NO PLACE LIKE HOME

A grow­ing num­ber of Chi­nese cit­i­zens who have stud­ied or worked abroad are com­ing back to China to es­tab­lish their own busi­nesses

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai

zhouwent­ing@chi­nadaily. com.cn

Hav­ing worked in Ja­pan for a decade, Ding Yan was el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for a per­ma­nent res­i­dence per­mit, but the 34-yearold in­stead de­cided to re­turn to China to start her own busi­ness.

Iron­i­cally, Ding’s de­ci­sion to move back home was sparked by her adopted coun­try. When her Ja­panese em­ploy­ers sent her on a busi­ness trip to Be­jing in 2011, she re­al­ized that busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties in the In­ter­net in­dus­try were abound back in China, and that proved to be the turn­ing point in her ca­reer. Ding also added that many Chi­nese peo­ple based over­seas find it hard to make break­throughs af­ter work­ing in a for­eign land for about 10 years.

Last year, the Shang­hai na­tive launched Me Inc with Stampme, a per­son­al­ized an­i­mated emoji ap­pli­ca­tion for peo­ple to use on their so­cial media plat­forms. The ap­pli­ca­tion proved to be a hit, with the num­ber of users ris­ing to 5 mil­lion within half a year.

“China’s In­ter­net busi­nesses were boom­ing and the en­tre­pre­neur­ial en­vi­ron­ment in the sec­tor was at­trac­tive. I found that there were great op­por­tu­ni­ties in the coun­try,” Ding said.

Lin Yong­shu, who earned a master’s de­gree in busi­ness man­age­ment in a univer­sity in the United King­dom, re­turned af­ter grad­u­a­tion two years ago and de­cided to en­ter the thriv­ing e-com­merce scene in China by launch­ing her online store selling cus­tom-made dresses. She said that par­ents to­day also have a dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude re­gard­ing over­seas ed­u­ca­tion.

“Apart from hop­ing that their chil­dren will land de­cent jobs and salaries be­cause of this in­vest­ment in an over­seas ed­u­ca­tion, par­ents are also hop­ing their chil­dren can gain valu­able life ex­pe­ri­ences and per­spec­tives,” said the 26-year-old na­tive of Guang­dong province.

Like Ding and Lin, many Chi­nese cit­i­zens who have been ed­u­cated abroad have in re­cent years started to no­tice busi­ness po­ten­tials in China and are em­bark­ing on the jour­ney home. The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion re­vealed that more than 1.31 mil­lion Chi­nese cit­i­zens study­ing abroad have re­turned to the coun­try in the past five years, ac­count­ing for 72 per­cent of the num­ber of to­tal re­turnees. The fig­ure in 2014 was 364,000, an in­crease of 172 per­cent from that of 2010.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port pub­lished by high­pin.cn, a Chi­nese re­cruit­ment ser­vices web­site, more than 1.8 mil­lion Chi­nese over­seas stu­dents have re­turned to the coun­try, mak­ing up more than half of those who have stud­ied abroad. Many of the re­turnees flocked to Bei­jing and Shang­hai, cit­ing bet­ter re­sources and fa­vor­able

Ac­cord­ing to the sur­veys we have done, young peo­ple re­turn­ing from over­seas ac­tu­ally have poorer self­cog­ni­tion and hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence in the coun­try.” Zhou Xuanbo, a re­searcher at the De­vel­op­ment Re­search Cen­ter of the State Coun­cil

poli­cies that welcome en­trepreneurs, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts.

But not all re­turnees have been able to hit the ground run­ning. For ex­am­ple, some face dif­fi­cul­ties car­ry­ing out their busi­ness plans be­cause of the need to ac­cli­ma­tize to China’s so­cial and busi­ness en­vi­ron­ments.

Wang Dian, who had stud­ied and worked in the United King­dom and Spain since he was 16, re­turned to Shang­hai two years ago to start his de­sign and advertising busi­ness. Wang said that one of the main strug­gles is with the is­sue of lo­cal­iza­tion.

“Western fast food giants need to cre­ate lo­cal­ized prod­ucts for the Chi­nese mar­ket, and it is the same when it comes to in­te­rior de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture. It’s harder for us to fully fig­ure out the mar­ket,” said Wang.

The Shang­hai gov­ern­ment has since last year cre­ated new poli­cies to at­tract and en­cour­age Chi­nese cit­i­zens who have stud­ied abroad to start their busi­nesses back home. There are 11 “en­tre­pre­neur parks” for re­turn­ing tal­ents in Shang­hai, the most in the coun­try. About 400 of the 1,700 en­ter­prises es­tab­lished by re­turn­ing Chi­nese en­trepreneurs have set­tled in such parks be­cause of the gen­er­ous gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies and lower reg­is­tered cap­i­tal stan­dards.

But observers of the en­tre­pre­neur mar­ket have ex­pressed con­cern that this lower thresh­old may trig­ger the for­ma­tion of bub­bles and some star­tups may end up col­laps­ing in three to five years. Ac­cord­ing to Zhou Xuanbo, a re­searcher at the De­vel­op­ment Re­search Cen­ter of the State Coun­cil, while fa­vor­able poli­cies for kick-start­ing a busi­ness have suc­ceeded at lur­ing op­por­tunis­tic en­trepreneurs who are ea­ger to try their luck, not ev­ery­one is ca­pa­ble enough to rise to the chal­lenges in­volved.

“Ac­cord­ing to the sur­veys we have done, young peo­ple re­turn­ing from over­seas ac­tu­ally have poorer self-cog­ni­tion and hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence in the coun­try,” said Zhou.

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