Is China About to See a Brain Drain?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 2:44

Over the last 18 months, some of the most common discussions I have been having is (1) long term expats leaving China and (2) the number of Chinese who are looking to leave China.

There have been a number of articles covering the former.  Expats who have grown tired of China, realized they will not be Chinese, or are finding opportunities outside of the mainland otherwise.  which are no doubt catalyzed by issues of food quality, air pollution, and the general fears that come along with living in China.

It’s a well covered topic.

But what is more interesting for me is the fact that so many Chinese are also looking for the exits.  A topic I will be speaking about tomorrow night in a Google Hangout entitled Why are the Chinese Leaving China with Fons Tuinstra,  Janet Carmosky, Li Meixian and Helen Wang.

For my part, one of the issues that I am going to cover is the fact that regardless of reason, if a true exodus of China’s young professionals (my friends) does happen, it will lead to a gap in managerial capacity on the ground and will likely set Chinese firms back.  A point I will make by recalling two recent conversations with friends who are now planning their next steps from China.

One a young professional.  One a senior exec.   Both with very different reasons for leaving.

With that, I invite you to join the conversation.


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3 Responses to “Is China About to See a Brain Drain?”

  1. Jeff says:

    September 19th, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    I have been in China for 14 years. Yes, there are problems (air pollution, traffic, not-so-good medical care, etc.) but there is no other place I would rather be. I have no intention of leaving. In my business (technology) the climate is like it was in the Silicon Valley in the ’80’s. Everyone is positive and excited. I like that and I don’t think I can find that in the U.S. these days. Other ex-pat’s that I talk to that express dissatisfaction have usually failed to assimilate themselves into the culture. That’s a necessity here in my opinion.

  2. Chris Devonshire-Ellis says:

    September 19th, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    These are two different subjects. As I said earlier (and agree with Don) expats in China have a short shelf life now unless they are either nationally established or can add value in China’s own emerging markets, which is the 4/5/6/7 tier cities. It’s not possible for expats with zero experience and no language skills to just turn up in Shanghai and wing it, those days are over.
    In terms of Chinese, they will do the entrepreneurial thing and exploit the opportunities that exist in China. They are many, varied and immense, and easier to access than trying again
    in a completely new country and an unfamiliar market. You will always get Chinese nationals leaving to go overseas (mainly to study) but there is no brain drain. There are far too many opportunities in China for Chinese nationals to go at to make the risk of going overseas particuarly worthwhile.

    Incidentally can someone do something about Fons download, it took forever.

  3. George says:

    November 30th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    “expats in China have a short shelf life now unless they are either nationally established or can add value in China’s own emerging markets, which is the 4/5/6/7 tier cities” ….Jesus Christ Chris…every time you have a new “vision” you paste it all over the web. Expats come and go….impats stay and it really does not matter if they are in a first, second or third tier cities. What value have you added in China over the years.? What value? Your bullshit? For crying out loud…please stop posting commentaries. Any! Just stop! You never added any value whatsoever, never produced a single product. Nothing people could buy, nothing useful, just BS.