China's Reform and Opening-up and Study Abroad Policies

Author Name MENG Jianjun (Visiting Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. April 2018 18-J-016
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It is no exaggeration to say that a resumption of university entrance exams in 1977 and a subsequent decision regarding a government-sponsored study abroad program ushered in the period of reform and opening up in China. This paper is a comprehensive analysis of the process through which China established its study abroad policies, as well as the impact of such policies.

Study abroad policies, designed to support a nation's economic development and innovation, are significant for that country since they are also regarded as a strategy for securing human resources. However, China's study abroad policies went through constant trial and error for the past 40 years amid institutional dilemmas. The nation also had a brain drain problem for a prolonged period of time because many students who had been sent overseas failed to return. The government therefore strengthened its measures to promote their return as the nation moved toward a free market economy. The result was "brain circulation," which has been making important contributions to China's scientific technology and innovation and so on in recent years.

This paper looked back on the changes in China's study abroad policies to examine the government's policy intentions, as it rebuilds a strategy for securing human resources. More specifically, this study examined the background of study abroad policies following the reform and opening-up initiatives and the factors that led to the formulation of such polices. Furthermore, this paper investigated the establishment of a human resource recruitment system through which the government sought to produce a synergistic effect with innovation by implementing, through trial and error, its study abroad policies and measures to promote the return of students.