Chinese students blanket the world, making up the largest group of foreign students in every popular study-abroad destination, including the US and UK. But a major shift is underway: At the beginning of the century, only one in 10 Chinese students returned to China after studying abroad. In 2017, it was eight in 10.
While there has been no slowdown in Chinese students studying abroad, since 2010 a majority have gone back home after graduation.
Why the shift? Historically, studying abroad was a path to upward mobility for Chinese students: By staying abroad after graduation, they could earn far more than their peers at home. But that has changed over time. The strength in China’s job market, as well as its favorable domestic policies toward returnees, has incentivized a growing number of returns. Tighter immigration policies in western countries are likely to only exacerbate the trend.