Magazine article Newsweek International

Promises, Promises

Magazine article Newsweek International

Promises, Promises

Article excerpt

Han Gengchen is in his element, pushing his way through rows of scratchy green cornstalks in a field north of Beijing. In his 12 years abroad--first as a student in the United States, then working for an agro-company in the Philippines and Thailand--Han, a plant geneticist, dreamed of setting up his own company. Four years ago he finally did-- thanks to the Overseas Students Pioneer Park. The Beijing-sponsored science park offered him free rent for a year, tax-exempt status for three years and help navigating the bureaucracy, encouraging Han to start his own corn-seed breeding company. Today, he's turning a profit- -and helping China's poor farmers. "I like big ears," he says, showing off a hybrid. "This will increase farmers' productivity--and hopefully profits, too."

If Han is happy, Beijing is happy. China is desperately trying to lure back the hundreds of thousands of scientists and engineers who have left the country during the past two decades. From Shenzhen to Dalian, city governments are competing to create the best business environment for high-tech workers. Local governments have opened incubators, begun offering business and legal advice to start-ups, slashed rents in high- tech economic zones and even advanced venture capital.

Beijing has fretted about China's brain drain since the mid-'80s. When the education ministry discovered that fewer than a third of the overseas students were returning, officials began to administer rigorous background checks on those sent abroad to ensure that they "loved the motherland," reported the state-run newspaper Xinhua. …

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