The State Council has made recruitment of foreign talent part of the national plan for reform and innovation. ” 中共中央 国务院关于深化体制机制改革加快实施创新驱动发展战略的若干意见 (Mar. 13, 2015). But recruitment isn’t enough. Retention is key.
So it’s relevant to consider whether China’s “political system … and Confucianist culture” hinder the integration of foreigners, as asserted by Professor Liu Guofu. Chinese Immigration Law ch. 1 (Ashgate 2011).
As to Confucianist culture, Professor Liu writes that “Loyalty is one of the five traditional elements of Confucianism and this has helped to create a close-knit society that is unfavourable to the integration of foreigners.” Id.
In contrast with Liu, Professor Sam Crane does find some evidence of a Confucian duty towards strangers:
Confucius himself was kind to strangers. When he encountered a person in mourning, made obvious by clothing and demeanor, “the Master would stand or humbly step aside” (Hinton, Analects, 9.10). He paid respect when respect was due, even to someone he did not know. Although he famously approved of fathers and sons shielding each other from the law when one stole a sheep (Analects, 13.18), suggesting a relativistic ethics, his followers discerned a universal aspect to his notion of humanity:
Sima Niu lamented, “Everyone has brothers except for me.”
Zixia said to him, “I have heard it said: Life and death are a matter of one’s lot; Wealth and honor lie with tian [heaven]. Since exemplary persons are respectful and impeccable in their conduct, are deferential to others and observe ritual propriety, everyone in the world is their brother. Why would exemplary persons worry over having no brothers?”
When the noble-minded exemplary person is doing the right thing, and that means, first and foremost, carrying out their family responsibilities, then he or she will naturally be kind toward others as well. All men are brothers: no strangers there, especially when ritual (li) is working smoothly.
As to politics, it’s been argued that China’s foreigner-related policies (外事 waishi) have two contradictory goals. One is to stimulate, encourage, and manage increased foreign investment and technology exchange, as well as to continue to build up China’s international prestige. The other is to control the Chinese population by maintaining a notion of the foreign threat to China. A 1993 handbook on waishi told Chinese citizens who have contact with foreigners to
guard against the corrosive influence of capitalist thinking and way of living. They must not voluntarily discuss our national’s internal matters, or divulge Party or state secrets to a foreigner…. It is forbidden to disseminate to foreigners expressions of discontent, or reactionary views that attack our Party or socialist system.
See Anne-Marie Brady, Treat Insiders and Outsiders Differently”: The Use and Control of Foreigners in the PRC 943, 958 China Quarterly (2000). The notion of foreigners as a threat to China echoed in recent, dubious claims that “hostile foreign forces” were responsible for the Shanghai stock market’s plunge.
If the State Council is to accomplish its goal of attracting and retaining foreign talent to aid in reform and innovation, then integration of foreign talent into Chinese society is crucial. Wang Huiyao, Director of the Center for China and Globalization, writes that “In terms of competing on the global market for highly-skilled labour,” China has not fared well. It “has focused too much on short-term work and has neglected the long-term integration of foreign talent.” Demographic research shows that more successful integration of immigrants occurs when the immigration-policy regimes and institutions “admit and support immigrants who are authorized permanent newcomers eligible for citizenship, rather than newcomers who are unauthorized, temporary or otherwise not eligible for citizenship.” Frank D. Bean and Susan K. Brown, Demographic Analyses of Immigration, in Caroline B. Brettell and James F. Hollifield, Migration Theory: Talking across Disciplines ch. 2 (3d ed. 2015).
What’s needed is the promotion of Chinese language and civics lessons for foreign nationals in China, increased rights and opportunities to participate in Chinese civic life, and transparent paths towards permanent residence and eventually citizenship for those committed to remaining in and contributing to China for the long term. Instituting such policies may require interpretation or re-interpretation of Confucianism and politics in ways that promote integration.
You’re invited to add your thoughts in the comments section.