unproved but potentially innovative ideas.~7 This attitude toward undirected research is certainly still prevalent in China, only intensified by funding constraints and the leadership's lack of understanding of the relationship between science and tech- nology. The enticement of the United States for Chinese students in social sciences, humanities, and the arts (a much larger proportion of whom are supported by private funds) is related to professional freedom of expression which in China has fluctuated between re- stricted and nonexistent. The fact that employment in these fields is especially difficult for foreign-born scholars in the United States does not seem to be a major deterrent. Last, but definitely not least, is the inevitable lure of income and life-style to which aD Chinese students can aspire in the United States. In this regard, the self-evident advantages would not be nearly as important were it not for the continuing problems experi- enced by intellectuals in China. After 10 years of lip service to the intellectual cause, at the Thirteenth CPC National Congress of the Communist Party, then Premier Zhao Ziyang still felt it necessary to repeat that China "must create a social environment in which knowledge and educated people are respected and must continue to improve the working and living conditions of intellectuals so as to turn human resources to best account. i~ The response of intellectu- als to such statements is more cloud thunder but small raindrops." In the inflationary environment of the 1980s, their incomes and living conditions have adrn~ttedly been unproving slower than those of peas- ants and workers and, according to Zhao Pusan, the Vic - President i7Clyde Haberman, "Japan Asks Why Scientists Go West to Thrive," New Boric Hitch, Nov. 11, 1987, p. 9. i8General Secretary Zhao Ziyang's report to the Thirteenth National Congress of the Communist Party, Oct. 15, 1987; BR, No. 45, Nov. 9-15, 1987, p. 30.
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46 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA of Ch~na's Academy of Social Sciences, Private traders are mak- ing fortunes whereas officials and intellectual are underpaid. ~9 A more vivid description of the plight of intellectuals was provided by a Nanfang University professor: Now the peasants are standing on a gold brick, the workers on a silver brick, and the intellectuals are wearing a tall hat; they seem taller than the others, but they have no substantial benefits."20 In more scholarly language, this growing income disparity between intellectuals and the rest of the society is aptly summarized in Science by Nicholas Lardy, Professor of Chi- nese Economics at the University of Washington: "The decline in the incomes of scientists and engineers relative to that of workers in other sectors of the economy, where the opportunities for commercial and entrepreneurial activities have widened steadily and real incomes have grown explosively, has been particularly corrosive." Since this condition applies to all professionals, the students' decision to stay or to return would be made much easier if they saw clear evidence of improvement in the living conditions of intellectuals in China. As hard as it is to make the decision to remain in the United States, it is, of course, even more challenging to implement it. In the case of Chinese students, however, there are several facilitating factors. The large Chinese population in this country, with it highly educated middle class, offers not only a familiar environment and considerable support, but often employment as well. Furthermore, non-Chinese employers tend to have a high regard for these hard- working and bright individuals, usually survivors of a stiff selection process before they were permitted to leave China. The relative ease with which Chinese students and scholars have been able to find employment and academic fellowships to extend their stay in this country has been a painful thorn in the side of Chinese authorities. Here too, however, a caveat is in order, for the easily obtained scholarships and fellowships do not prepare the Chinese graduate of a U.S. university for the definite limits on career opportunities that exist. If the past experience of foreign students in the United States holds, for each one who will rise to the top, many more are likely to ,9From an interview published in Lo Figaro (Paris), Oct. 27, 1987; FBIS- CHI-87-213, Nov. 4, 1987, p. 32. 20 Ming Pro (Hong Kong), Sept. 1, 1987; FBIS-CHI-87-172, Sept. 4, 1987, p. 4. 2iScicnec, Jan. 1, 1988, p. 79.
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THE BRAIN-DRAIN ISSUE 47 end up as frustrated, unhappy individuals, who will feel they have suffered discrimination in this country. All of these push-and-pull factors have been reasonably stable over the past decade. Why, then, does an increasing number of stu- dents and scholars appear to be choosing to emigrate or at least to postpone their return? It would be too easy to place all the blame on the student demonstrations in China in the winter of 1986. This short-lived turmoil seemed almost an aberration; it was handled gent- ly by the authorities and, by now, most of the overt dissent seems to be limited to a relatively small group of vocal and highly publicized intellectuals. For the overwhelming majority of students, conditions in China appear to be approximately back to where they were be- fore the demonstrations and, one would expect, more professionally appealing now than in the early 1980s. So what has changed? The change is in the characteristics of students and scholars in the United States and how they reflect the new mood in China through their own personalities and goals. In a sense, students and scholars who came here in the early 1980s were of a different breed. China had only recently emerged from both the physical and communicative isolation of the Cultural Revolution. Going abroad for the first time to study was not sim- ply a unique opportunity but also a wondrous and even mysterious experience. Students and, to a lesser degree, scholars (who were then considerably older than scholars abroad today) seemed under- standably apprehensive and much more passive in terms of their own demands and the demands placed on them. In those early years, whether because of conscientiousness, fear, patriotism, or inexpe- rience, few officially sponsored students or scholars are believed to have seriously contemplated remaining permanently in the United States. It ~ noteworthy that, despite the campaign against "spiri- tual pollution," almost 3,000 Chinese with J-1 visas returned in 1984 and almost 5,000 returned in 1985 (see Chapter 5~. By the middle 1980s, younger students and scholars were arriving with somewhat different attitudes and perceptions. Again to gener- alize, many of these later students were only children at the height of the Cultural Revolution. They had attended Chinese secondary schools and universities when political content in the curriculum was nonexistent or, at least, greatly Reemphasized. Considered pampered by many in China, most came unencumbered by family or attach- ment to any work unit. Finally, they not only knew more about what
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48 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA to expect when they got here, but they were much more confident about their ability to compete and succeed in the new environment. Probably even more important than the changing characteristics of students are the changes that have been taking place in China in the 1980s. Beijing now refers to "Chinese-style socialism," but, admittedly an oversimplification, it might be easier to understand as "practical socialism": if it works, call it socialist and use it. As part of the modernization process, Beijing is attempting to increase pro- ductivity in all sectors of the economy through increased incentives, in part by encouraging private venture for those who are outside the work-unit system and by motivating work units, as well as individu- als within the units, to sign a variety of contractual agreements that would either boost or supplement salaries. Monetary gain rather than ideology has become the motivating force in China and, in the process, there has been a gradual transition during which national interest became subsumed by a strong sense of individual interest. Ironically, while this liberalized attitude provides a climate more conducive to professional opportunity in China, it has also created an environment of rising expectations that spawned the current crop of students and scholars in the United States and is influencing their final decision to return or to stay. There are yet other important factors to consider in any attempt to explain why students and scholars now in the United States are more likely than before to seek ways to remain here. It would appear that, despite the complaints of many returnees, those who went back in earlier years had little competition and were therefore much more apt to find themselves in acceptable employment situations. The new graduates of U.S. universities, however, are confronted with totally different conditions. First, the shortage in professional manpower is not nearly as severe as it was, therefore, competition for the more desirable locations (e.g., Shanghai and Beijing) and positions (e.g., institutes of an academy of science) is becoming much keener.22 Second, large numbers of individuals are getting advanced degrees in fields of science for which in China there is now a shortage of both positions and facilities. And third, the importance of advanced degrees notwithstanding, in the earlier years more undergraduate 22According to an official of the State Education Commission, aAfter years of expanding education programmer, the gap between the supply and demand for college graduates is no longer so sharp as beforen (~CD, Oct. 17, 1987, p. 33.
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THE BR24IN-DRAIN ISSUE 49 students went abroad; they had lower expectations and were easier to place than the current graduate students. Chinese students and scholars gradually have overcome the fear of U.S. law and the anticipated embarrassment to themselves and to their country if, by delaying their return, they became involved in legal entanglements and eventual deportation. It took a number of years for them to discover that unless they commit a crime, neither the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service nor the local police or the FBI is likely to be on their trail for overstaying their legal time period. Legal concerns continue, but that they are not immediate must be comforting to the students and scholars and an important factor, if not in the final decision, then at least in delaying a decision. Finally, just as the Chinese people in general, students and scholars seem no longer welling To eat bitterness." Those who choose to remain in the United States are seeking not only professional fulfi~hnent but also insurance against the eventuality that bitterness will once again be the fare in China. Given the openness with which Chinese officteab discuss these problems, their concurrence with this evaluation is a reasonable expectation. PROSPECTS As we have already seen, Beijing's understandable concern about the potential brain drain so far has not diminished the number of scholars sent abroad; the emphasis, rather, has been on making changes in the qualifications and specializations of these individuals. As pointed out by then Minister Li Peng, supervision of the students going abroad was Inadequate in the past. In the future "students must be sent on a need basis, quality control must be exercised, and there must be an integration of learning and application."23 In this connection, in the latter part of 1986, the Science and Technology section of the Chinese Embassy in the United States invited six scholars from China to participate in an informal discus- sion concerning Chinese students in this country and ways to assure their return. Among the recommendations made by this pane! were that only outstanding people be selected from the pool of young and middIe-aged research and teaching personnel, that their advanced 23Li Peng, "Some Issues Concerning the Reform and Development of Higher Education, Zhongguo Gaodeng Jicopu (China's Higher Educations, No. 7, July 1986; JPRS-CPS-86-085, Dec. 12, 1986, p. 46.
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50 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA study program be clearly defined and regularly reviewed, and that the length of time spent in advanced study should be decided on an individual basis. Reemphasized was the familiar demand that re- search projects be relevant to the needs of the domestic units which sent the individual abroad. Moreover, the pane} recommended that when foreign-trained scholars return, they should be assigned work on the basis of ability rather than seniority when appropriate, skip- ping salary grades and taking on graduate students of their own. Additionally, officials at the Embassy in Washington and the five Consulates were urged to maintain close contact with Chinese schol- ars in U.S. universities, assisting them with any academic or personal problems that may arise.24 This practice is now being implemented more thoroughly than before and a foreign-service person from each Chinese consulate is specifically assigned to perform such functions. The hope is, of course, that personal and frequent contact with each scholar will positively influence that person's "final decision." As is so often the case, however, while national intent is clearly detailed in a variety of sources, the implementation of the stated policies or regulations may be difficult to discern in practice. For example, the goal of holding the number of self-supporting students to a minimum, and thereby reducing the potential pool of people who might clecide to remain abroad, is yet to be reflected in the number of F-1 visas issued, which in fact grew by 68 percent between 1985 and 1986 albeit dropping to a 5 percent increase between 1986 and 1987. The intent to have a larger proportion of scholars doing advanced work in fields other than science and technology, such as management, computer science, and economics and other social sciences, has yet to be reflected in the enrollment statistics. Another difficult problem now being discussed ~ how to assure that before going abroad students in scientific and technical disci- plines not only attain academic qualifications, but also some work experience in industrial production, research and development, plan- ning and design, and management. To accomplish this, there is now (at least in theory) a tw~year work requirement before going abroad, which would produce somewhat older scholars (at least in their mid 24 "Chinese Scholars on Visit to the United States Regard the Development of Scholarly Leaders as the Major Goal of Sending Personnel Abroad for Study," Kcii Riboo (Scicnec and Tcchnolo~ Daily), Jan. 26, 1987; JPRS-CST-87-014, April 6, 1987.
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THE BRAIN-DRAIN ISSUE 51 and late-twenties), more established in their professions and work- places, perhaps with families, and therefore more likely to return to China on completion of their academic work. Since the emphasis on practical experience is supposed to carry over to their studies abroad, Beijing must be aware of the resistance that may be encountered on the U.S. side. Some practical experience is already available to Chinese students, as to all foreign students on J-1 visas, because built into this program ~8 an 18-month visa exten- sion for practical training.25 The proposed changes, however, suggest a reversal of priorities: practical training is to take precedence over degrees. If that is indeed the case, then it is difficult to see how such programs would fit into the existing curricula of U.S. univer- sities. Could students continue to be enrobed in degree programs while acquiring experience in industrial production and research and development, for example? Will they occupy a sponsored research position at a university, and if so, what would be the motivation for a U.S. institution of higher education to accept such an arrangement? If the intent is to go outside the established academic exchanges to arrange for this type of practical experience, the Chinese have to face the fact that, although many U.S. corporations have been running training programs for the Chinese, U.S. industry generally has not been receptive to placing foreign nationals into research and produc- tion positions that might reveal proprietary information that could be channelled to a potentially competitive nation. Since scholars can play a very important role in technology transfer, China's desire for her students to obtain more hands-on experience in U.S. industries and laboratories may well run into the ever-present security concerns in Washington. These concerns will surely be stimulated by an increased presence of Chinese nationals in private and public research establishments.26 Yet another innovation sought by the State Education Commis- sion to fill China's need for highly trained scholars, while hopefully alleviating the returning student problem, is the granting of joint 25In June 1987 it became unlawful for U.S. employers to hire foreign students who do not have a work permit. This new law should have a significant impact on Chinese students who may try to stay beyond the 18-month visa extension. 26 See, for example, Larry M. Wortzel, "U.S. Technology Transfer Policies . . . ~ , , ~ and the Modernization of China's Armed Forces," A - an Survey, No. 6, June 1987, pp. 615-637; Leo A. Orleans, `'Chinese Students and Technology Transfer, Journal of Northeast Asian Studded, Vol. IV, No. 4, Winter 1985, pp. 3-25.
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52 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA PhD degrees by Chinese and U.S. universities. One suggestion is for students in scientific and technical disciplines to complete three years of postgraduate course work in China (earning MA degrees), spend two years in residence at a U.S. university doing research and laboratory work, and then return to China to write dissertations to be approved by a joint U.S.-PRC faculty committee. In the social sciences the sequence would be reversed, with students doing course work in the United States and then returning to China to do research and write their dissertation. In either case, PhD degrees- would not be granted until the student returned to China, thus providing a most tangible reason to return. The problem, of course, is to find a U.S. institution of higher education willing to lend its name to a joint degree over which it would have only partial control. Some have suggested that such an arrangement may be easier to implement with universities in Canada or Europe. Whatever the problems, and despite the recent flurry of rumors and concerns about severe cuts in the number of scholars and stu- dents to be sent to the United States (see Chapter 1), Beijing is not likely to be deterred from sending individuals abroad to obtain advanced degrees and experience. The comments of two individuals, one an official and one a private citizen, seem to bracket the range of reasons for this conclusion. An official perspective was expressed by Fang Yi, State Councilor and former Minister of the State Sci- ence and Technology Commission. In an interview with The China Business Review, he pointed out that scholars who have returned from the United States have not only become The backbone in the ranks of our science and technology personnel" but "have also en- hanced the friendship and mutual understanding between our two peoples."27 While these may be cliches, they are also a true ret flection of the importance most Chinese leaders assign to scholarly exchanges. A different perspective~ne not usually heard from gov- ernment officials was expressed by a Shanghai engineer: A Chinese is always Chinese. Blood is thicker than water. Those who have gone abroad are bound to come home as our country becomes stronger and more prosperous. And those who do not come back for various reasons will also make a contribution to China's modernization by furthering contacts and friendship between the Chinese people and those of other lands.28 27 China Bwinc`~ Renew, No. 4, July-August 1987, p. 13. 28Zhu Yuchao, `'The Rage to Study Abroad," China Reconstructs, No. 12, December 1986, p. 49.
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THE BRAIN-DRAIN ISSUE 53 TEE INTE1INATIONAL PERSPECTIVE It seems only appropriate to end this discussion by placing China's brain-drain problem into a broader, international perspec- tive. It is not uncommon for people whose experience with academic exchanges has been lirn~ted to post-1978 China to consider that coun- try's problems to be different and "special. Such a perception is not altogether unwarranted. After all, China is the first communist c-oun- try to train its successor generation in the West. Following 30 years of belligerency and isolation, suddenly to find so many Chinese students and scholars in U.S. universities was indeed phenomenal. Obvious questions arose. What were the effects of the Cultural Revolution on their scholastic background? Did they have the ability to compete in U.S. universities? How would they adapt to the very different environment? Could they communicate and get along with both faculty and students? Because of these special considerations, not only was the intimate involvement of the two governments unlike any previously experienced, but also large numbers of both professionals and well-wishers became involved in the late 1970s and early 1980s to smooth the way for Chinese students. However, the differences between Chinese and other foreign students stop at the brain-drain Issue. The "flight of intellectual capital" has been of great concern to all developing countries, especially since those individuals who tend to remain abroad are precisely the ones with the greatest Initiative and enterprise the ones who could make the greatest contribution to their home country. Compounding the problem is the universality of scientific and technical personnel. In their specialties any language handicap is minimized, and it is these critical people who are the most likely to stay abroad. It is not surprising, then, that this brain drain has been studied by many scholars and from many viewpoints. The similarities among all foreign students become very clear when we consider the consensus in these studies with regard to two aspects: what are some of the considerations for remaining abroad and what seem to be the most effective measures to assure return. One of the more comprehensive studies on the brain-drain subject was done by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).29 It consisted of a survey of 6,500 student "stay-one" 29WilliamA. Glaser, The Brain Drain. Errugratrion and Return (New York: Pergamon Press, 1978~.
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54 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA in the United States and France from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Greece, India, South Korea, and Sri Lanka. As we tick off the major findings of this study, the reader should have no difficulty in determining the points that are shared by Chinese students and scholars. . Most students from developing countries plan to return home. Many of those who remain abroad to work do so for important practical experience and plan to return eventually. ~ Most likely to stay abroad are those who studied some highly specialized field and believe that their new talents would be wasted at home. For example, one Tunisian professor who declined an invitation to join the staff of the Pasteur Institute in Tunis and instead took a position with the same institute in Paris expressed the view of many scientists: ~T don't need a villa or a chauffeur-driven car. What ~ do require is a well-equipped laboratory in a stimulating university environment."30 . Specialists with highest rates of emigration share the same grievances: (a) feel isolated from newest developments in their fields; (b) jobs involve too much burdensome teaching and administration and too little research; or (c) poor facilities and equipment. In other words, job satisfaction is more important than salary. . Although no clear-cut relation exists between ability and mi- gration, persons with the lowest grades tend to return. ~ Most common factors influencing return are family, friends, and patriotic feelings. Having children at home is one of the most important considerations In the decision to remain or return. The greater the association with nationals from the country of study and the lower the association with fellow students from home, the greater the tendency to emigrate. Visits home do not increase rate of return. Some decide to stay abroad until the job market unproves at home or the government changes. Many return 10 to 15 years later to play an important role in their home country. ~ And, perhaps the most important similarity shared with Chi- nese students, those with scholarships or special grants are more likely to return than those who study abroad privately. In other words, grants from government or employers in one's home country 30Moncef Mahroug, aToo Many Scholars, Not Enough Jobs," IDRC Reports, Vol. 17, No. 1, January 1988, p. 16. .
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THE BRAIN-DRAIN ISSUE 55 are associated with return, and grants from universities abroad are associated with emigration. Furthermore, individuals who have jobs waiting are much more likely to return than those not yet employed when they went abroad. The striking similarities between the brain-drain issues of Chi- nese students in the United States in the 1980s and those of students from other countries over the past several decades may surprise even the Chinese officials contemplating the dilemma. Solutions to the problem suggested by observers elsewhere also are similar to many of those introduced by the Chinese. Let us consider some of the suggested ways to control the emigration of professionals: . The most frequently offered and the most obvious advice is also the most difficult for developing countries to implement: "create a climate for attracting and retaining talent." More specifically, improve both the living and working conditions of professionals and make it possible for talented professionals To shine and grow in their jobs." 3t . Limit education abroad to older students, to more advanced levels, to shorter periods of time, and to persons who have made a career start at home.32 "Lack of careful co-ordination between development needs and student training abroad partly explains why education of these students in developed countries has turned into a broad avenue for permanent m~gration....~33 With regard to Chinese students and scholars, there are other factors as well, but as we have already seen, Beijing has gradually (and probably independently) reached many of the above conclu- sions, incorporating virtually all of the proposed suggestions into current policies. How successful China wiD be in controlling the loss of brain power will depend on many factors, not the least of which is the econorn~c progress and political mood in China as perceived 3iS. K. Chopra, ea., Brain Drain and How to Rcvcrsc It (New Delhi: Lancer International, 1986), p. 57. 32 Charles P. Kindleberger, "Study Abroad and Emigration, in 17`c Brain Drain, Walter Adams, ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1968), p. 135. 33Gregory Henderson, Emigration of Highly-Skillcd Manpower from Developing Countric~ (New York: United Nations Institute for Training and Research, 1970), p. 68.
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56 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA by the students. But, if the past has any bearing on the future, Beijing might keep two points in mind. First, the defections may not be forever and, second, certain advantages may still accrue to China even from those scholars who continue to live and work abroad. If the Chinese accept these as valid considerations, then the brain-drain issue may lose some of its immediate gravity.
Representative terms from entire chapter: