Foreign Expert Bureau Merges with MoST
Established in the ‘50s to facilitate Russian experts, the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA) is merging with the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST). The announcement was made after China’s two major national congresses in March, and is a signal that China is determined to use science and technology as a growth engine, backed by a global talent pool.
SAFEA has long been a segregated unit performing a largely administrative role, however it was no longer able to meet the demand of China’s ambitious plan to attract global talent, as many of the talents are overseas Chinese citizens or returnee students.
Many cities in China are able to compete with attractive packages for overseas talent in terms of social status, financial assistance, and other preferential policies. In Hangzhou tech start-ups can receive up to RMB 100m (USD 15m) for outstanding talents, and Shenzhen’s “peacock plan” brings in talent with a broad range of experience through its RMB 1.6-3 million (USD 250K – 476K) government subsidy. However, the outcomes for so-called ‘top desired talent’ have not been reaching satisfactory levels.
After the merger, MoST will draft its first ‘national talent’ white paper to match its key science & technology sectors. It is also expected to drive policy changes on issues such as age restrictions, judgments on experience vs. qualifications, taxation and IP commercialization.
Despite this change, China still has a long way to go to catch up in the global talent race. Nationally, only approximately 1,500 green cards are issued each year for a mixture of talent and investment merit, while in contrast, the US issues over 100,000 green cards annually to support a range of talents.