From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"Sea turtle" in Chinese (海龟) is a homophone of the term for a student returned from study overseas

Haigui (Chinese: ; pinyin: hǎiguī) is a Chinese language slang term for Chinese people who have returned to mainland China after having studied abroad for several years.[1] 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.[1] However, the salary demands of haigui are considered unrealistically high by some employers.[2] The homophonic (also hǎiguī) meaning "sea turtle" is sometimes used as a metaphor since sea turtles also travel great distances overseas. The term "overseas turtle" is also used.[3]


Some haigui have returned to China due to the late-2000s recession in the U.S. and Europe.[4] 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.[4] 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.[5]

The Westernized way of thinking of haigui may be a threat to the politics of the People's Republic of China, which curtail personal freedoms.[6]


The word is a pun, as hai means "ocean" and gui is a homophone of gui 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.[7]

Notable haigui[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Fan, Cindy (March 7, 2010). "Materialism and Social Unrest". New York Times.
  2. ^ "Overseas Chinese Try to Build a Community in Homeland". China Daily.
  3. ^ Herships, Sally (March 30, 2015). "Rhodes Trust plans global scholarship expansion". Marketplace.
  4. ^ a b Zhou, Wanfeng (December 17, 2008). "China goes on the road to lure "sea turtles" home". Reuters.
  5. ^ Huang, Yasheng (March 7, 2010). "A Terrible Education System". New York Times.
  6. ^ "China's long march to the modern world". Abu Dhabi Media Company. December 19, 2008. Archived from the original on April 10, 2010.
  7. ^ "Hai Gui: The Sea Turtles Come Marching Home". Asia Pacific Management Forum. Archived from the original on 2013-01-17.

External links[edit]