Students from China Arrive in Taiwan
Businesses Roll Out the Red Carpet
The first wave of students from China has reported. And Taiwan's businesses are lavishing scholarships, fearing Taiwan could lose the tussle for top-flight talent before it even gets started…
Businesses Roll Out the Red CarpetBy Yuan Chou
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 483 )
With a flick of the wrist, Zhang Cheng flips open his wallet to reveal two thin stacks of banknotes – one of red Taiwan dollars, one of green Japanese yen.
"I'm not sure how much longer I can carry on," he sighs.
Although he has already received a master of laws (LL.M.) degree from Hokkaido University in Japan, Zhang arrived in Taiwan from China's Jiangsu Province to earn a second LL.M studying under Su Yeong-chin, vice president of Taiwan's Judicial Yuan, honorable justice and law professor at National Chengchi University. Zhang is funding his studies with surplus money he saved from his Hokkaido University scholarship.
"My professor in Japan was bewildered: Taiwanese students come to Japan to study law – why would I swim against the tide?" he asks, forcing a smile.
Accustomed to self-reliance, Zhang has taken no family money to finance his studies abroad, relying on scholarships and part-time jobs to pay his way. Yet in Taiwan he is not permitted to work and is ineligible for government scholarships. Whenever his stack of Taiwan dollars is depleted, he exchanges a high-denomination yen note to hang on a little longer.
Just 10 kilometers away on the campus of National Taiwan University, Sun Wenwen, a newly arrived student going for her master's in international business, is pining for her husband of two years. She mostly relies on her spouse to financially support her studies in Taiwan.
"Without his support, there's absolutely no way I'd be here!"
But to get together with her husband, Sun must first request a formal letter from NTU administration and present that to the National Immigration Agency for approval. The process, which must be repeated for each exit/reentry, usually takes from five to seven business days.
School administration has been working to simplify procedures, but one student says privately: "It's really a huge pain. Even in an emergency, we can't get out!"
These are some of the trials and tribulations of this, the first group of students from China to pursue degree studies in Taiwan.
Leading Academics Attract China's Students
Fearing no hassles and defying loneliness, these are the academic elite from across the Strait. They come armed with precise goals and clearly defined plans; otherwise, they would not have taken this giant step in their lives.
This year marks the first time Taiwan has allowed students from China to enter for academic degree studies. More than 2,000 seats were opened, resulting in just 933 actual registrations, a recruitment rate of less than 50 percent.
Administrative procedures for students from China to come study in Taiwan are complicated, and the schedule for completing them is rushed. Coupled with the inadequate dissemination of recruitment information, this has resulted in embarrassingly low student recruitment numbers for this first year.
Despite this, students from China intent on pursuing degrees in Taiwan managed to take their places on more than 90 university campuses across the island.
Among private universities, they are mostly spread among social science institutes, majoring in finance or business management. For example, at Ming Chuan University, the Taiwanese university with the highest concentration of students from China, 37 of the 80 enrolled are majoring in finance.
Master's and PhD candidates from China enrolled at Taiwan's public universities are concentrated in business management disciplines.
Of the 52 students from China enrolled at National Taiwan University, nine are in the College of Management's Department of International Business. That's compared with just eight spread among four departments and institutes within NTU's College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Academic research and faculty that are superior to what can be found in China is the reason many of these students are here.
Zhang Haoer, a student at NTU's Department of International Business, says she worked as a consultant on corporate social responsibility in China, where that aspect of business is in its nascent stages, so she came to Taiwan for studies.
Chen Cheng, a PhD candidate at NTU's Department of International Business, earned her master's in the U.S. and spent a year working at Foxconn. Chen says she came to Taiwan to pursue her doctorate because she wanted to witness for herself how the theories she's learned in her textbooks have played out in a Chinese society.
"The two sides of the Strait, after all, share a common culture and ethnicity. I think there are many areas we can learn from each other," she says.
Although recruitment in hard sciences and engineering was not up to that of social sciences recruitment, science and engineering departments at National Tsing Hua University and National Chiao Tung University still won admiration and respect among students from China.
Taiwan's expertise and research in microelectronics, second only to the U.S., is what attracted Shanghai native Wang Yixiao to study at National Chiao Tung University's Institute of Electronics. Feng Sheng, a graduate student at NCTU's Institute of Communications Engineering, made the great leap from the far-off Beijing Institute of Technology to come to Hsinchu, with the ultimate goal of pursuing a doctorate in the U.S.
"[Studying] here should be a decent springboard," he says.
Even in areas where Taiwan ostensibly lags behind China, students are still attracted to come here for study due to Taiwan's differing research direction. For example, one student from China has enrolled at National Tsing Hua University's Institute of Nuclear Engineering and Science. Lee Min, an adjunct professor with the institute's Engineering Group, notes that while China possesses the same technologies, it uses them for military purposes, whereas Taiwan applies that technology toward power generation. That is the defining characteristic of Taiwan's nuclear research institutes, Lee says.
Taiwanese Businesses Lying in Wait
In accordance with the "Three Restrictions, Six Prohibitions" policy, students from China are prohibited from taking part-time work or receiving government scholarships, and their tuition is twice that for Taiwanese students.
Although each of these students from China has been required to prepare a savings account of RMB$100,000, these restrictions continue to create a massive burden on them.
Consequently, the pleasant surprise for these students upon arriving in Taiwan has been the Taiwanese businesses stepping forward to provide no-strings-attached scholarships for some of them.
At National Taiwan University, 15 students from China have been provided with scholarships through Mediatek Inc. and LCY Chemical Corp., each averaging NT$300,000 annually. The 13 students studying science and engineering disciplines at National Tsing Hua University are supported by scholarships through Hon Hai Precision Industry. Scholarships at National Chiao Tung University come from five private sector companies or groups, including Mediatek, Advantech and Mermes-Epitek Corp. It seems that Taiwanese businesses have an insatiable appetite for prospective personnel from China.
According to Michael Lu, China general manager at Mediatek Inc., following his company's October acquisition of Ralink Technology, Mediatek's workforce will be about 6,500 employees, 2,000 of whom will be based throughout China. The hiring of locals from China seems contingent upon their systems design capabilities and understanding of the demands of potential local clients.
If prospective employees have prior living or study experience in Taiwan, they are potential future managerial candidates capable of leading a team.
Thus Mediatek this year loosened its criteria and now awards scholarships to students from China even if they aren't majoring in electrical engineering. Two scholarships Advantech awarded to National Chiao Tung University students from China also came with no strings attached as regards major, having been distributed as university administrators saw fit.
Awarding scholarships alone in no way guarantees that a student from China will one day work for the company, says C.T. Liu, CEO of the Advantech Foundation. But Taiwan must strive to mold an environment that will attract top-flight talent from the opposite shore to come and get to know Taiwan and consider working for Taiwanese companies in the future.
By happenstance, Michael Lu and C.T. Liu both brought up the American strategy for attracting international talent beginning during World War II. Lu says J. Robert Oppenheimer, the so-called "father of the atomic bomb," assembled a team of the world's elite nuclear physicists to beat Germany's effort to invent the bomb. Whoever has the goods to attract the best talent will guide the course of world history, he says.
"A nation that seeks to be powerful must assemble elite talent and put it to work," a deeply concerned Lu says. He believes that if Taiwan fails to attract talent, businesses will be forced to move offshore to stay competitive, and when that happens Taiwan's top university graduates will be unable to find work at home, thus being forced to flee abroad too, and creating a vicious cycle.
China's policies to attract Taiwanese students to study and take up internships in China are much more flexible. In comparison, Taiwan needs a much more open-minded, much more appealing strategy if it is to broadly attract and co-opt new talent.
Translated from the Chinese by Brian Kennedy