Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Baidu's Robin Li has an Idea

Baidu's Robin Li wants to lure overseas skilled labour to China in tech firms
Someone is thinking out of the box -- now that US President Donald Trump is making some people there uneasy about living in America, why not lure them to China?

That's the idea Robin Li Yanhong, chief executive of Baidu is pitching at the Chinese People's Consultative Conference in Beijing.

"China should be more open in its immigration policy," he said at a panel. "Chinese companies have made a lot of effort to attract overseas talent to work in China. But most of the talent we attract are overseas Chinese. In the meantime, Silicon Valley has gathered top tech talent from across the globe."

He said people who don't agree with Trump's restrictive immigration policies, or who can't get into the US should come to China instead, and that the Middle Kingdom should do more to attract these skilled workers, and that means liberalizing immigration policies at home so that innovation can drive economic growth.

Hugo Barra returned to the US from China due to health issues
While the US has 13.1 million green card holders at the start of 2013, almost two-thirds of them acquired permanent residency in the previous 13 years.

This compares to China with 7,356 foreigners getting permanent residency since the mainland began giving out green cards in 2004, even though some 600,000 people from overseas work there.

Interestingly last year 1,576 foreigners were made permanent residents, a whopping increase of 163 percent over the previous year.

Tech companies like Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and Huawei have a high demand for skilled workers in the field and perhaps them being turned off by Trump would be a good opportunity to try out jobs in China.

However, one of the biggest issues is air quality, and the exit of Hugo Barra from Xiaomi back to Silicon Valley in January due to health issues was telling.

A couple walks by the Forbidden City in Beijing
On his Facebook page, Barra, who was previously at Google, said the last few years of living in a "singular environment have taken a huge toll on my life and started affecting my health".

Also in January, a Beijing-based online platform called 36kr.com released a survey that found half of the nearly 300 entrepreneurs polled had considered moving their businesses or part of their operations out of the city because of concerns about air pollution.

So how about it, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang? Robin Li has a point. Clean up the air and loosen the immigration policy and the skilled masses may come flooding in to help further stimulate the Chinese economy.

Just a thought...

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