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« 4-5 in presidential elections | Main | China: big bad sign #1 (money leaks out) »
9:08AM

China bad sign #2: young professionals leaving in record numbers

Yes, a brain drain as reported in the NYT.

At 30, Chen Kuo had what many Chinese dream of: her own apartment and a well-paying job at a multinational corporation. But in mid-October, Ms. Chen boarded a midnight flight for Australia to begin a new life with no sure prospects.

Like hundreds of thousands of Chinese who leave each year, she was driven by an overriding sense that she could do better outside China. Despite China’s tremendous economic successes in recent years, she was lured by Australia’s healthier environment, robust social services and the freedom to start a family in a country that guarantees religious freedoms.

“It’s very stressful in China — sometimes I was working 128 hours a week for my auditing company,” Ms. Chen said in her Beijing apartment a few hours before leaving. “And it will be easier raising my children as Christians abroad. It is more free in Australia.”

As China’s Communist Party prepares a momentous leadership change in early November, it is losing skilled professionals like Ms. Chen in record numbers. In 2010, the last year for which complete statistics are available, 508,000 Chinese left for the 34 developed countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That is a 45 percent increase over 2000.

Guess who wins this lottery, as usual?

When experts note that China modernized and marketized and opened-up to the world for the past 40 years and the Party still rules, they miss the reality of what happens when a critical mass middle class appears and starts wanting more than just a rising income.

That day has arrived.

So no, it's not a question of "Can China ever go democratic?"  It's only a question of when.

There is nothing unique about Chinese or Asian civilization in this regard.  Modernization is modernization.  People are people.  Democracy isn't achieved because it's fabulous.  It happens because it's the best worst system you can manage when you reach the point of genuine development.

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Reader Comments (4)

128 hours a week??? Holy crap. The things we take for granted here...

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R.

I can personally attest to the brain drain. Both my wife and her sister left China in the 1990's, my wife's sister to Germany, where she married another ex-pat Chinese and are raising their family, and my wife, who came to the US to work for a Taiwanese company, met me, and the rest is history. Even their extended family of cousins, all with college degrees, have left for Austrailia and Canada, where they have like my wife, have become citizens in their new countries.

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom Wade

This Times piece was good, but a bit one-sided. Wondering if you saw the CSM piece that ran a week or so before exploring the successes of China's re-shoring talent program:

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-Issues/2012/1021/Reverse-brain-drain-China-engineers-incentives-for-brain-gain

I can tell you from direct experience that in Beijing these days there are plenty of boomerang young adults and Chinese who went to school in the US but who chose to come back. This past weekend I hosted a really smart young Chinese woman who just spent a year working in the US and wanted nothing more than to try other places. She sees the whole world as a menu of locales that she could end up in and she wants to sample as many as possible.

The migration phenomenon may be just as generational as it is indicative of any particular country's developmental stage.

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike Shaw

Isn't the main focus of Chinese leadership social stability not "innovation"? Aren't these the most likely "trouble makers"? Doesn't China have employment problems?

I studied with the Chinese and the Chinese have no shortage of extremely smart young men and women in the STEM field. The supply is so huge and the US can't fill it.

Does that mean that China gets the "B team"? Probably, but that is an acceptable price for social stability.

November 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaduka

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