Transition Studies Review

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 325–337 | Cite as

The Chinese Policy of Highly-Qualified Human Capital: A Strategic Factor for Global Competition in Innovation

  • Alfonso GiordanoEmail author
  • Antonietta Pagano
Human Capital, Innovation, Knowledge


International migration is a historical phenomenon, which only recently has gained increasing importance, representing a focal point on the political agenda in most countries. One of the reasons is the deep transformation occurring in last decades, both at global and local level, of the role played by its protagonists that are turning to be transnational agents. This is especially true for the skilled professionals, who migrate internationally. As a matter of fact, international human capital mobility is now regarded as “brain circulation” rather than “brain drain”: this new concept concerns individuals who maintain frequent and continued social, economic and political ties with their country of origin, exceeding thereby the territorial and cultural boundaries. In this scenario, China is one of the main sending countries of highly-skilled migrants, through which it can built economic and academic relations with other economic and technological advanced countries. Recently, Chinese policy makers have started to consider the brain drain phenomenon as an opportunity for the transmission of business and technological know-how, as well as tacit knowledge that is hard to find through official channels. This article intends to contribute to the scientific debate on the subject, highlighting the international relevance of the so-called Overseas Chinese Professionals (OCPs), investigating their spatial distribution and features. Besides, the paper will examine the emerging returning flow and the challenge that the country will have to cope with in the next future to impose itself as a innovative leading economy.


Brain circulation Brain return Human capital Knowledge-based economy Migration policies Skilled migrations 

JEL Classification

J24 F22 


  1. Australian Education International (2010) Statistics. Accessed 12 Aug 2012
  2. Bloombergs News (2012) China’s forex reserves show first decline in three months. Bloomberg, 24 April 2012. Accessed 25 April 2012
  3. Cervantes E, Guellec D (2002) The brain drain: old myth, new realities. OECD Observer, OECD Docum, Paris.,_new_realities.html. Accessed 12 Sept 2012
  4. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) (2012) Research and statistics. Accessed 4 Sept 2012
  5. Fatiguso R (2007) Talenti, missione ritorno Est e Asia ci provano. Il Sole-24 Ore, Milano, 3 Oct, n. 271, p 17Google Scholar
  6. Giordano A, Pagano A (2009) Brain Circulation e Sviluppo Economico: La Cina Tra Mobilità Intellettuale e Capacità Innovativa. Bol Soc Geog Italiana, vol (13)2. Società Geografica Italiana, Rome, pp 113–128Google Scholar
  7. Giordano A, Pagano A (2010) La mobilità intellettuale cinese: un’analisi delle destinazioni e della composizione del capitale umano qualificato. Riv Geog Italiana, year CXVII, vol 3. Società di Studi Geografici, Florence, pp 653–682Google Scholar
  8. Giordano A, Terranova G (2012) The Indian policy of skilled migration: brain return versus diaspora benefits. J Glob Policy and Gov n. 1, Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Institute of International Education Network (IIE) (2012) Fact sheets by country. Accessed 21 Oct 2012
  10. Le Bail H, Shen W (2008) The return of the “Brains” to China: what are the social, economic, and political impacts? Institut Français des Relations Internazionales, Paris. Accessed 23 July 2012
  11. Lucas R (2008) International labor migration in a globalizing economy. Trade, equity, and development Program, n. 92, July. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  12. Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China (2012) Top news and events. Accessed 28 Oct 2012
  13. National Bureau of Statistics of China (2012) China Statistical Yearbook 2011. China Statistics Press, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  14. Olesen A (2012) China think tank urges gov’t to end 1-child policy. Associate Press, 1 Nov. Accessed 4 Nov 2012
  15. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2012) Statistics. Accessed 9 Aug 2012
  16. Shaffer G (2004) L’Ultima Cina. Focus—World, Rome. Accessed 8 June 2011
  17. Shen W (2008) Chinese student migration in Europe: a migration that nobody objects to? In: Kolg H, Egbert H (eds) Migrants and markets—perspectives from economics and the other social sciences. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, pp 147–167Google Scholar
  18. Wang H (2012) China’s competition for global talents: strategy, policy and recommendations, research reports. Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, Vancouver. Accessed 29 Oct 2012
  19. Wescott C (2005) Promoting knowledge exchange through diaspora. Asia Pacific Governance Institute, Washington, DC. Accessed 9 Aug 2012
  20. Wessel D (2010) US Keeps Foreign Ph.D.s. The Wall Street J. 26 Jan. Accessed 12 Oct 2012
  21. Xiang B (2005) Promoting knowledge exchange through diaspora networks (the Case of People’s Republic of China). ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), Oxford. Accessed 23 Oct 2012
  22. Yang M (2007) What attracts mainland Chinese students to Australian higher education. Studies in learning, evaluation, innovation and development (SLEID). Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Queensland. Accessed 29 Sep 2012
  23. Young N, Shih J (2003) The Chinese diaspora and philanthropy. Global equity initiative. Harvard University, Boston. Accessed 12 Aug 2012
  24. Zhang Y (2012) Thousand talent program brings more pros. China Daily, 28 April. Accessed 3 Nov 2012

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceLUISS UniversityRomeItaly

Personalised recommendations