Growing Overseas Returnees Drawn to New Boomtowns Trending


A night view of Chengdu on April 17, 2016. [Photo/IC]

Five years ago, Du Juan, a native of Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan province, was wondering where to go for work after she graduated from Michigan State University.

"The overseas life is not as exciting as spending time with family members and friends back in China," Du told The Rising Lab, a data news outlet of Shanghai-based business news magazine CBN weekly. So she decided to seek a job in China rather than stay in the US becoming a part of the growing wave of students from abroad.

According to Report on Entrepreneurship and Employment of Chinese Overseas Students released by Center for China and Globalization in 2015, there has been a 78.4 percent increase in students coming back to China since 2010.

Another Report on Employment Trend of Chinese Overseas Study Returnees issued by LinkedIn shows that among 7.2 percent LinkedIn members who are Chinese and have studied abroad, the number of people choosing to return is rising with an average increasing rate of 7.14 percent annually during 2010 to 2015.

Like many business graduates who anchored themselves in China's first-tier cities, which usually refer to Beijing, Shanghai, Guanghzou and Shenzhen, Du Juan, an accounting major, found a position in PricewaterhouseCoopers Shanghai office.

Various job opportunities and rich resources in the financial sector attracted Du to Shanghai, China's financial center. "Top financial institutions arrange more main business and key positions in the first tier cities ", said Du.

But after one year of work, Du started to review her job and working environment. She was not satisfied with the repetitive work, overtime and high pressure. Shanghai's high living cost, natural environment and cultural identity also strained her nerves.

By comparison, her hometown Chengdu, a second-tier city or "new first-tier" city, was on her mind, especially as Chengdu is developing fast and is catching with top cities.

According to LinkedIn's report, the number of overseas returnees who choose their first job in first-tier cities has fallen, while the number choosing "new first-tier" cities such as Hangzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu went up between 2010 and 2015.


Data from LinkedIn

Data show that the total number of returnees choosing first-tier cities for employment accounted for 70 percent of all returnees in 2010, and the number dropped to 59 percent in 2015 and then to 50 percent in May this year.

Shanghai attracted 21.3 percent of returnees in 2016, down from 34.2 percent in 2010, followed by Beijing 18.7 percent of returnees in 2016, a drop from 25.7 percent in 2010.

By comparison, only 9 percent of all returnees came back to "new first-tier" cities in 2010, but the number has now jumped to 12 percent.

Chengdu is listed as the one of the most popular non-first-tier cities among overseas returnees only after Hangzhou and Wuhan.

"Commercial complexes reflect a city's developing ability," said Du. More high-end commercial complexes have opened in Chengdu, including International Finance Square, Tai Koo Li shopping mall, and Yintai Center. The city is also building a "financial town" whose impact is expected to radiate across the enormous west regions.

Du feels more at ease about Chengdu's housing price. For a 100,000 yuan per square meter house in Shanghai, she can get a similar one at a good location in Chengdu at one fifth price.

In Aug 2013, Du Juan came back to Chengdu to start a new career. She is not alone to return to her hometown.

Yuan Shuai, a graduate from Yale University, devoted himself in mergers and acquisitions business of medical industry for four years in Morgan Stanley Hong Kong office before starting his own business on rehabilitation therapy in his hometown Chengdu.

Because rehabilitation therapy is expensive, Yuan Shuai took into account the city's income and consumption ability when he chose the base of his company.

"Though Chengdu's economy lags first-tier cities, it still ranks at the top among second-tier cities", said Yuan.

What makes Yuan more determined to stay is that he can take advantage of his local identity to better manage and coordinate resources. "As medical industry is strictly controlled by the government, I can communicate with authorities better in a familiar environment," said Du.

Chengdu is doing a great job in attracting young overseas talents, although Hangzhou, the capital of coastal Zhejiang province and two-hour's drive away from Shanghai, is more competitive.


The skyline view of the Hangzhou CBD on July 1, 2012. [Photo/IC]

According to LinkedIn's report, Hangzhou ranks first both on number of returnees and increasing rate of returnees between 2010 and 2015.

Cheng Yuan, who set up his IT company Fangcloud Technology in Hangzhou in 2013, believes the city has the strongest entrepreneurial atmosphere in China except Beijing.

The computing master of the year 2009 from Carnegie Mellon University served as the core engineer of the then-startup Box, which later grew into America's largest cloud storage service provider for businesses. He witnessed the company's growth and had an all-around vision of Silicon Valley's entrepreneurial atmosphere.

Cheng's standard of a city's entrepreneurial atmosphere is that entrepreneurship becomes a city's driving force, drawing technology, talent, capital and public opinion for the city's development.

"Hangzhou has pioneering companies, such as Alibaba and Netease. They are bringing together IT talent and other IT companies," he said. - China Daily

Top 20 cities with highest increasing rate of returnees (2010-15)

  1. Hangzhou, Zhejiang
  2. Wuhan, Hubei
  3. Chengdu, Sichuan
  4. Changsha, Hunan
  5. Chongqing, Chongqing
  6. Nanjing, Jiangsu
  7. Guangzhou, Guangdong
  8. Xi'an, Shaanxi
  9. Taiyuan, Shanxi
  10. Harbin, Heilongjiang
  11. Hefei, Anhui
  12. Zhengzhou, Henan
  13. Urumqi, Xinjiang
  14. Shijiazhuang, Hebei
  15. Nanchang, Jiangxi
  16. Wenzhou, Zhejiang
  17. Kunming, Yunnan
  18. Zhuhai, Guangdong
  19. Jinan, Shandong
  20. Ningbo

Data from LinkedIn

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