Returnees strike out on their own
Wearing black ties and cocktail dresses, and sipping imported French red wines, hundreds of young people gathered in a five-star hotel on a late October night, chatting and clinking glasses.
One could mistake the gathering as one for Chinese expats in some European or American city, but it is actually in Beijing’s financial hub.
Xie Jinbiao, the host and head of event organizers Ehuigui (literally Once You are Back), said this was no ordinary networking evening.
The 27-year-old said his business, which he started after returning from the UK, is dedicated to bringing Western lifestyles and ways of doing business to China.
“I founded the business with a couple of friends in the summer, hoping to bring Western ideas to China,” he said, adding that he hopes it can develop into helping overseas returnees communicate and network.
As surging numbers of Chinese return home for better opportunities amid the country’s economic development, many of them, like Xie, have started companies.
According to the government, the number of returnees founding companies has risen sharply in recent years. In Sichuan province alone, the number
returned to China last year
started their own enterprises increased 50 percent in 2012.
The Annual Report of Development of Chinese Returnees 2013 said 272,900 students returned to China last year, and 27.8 percent started their own companies.
“The reason so many returnees choose to start a business instead of finding a job is because they have learned advanced technology and ideas abroad, so they have competitive advantages in China,” said Wang Huiyao, director of the Center for China and Globalization, a nonprofit think tank in Beijing, and author of the report.
“Saying many returnees can’t find jobs once they get back to China is not objective. Actually, more than 80 percent of job seekers find work within half a year after they return,” he added.
Xie, who obtained a master’s degree at Brunel University, said he rejected an offer from a Chinese company before starting Ehuigui.
“It is something I really enjoy,” he said, explaining that he does not like working for others. “I’m able to integrate Western ideas and philosophies into the Chinese context, and it helps to differentiate us from traditional Chinese companies.”
He opened a toy and souvenir store while in London’s Chinatown.
“I enjoyed working very hard, and I think that kind of lifestyle can prove my value,” he said at the event in October, to which he invited other returnees to share their entrepreneurial experiences with more than 150 guests, mostly fresh returnees.
Qi Lin, CEO of Chexun, a website focused on automobiles that receives more than 40 million page views a day, was among the speakers that night. She said it took her five years to build the company into what it is today. After graduating from London’s University of Westminster, she worked for several Chinese companies before starting her own business.
“A lot of industries in China are developing very fast,” Qi said. “If we understand the trend and have some advantages, we can profit from the market.”
Wang at the Center for China and Globalization said many overseas returnees have been doing business in areas such as electronic information, hightechnology and new materials for the past few years.
“According to our research, there are definitely more returnees shifting to the cultural communication industry,” he said.