Chinese grant recipients revisited

I mentioned earlier that the best-and-brightest among Chinese-trained, undergraduate or masters-level STEM talent competed for grants that paid all application and test-taking expenditures to its recipients, and that it can be a crushing blow to be shut out of graduate schools abroad if you’re a recipient, and that the provision led so many to apply much more broadly than other grant recipients.

It turns out that the Thousand Talents Program, whose aim is to bring back foreign-trained top Chinese talent, is actually twofold. The best-known part is for established scholars to take up research positions back home. However, the other part, which concerns outgoing graduate students, is every bit as coddling upon graduation as it was during application season, but there is one major caveat. Recipients that do not return home within prescribed periods after graduation expose themselves to rather harsh penalties, including, but not limited to, refund of the grant. Upon their return, they have to work for a certain period, with penalties on a sliding scale if they don’t, according for how much of the obligations the recipient fulfilled. But these grant recipients, understandably, cannot account for the majority of the Chinese STEM talent in Western graduate schools.

And it’s currently unclear how the penalties assessed to dropouts stack up against the penalties assessed to people who graduate but end up staying overseas for work, beyond that such penalties exist.

Oh, of course, there are some private sources of outside funding that come with stipulations of working for X for Y years with penalties on a sliding scale and, structurally, the Thousand Talents Program is not much different from other competitive grants of the same ilk. Receiving the grant is seen as heaven while hell awaits those who fall short of societal expectations of the grant recipient, regardless of when they falter (be it before they are originally set to go to graduate school, while in graduate school or once they get out).

So, in short, one is not merely coddled during application year, but also in the first few years after graduation, when one is a Chinese grant recipient. But it’s coddling with caveats.


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