Haigui (Chinese: 海归; pinyin: hǎiguī) is a Chinese language slang term for Chinese people who have returned to mainland China after having studied abroad for several years. These graduates from foreign universities are highly sought after in Chinese business, and thus can gain employment ahead of those who have graduated from Chinese universities. However, the salary demands of haigui are considered unrealistically high by some employers. The homophonic 海龟 (also hǎiguī) meaning "sea turtle" is sometimes used as a metaphor since sea turtles also travel great distances overseas.
Some haigui have returned to China due to the Late-2000s recession in the US and Europe. According to PRC government statistics, only a quarter of the 1.2 million Chinese people who have gone abroad to study in the past 30 years have returned. As MIT Sloan School of Management professor Yasheng Huang states:
The Chinese educational system is terrible at producing workers with innovative skills for Chinese economy. It produces people who memorize existing facts rather than discovering new facts; who fish for existing solutions rather than coming up with new ones; who execute orders rather than inventing new ways of doing things. In other words they do not solve problems for their employers.
The word is a pun, as hai 海 means "ocean" and gui 龟 is a homophone of gui 归 meaning "to return." The name was first used by Ren Hong, a young man returning to China as a graduate of Yale University seven years after leaving aboard a tea freighter from Guangzhou to the United States.
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