Returnees in China drive innovation

Liao Junhua (left), who has returned to his hometown in China to start a tea business after receiving his master’s degree in the Oregon State University in the U.S., talks with a tea farmer in an organic tea garden in Xuan’en county, central China’s Hubei province, April 24, 2019. (People’s Daily Online/Wang Jun)

Inspired by China’s innovation-driven development strategy, a large number of talents who returned to the country after studying abroad have become an important force of the mass entrepreneurship and innovation campaign in China during its 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020).

After graduating from the University of Liverpool in the UK, post-90s Chinese Shi Pengfei made a decision that surprised his family and friends: returning to his hometown in Dulouma village, Kaifeng city of central China’s Henan province to engage himself in planting edible fungi.

Since 2017, Shi has tried to grow many varieties of edible fungi. He finally decided on shiitake mushrooms, which are believed to be relatively easier to form an industrial chain, cause no pollution, and boast both technical advantages and economic benefits.

Today, in his planting base in Dulouma village, shiitake mushrooms grow vigorously in neat clusters.

Besides, the industrial park of edible fungi established by the overseas returnee-turned new farmer has driven the development of 39 poverty-relief edible fungi bases in six townships in the locality.

Shi has made great efforts to establish an entire industrial chain covering the production, supply and sale of edible fungi, and tried to involve impoverished residents in every links of the industrial chain so as to expand their sources of income.

In 2020 alone, Shi provided assistance for 3,360 times for poor households, increasing their income by an average of 6,000 yuan ($928.5) per household.

In fact, during China’s 13th Five-Year Plan period, more returnees like Shi have devoted themselves to poverty alleviation and applied what they have learned to the front line of the fight against poverty.

Miao Lu, co-founder and secretary general of the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), believes that overseas returnees can play a key role in China’s poverty alleviation models featuring five major approaches including industrial development, technical training, education, medical services, and financial support, and make greater contributions to the country’s poverty alleviation campaign.

Over the past five years, various Chinese cities have made efforts to attract talents returned from overseas.

Shanghai attracted over 67,000 returnees from 2016 to 2020, more than twice the number of talents returned from overseas introduced to the city between 2011 and 2015. In addition, 80 percent of these returnees attracted to Shanghai graduated from the top 300 universities in the world.

The metropolis has accumulated more than 200,000 returnees that are working or running their own businesses in the city.

Talent cultivation has always been a focus of China’s opening-up efforts in the education sector, and talents returned to the country after studying overseas are an important part of China’s talent pool.

Latest data from China’s Ministry of Education show that the number of Chinese studying abroad exceeded 2.51 million from 2016 to 2019, of whom about 2.01 million, or 80 percent, returned to China after graduation.

The returning wave of overseas Chinese graduates is a mirror of industrial changes as well as a vivid reflection of the appeal of huge opportunities in China.

While injecting fresh impetus into the innovative development of various industries, talents returned from overseas have helped enhance the endogenous power of China.

It is predictable that returnees will better integrate their ambitions into the development of their motherland and compose more wonderful melodies of innovation and entrepreneurship with the support of a more mature talent cultivation system and all-round services for innovation and entrepreneurship.