Caution urged in seeking experts from abroad

Updated: 2013-07-11 02:44

By HE DAN (China Daily)

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China should play smart and be cautious when headhunting international talent, senior foreign experts said on Monday.

Recruiting strategies must link experts' skills and competencies to the specific needs of institutions, and experts' contributions must meet expectations, said Natarajan Ishwaran, a visiting professor at the Institute of Remote Sensing and Digital Earth under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Caution urged in seeking experts from abroad

A man asks about employment during a special job fair for foreign experts in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, in April. You You / For China Daily

Ishwaran made the remarks on Wednesday at a seminar in Beijing to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's famous speech on importing intellectual resources.

Speaking to senior officials on July 8, 1983, the former leader who launched China's reform and opening-up, stressed that the country should recruit foreign experts through various channels and make the best use of their skills for China's modernization.

Deng's words were the catalyst for efforts to attract foreign experts to the Chinese mainland, said Zhang Jianguo, director of the State Administration for Foreign Experts Affairs.

The number of foreign workers has increased in the past three decades, reaching more than 520,000 in 2011, according to the administration.

"Expat doesn't equal expert. So, continue to seek out foreign expertise but be discerning about your choices," said William Gaspard, China Daily's design director, who was one of three experts who gave speeches at the symposium.

The event was jointly held by the administration and the Party Literature Research Center of the Communist Party of China.

"Headhunting can zero in on valuable people. But your best resource may be your best experts. They know who is brilliant in their field and other related fields as well," said Gaspard, who has worked in China for more than three years.

"They should be an important part of your recruiting strategy. Not just for recruiting people that they've worked with before, but for helping you evaluate others you are considering."

Alistair Michie, an adviser to Newland International Communication Group and to a number of Chinese government bodies, said, "Should Deng Xiaoping be giving us a talk today, I think he would strongly support us looking forward to the next 30 years."

The 66-year-old Scotsman urged China to shift its focus from science, technology and engineering recruitment to a much broader mixture.

As China's new leadership has set a very ambitious target of doubling per capita income in China between 2010 and 2020, he believes the goal requires China to move rapidly up the value-added economic chain.

To achieve that, Michie said China should make a special effort to expand the service sector and make private companies stronger.

The State Administration for Foreign Experts Affairs "can help make sure that it is easy for foreign experts to come and live and work in China", he said. "The laws on visas, tax, permits and family support must be as friendly as possible."

Gaspard agreed. He said: "To get the best people, you may have to rethink not only compensation issues, but offering people a softer landing into the country.

"If you don't want to eliminate a huge pool of important people, you need to consider what you can do for families (including) healthcare, education, housing, because I can assure you, the top people don't make moves without first considering their family."