China's Labor Market opportunities look like they are cooling for outsiders, Economist discusses Chinese Nationals returning

The Economist has a post on Chinese Nationals returning to China after a foreign education and work experience.  Given many Chinese Nationals have a hard time returning for a job makes you wonder how easy it is for foreign companies to do business in China.

The author did a good job of tying in the idea of Sea Turtles returning.

Plight of the sea turtles

Students coming back home helped build modern China. So why are they now faring so poorly in the labour market?

Jul 6th 2013 | SHANGHAI |From the print edition

“I LEFT in 1980 with only three dollars in my pocket,” recalls Li Sanqi. He was one of the first allowed to study overseas after the dark days of the Cultural Revolution. Like most in that elite group, he excelled, rising to a coveted position at the University of Texas, while launching several technology firms. Now he is a senior executive at Huawei, a Chinese telecoms giant, enticed back by the chance to help build a world-class multinational.

Mr Li seems the perfect example of a sea turtle, or hai gui (in Mandarin, the phrase “return across the sea” sounds similar to that animal’s name), long applauded in China for bringing back advanced skills. In the past such folk reliably reaped handsome premiums in the local job market, but no longer. Sea turtles are not universally praised, the wage differential is shrinking and some are even unable to find jobs. Wags say they should now be called hai dai, or seaweed. This is a startling turn, given their past contributions.

To read the story you need to keep in mind that the turtles are the foreign nationals returning.  But, part of the problem for the returning is they picked up bad western habits.  Like, transparency, meritocracy, and ethics.

As China has boomed, its managers have started to shed their inferiority complex. A senior executive at Tencent, a Chinese social-media giant, says he still poaches sea turtles from foreign firms, but finds they have difficulty managing local engineers. A European investment banker says turtles often cling to quaint Western notions like transparency, meritocracy and ethics, which puts them at a disadvantage in China’s hyper-Darwinian economy, where locals are more willing to do whatever the boss or client wants.

The article closes going back to the beginning of Mr Li who joined Huawei as an executive.  His wife and children choose to live in America.

The hard truth is that Chinese abroad often have ambivalent attitudes towards their homeland. The wife and children of Huawei’s Mr Li, the seemingly archetypal sea turtle, still live in America. Rather than just shovelling out subsidies, Chinese officials might do better to strengthen the rule of law, root out corruption and clean up China’s air, water and food. Sea turtles would be sure to notice.