China will ‘exhaust all means’ to lure global talent, Xi Jinping says

PHOTO: Reuters

China is calling for more global talent to bolster technological innovation and national power, amid growing concern from foreign investors that Beijing's "dual-circulation" strategy might turn it further inward and hamper international collaboration.

China will "exhaust all means" to recruit intelligent and innovative professionals from around the world, President Xi Jinping said in a speech to a key national talent work conference in September.

The transcript, published on Thursday on Qiushi, a state journal covering the Chinese Communist Party's governing philosophy, laid out a specific timetable for China to become a world power in science and technology within two decades.

"The emphasis on independent cultivation of talent must not mean self-isolation," Xi said.

"China needs participation of global talent, while its development also provides opportunities for global talent" said Xi Jinping.

Xi said China must implement more proactive policies to lure top professionals, which are in short supply, and form a "talent system with global appeal and competitive advantage."

With generous funding and high-level jobs, China has long been seeking scientists from abroad, including from Japan.

In September, Dr Akira Fujishima, a chemist and the "father of photocatalysis", joined the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology. The university and Shanghai government will make a multimillion yuan investment to set up a research institute for his team.

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Dr Mikoshiba Katsuhiko joined ShanghaiTech University in 2019 to continue his research in molecular neurobiology.

Shuai Ke, previously a tenured professor of biological chemistry at UCLA, also joined Nanjing University in July as the tech rivalry between China and the United States deepened.

Xi's speech was made amid growing concern that China's "dual circulation " strategy, which focuses more on domestic consumption and aims to boost self-sufficiency in hi-tech manufacturing, may squeeze participation of foreign companies and expertise.

China's harsh border restrictions prompted by the coronavirus pandemic have been sharply criticised by international business groups and have increased the risk of losing foreign experts, potentially deepening its talent problem.

Xi also stressed the importance of clearing institutional and bureaucratic barriers to build a system that cultivates and incentivises talent.

China will build an army of young tech professionals, who are at the moment hindered by limited leadership and promotion opportunities, as well as general living pressure, Xi said.

"Studies show that age 25 to 45 is the best time for scientists to invent and create, but a lot of talented young people are investing too much energy into academic title evaluations and project applications, while facing many practical difficulties such as housing and children's admissions to schools. The focal point for cultivating strategic talent should be placed on technology," Xi said.

Special policies and flexible measures should be provided to people with skills, and "failures should be permitted and forgiven", he said.

Support to develop tech talent was also stressed during the central economic work conference last Friday, which included drafting a decade-long agenda to conduct fundamental research, reorganising major science labs across the country and continuing international co-operation on technology.

A host of foreign workers with European companies operating in China remain stranded outside the country due to travel restrictions, according to a report published earlier this year by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.

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