Monday, June 7, 2010

Censorship's Declining IQ

China's censorship is the creator of many problems, it seems. There is the fabrication of news and history, the infusion of pro-Communism propaganda, the unapologetic suppression of individual thought, and, least we forget, the blatant disregard for human rights. All these issues aside, however, it seems censorship is finally creating a problem the government is truly scared of: a mass exodus of brain power.

Hong Kong remains an extremely distinct and privileged city; until 2047, it retains freedoms foreign to the mainland. Hong Kong enjoys freedom of speech, multiparty government, and, most important to China's brightest minds, uncensored Internet. The most elite, most promising, most resourceful students compete for admission to Hong Kong universities, and who could blame them? In Hong Kong students have free access to Google, Twitter, and similar sites now replacing vintage forms of communication and research.

The problem facing mainland China, then, is quite predictable; having the opportunity to cross the Great Firewall of China and enjoy the freedoms from censorship, students typically do not boomerang back to their native mainland. The article Censorship causing brain drain in China? remarks on the low percentage of returning graduates: "With new freedom at hand, only a few fresh HKU (Hong Kong University) graduates have returned to the mainland. Last year, only 3 percent of HKU graduates from mainland China returned home to look for a job." China is loosing its greatest minds.

China has tried to implement incentives for returning graduates, trying to coax back their experienced graduates, but government efforts have had little effect. On a large percentage, those students who study either in Hong Kong or abroad are not keen to return. In a country whose pride lies in the resources (exploited or otherwise) of its people, this loss seems to be the greatest problem eating China. It may not think twice about the twice-stomped rights of humanity, but a brain drain is like a festering wound.

1 comment:

  1. The "Brain drain" is going to be a big problem, I think. We saw a lot of Soviet scientists defect to the US during the cold war, and I really think the USSR suffered for it. I wonder if the Chinese government's hard-line stance with technology and social interaction will have long-lasting consequences that they can not undo, even if they wanted to.

    Here is an analogy that is interesting to think about (my wife was working on a study for the Singaporian government in which she reported these findings about fertility): Singapore once encouraged female members of its society to have fewer children and start working, so that they could increase their productivity and avoid overpopulation. But their incentives really worked, and now the Singaporian government realizes their mistake: the fertility rate in Singapore has dropped so drastically that the government is now scrambling to try to get women to have children again...but the women just don't want to. So the Singaporian government has contracted with places like BYU to study the problem and offer solutions - ways to get back to the "fertile" environment the country had before the government started its policies of birth control. I wonder if hard line policies in China are likely to end with consequences that the Chinese government wishes it could take back.

    Here are two articles that discuss the bonuses the government is now giving for births, and the deaf ear the Singaporean public is turning to their government's pleas: