As China’s economy steams toward superpower status, the country has rolled out splashy programs to lure elites back from overseas. One problem: many don’t seem to want to return. In 2009 Beijing launched the Thousand Talents program, dangling generous perks for top-level researchers and entrepreneurs willing to go back home. It reeled in some big names, including Princeton biologist Yigong Shi and Northwestern professor Yi Rao. But more than a year and a half on, the numbers have stalled at about 600. Meanwhile, the number of wealthy Chinese essentially buying their way into the U.S. and Canada via “immigrant investor” visas surged to record highs last year.
The wars over natural resources gave way to financial conquest. Today's Great Game is about talent. The United States is still at the top of the global heap, which is where China aims to be.
Getting expats to return is difficult to do. But at least China is trying to figure out how to build a better talent trap. Does the United States have a game plan? How about your region?