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王辉耀:博士,教授,博士生导师,哈佛大学高级研究员,中国与全球化研究中心主任,欧美同学会/中国留学人员联谊会副会长,商务部中国国际经济合作学会副会长,中组部国际人才战略专题研究组组长,人社部中国人才研究会副会长,国务院侨办海外专家咨询委员会经济组召集人,九三学社中央经济委员会副主任,北京市政协顾问委员,中华海外联谊会理事,中国华侨历史学会副会长,先后兼任北京大学光华管理学院学院客座教授和加拿大亚太基金会高级研究员,也曾在美国布鲁金斯学会担任访问研究员。

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Overseas talent tired of losing Chinese identity  

2011-01-17 13:53:08|  分类: 人才战略 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Overseas talent tired of losing Chinese identity

  • Source: Global Times [08:37 January 17,2011]

Editor's note:

South Korea recently passed a dual citizenship bill, which took effect on January 1. It is believed that the bill will attract more talent and boost the country's competitiveness. Meanwhile, dual citizenship is still not permitted by Chinese government. Does this put China at a disadvantage? What should China do to attract talent? Global Times (GT) reporter Xuyang Jingjing talked to Wang Huiyao (Wang), vice chairman of the China Western Returned Scholars Association, director general of Center for China and Globalization, on these issues.

 

GT: Why does China not permit dual citizenship?

 

Wang: Before 1954 China recognized dual citizenship. In the 1950s, some Southeast Asian countries had concerns that China might export the revolution, and there was anti-overseas Chinese sentiment in some of those countries. In order to avoid provoking ethnic tensions in neighboring countries, China decided that it wouldn't recognize dual citizenship.

That was understandable. There were a lot of Chinese there, and China did have some concerns overseas and vice versa. So that was the background for this policy. In 1980 China issued a citizenship law that stipulated that if a Chinese citizen joined another country, he or she would automatically lose his or her Chinese citizenship.

But so many Chinese people have gone overseas since then. China is second only to Mexico in terms of immigrants to the US, and it has overtaken India as the largest exporter of students to the US. And 90 percent of Chinese PhDs studying science and engineering remain in the US five years after graduation. So the situation is quite different now.

 

GT: With the increasing number of Chinese students going abroad, not allowing dual citizenship has become an obstacle for their return. What's your opinion? Is this a disadvantage in attracting talent?

 

Wang: After reform and opening-up, 70 percent of the foreign investment was brought in by the overseas Chinese. Now what we need is human capital, like overseas Chinese. But because China doesn't recognize dual citizenship, it creates a lot of problems.

The first problem is not being recognized as Chinese. The 1980 law is out of date. It stipulates that anyone who joins another country will be viewed as automatically giving up their Chinese citizenship, which is very severe. Many people join another country due to travel convenience or work requirements. They do not necessarily want to give up their Chinese citizenship.

The law leaves them no choice but to give up their citizenship. This is not common in many other countries. In most cases, the US does not require a person to choose one citizenship over another. So the first problem is that these Chinese people lose their sense of origin and belonging. And it hurts a lot of people's feelings, because many of them feel that they are still Chinese.

The second problem is travel inconvenience. Without Chinese citizenship, you have to apply for a visa and get it renewed. It's very inconvenient.

Thirdly, you don't get to enjoy the benefits citizens do, such as social welfare, and children's education.

And finally for their children born overseas, they may lose a sense of origin or forget about their roots. They may become completely westernized. It's probably not good for the Chinese parents to see the second or third generation Chinese become like that.

That's some of the problems. But most importantly, it's not good for the circulation of talent. We are in the 21st century, and it's all about brainpower. China needs to attract more talents.

 

GT: You also serve as a consultant to Overseas Chinese Affairs Office. As far as you know, does the government have a timetable to revise the Law of Nationality?

 

Wang: Some NPC deputies and CPPCC members have proposed changing the policy in the past a number of times, as many overseas Chinese have been complaining about the current policy and hoping for a change. And I think they will continue with this proposal.

Concerns with some Southeast Asian countries are still the most frequently cited reason for banning dual citizenship. But even Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines and Vietnam now recognize dual citizenship and now does the South Korea.

Right now we have so many neighboring countries and regions as examples, and it's a disadvantage for China not to recognize dual citizenship. It's hurting China in terms of attracting talent. And it creates pressure or competition.

 

GT: If dual citizenship cannot be realized in China in the foreseeable future, what do you recommend our government do instead to attract talent?

 

Wang: I think the Indian model can be applied here. They have a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card, which allows the holders to enter without a visa for 15 years, and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) card, which is visa-free for a lifetime.

By March 2010, India has issued 4 million OICs and 7 million PIOs. These people can come back to India, and enjoy all the benefits of an Indian citizen, except for election or maybe taking some sensitive government positions. Other than that there's no difference. Since India started this policy in 2005, there has been a huge influx of returned Indian talent.

In the past 30 years, China has been focusing on attracting financial capital; now the focus has to shift to attracting human capital. This is good timing to revise the policy to speed up the development in the next 30 years. Just like we had the opening-up policy to attract financial capital, now we need preferential policies to attract foreign talent, particularly overseas Chinese.

 

GT: The public often chastises showbiz celebrities or athletes who have acquired foreign citizenship. Why is that? Is it fair to associate citizenship with patriotism?

 

Wang: We shouldn't attach too many political strings to that. I think it's their personal choice.

One problem to solve that is to allow dual citizenship. We are becoming more globalized. Now we are in the Internet age, we are living in the global village, and there shouldn't be so many boundaries. And the government should modify its policies to facilitate people's movement.

 

GT: Some are concerned about immigrants flooding in if China were to relax its citizenship law. What do you think?

 

Wang: I don't think so. People who left China already, who studied and worked abroad, must be well-to-do; they have skills if they could survive in a foreign country. So we are talking about people at the high end. They won't take away jobs. I think the benefits will greatly outweigh the problems. It will bring more good than harm.

 

GT: So far China has only granted the "Chinese green card" to a few foreigners who have special contributions to China. But there's still growing demand. Do you think this policy will change in the near future?

 

Wang: This policy is also a bit out of date. It only applies to people already in China. This green card is different from in other countries. The bars are too high for people to apply. The policy is too narrow and should be improved. This has to change.

 

GT: Some Chinese people with foreign citizenship may use their old passports and ID cards to enjoy the benefits of Chinese citizen. Do you think there's a grey area here?

 

Wang: I don't think so. Even if it is the case, we should be facilitating not restricting that, because the current policy causes inconvenience for so many people. More talent will only do China good. If these people can be viewed as Chinese, and they have foreign access, it's good for China. If we have more Chinese people who have access to foreign countries, we should hold them tight, not restrict them or push them away.

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