Program Lures Top Scholars Back to China

Author: Didi Tang

(By Didi Tang. Shanghai Daily, Aug. 20, 2016, p. A10. Complete text:) As a young biologist at the University of Michigan, Chen Xiaowei had plenty to like about life in the US. He was paid well as a researcher and enjoyed raising his family in Ann Arbor, a town he remembers as beautiful and filled with friendly, highly educated people.

But an offer from a Chinese university for him to return home to Beijing was too generous not to consider. In addition to a comparable salary, he was promised enough startup research money that he wouldn’t have to worry about pursuing grants. And, as he saw it, there was a chance to make a bigger difference in China. So in 2014 he moved back with his wife and two children.

"I feel freer to pursue my best ideas," Chen says.

He says he has received such generous support that he’s able to study a disease through symptoms in both the liver and muscles simultaneously - something he says he would not be able to do in the US because of limitations on grants, which are often tied to projects instead of researchers.

Chen, who earned a doctorate in physiology at University of Michigan in 2008, is among the thousands of high-achieving overseas Chinese recruited to come home through the 1,000 Talents program, one of many state efforts launched in recent years to reverse a decades-long brain drain.

China, the world’s second-largest economy and one of the fastest-growing, sees a need to bring home more of its brightest as it works to transform its largely labor-intensive, low-tech economy into one fueled by innovation in science and technology.

Forbidden to study abroad until the 1980s, Chinese students have been attending foreign schools in growing numbers. More than 300,000 studied in the US alone in the 2014 - 2015 school ...

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