Can China’s Brain Drain to the United States be Reversed in the Trump Era?

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  • Title: Can China’s Brain Drain to the United States be Reversed in the Trump Era?: Trends in the Movements of American-Trained Chinese STEM Talent and its Implications
  • Author(s): Meirong Fu
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: Global Studies
  • Journal Title: The Global Studies Journal
  • Keywords: Brain Drain, STEM Talent, American-Trained Chinese, H-1B Visa
  • Volume: 10
  • Issue: 4
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 1835-4432 (Print)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/1835-4432/CGP/v10i04/39-56
  • Citation: Fu, Meirong. 2018. "Can China’s Brain Drain to the United States be Reversed in the Trump Era?: Trends in the Movements of American-Trained Chinese STEM Talent and its Implications." The Global Studies Journal 10 (4): 39-56. doi:10.18848/1835-4432/CGP/v10i04/39-56.
  • Extent: 18 pages

Abstract

The United States has long relied on the inflow of foreign human capital in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and China is a prime country of origin. But this established pattern of talent flow seems to be reversing itself, as Donald Trump has proposed to revamp the H-1B visa program to ensure tech companies hire American workers before importing foreigners. By contrast, China is exerting stronger pull with numerous incentives and programs encouraging its expatriates to launch technological and entrepreneurial endeavors back home. Can China’s brain drain to the United States be reversed in the Trump era? This article attempts to answer this question by examining the trends in the movements of Chinese STEM talents between China and the United States in recent decades and analyzing the contributing factors behind these trends. The study finds that in the exchange of technological human capital, China has been running a major deficit to the US and this pattern can hardly be reversed in the foreseeable future. Among the multiple factors of China’s persistent brain drain, cultural factors override everything in the stay-or-return decision of overseas Chinese scientists. Along with findings from the author’s interviews with a group of overseas Chinese scientists, reliable statistics on three cohorts of Chinese science and engineering (S&E) talent are exploited to support the examination and analysis.