“Returnees can see that they will become ordinary Chinese after five years and be in the same bad situation as their colleagues already in China,” he said. “That means that few are attracted to stay for the long run.”
Many experts on migration say the numbers are in line with other countries’ experiences in the past. Taiwan and South Korea experienced huge outflows of people to the US and other countries in the 1960s and 1970s, even as their economies were taking off. Wealth and better education created more opportunities to go abroad and many did — then, as now in China, in part because of concerns about political oppression.
While those countries eventually prospered and embraced open societies, the question for many Chinese is whether the faction-ridden incoming leadership team of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平), chosen behind closed doors, can take China to the next stage of political and economic advancement.
“I’m excited to be here, but I’m puzzled about the development path,” said Bruce Peng (彭磊), who earned a master’s degree last year at Harvard and now runs a consulting company, Ivy Magna, in Beijing.
Peng is staying in China for now, but he says many of his 100 clients have a foreign passport or would like one. Most own or manage small and medium-size businesses, which have been squeezed by the policies favoring state enterprises.
“Sometimes your own property and company situation can be very complicated,” Peng said. “Some people might want to live in a more transparent and democratic society.”