The coming brain drain

Here. Watch this. Here’s a Kleenex.

Ella Chou, who is subbing for James Fallow this week, writes about this ad today on The Atlantic’s site.

She says the “best and the brightest” may not necessarily be the ones who were born here, and increasingly, they’re not the ones staying here:


The video spread like a wild fire among the oversea Chinese communities because it tells the typical story of a young Chinese with a “dream” (as mentioned in the ad): prep hard for the exam; wave goodbye to family in the airport (Beijing Airport in this case); pursue study at a top American University (this video shows, as many would recognize, Columbia University); get a job in a big American city (looks like a consulting job in New York). Last year alone, 128,000 Chinese students came to the U.S., pursuing more or less the same dream. They make up of the largest percentage (nearly 18%)of the international student body in the U.S..

Is U.S. still going to be the place where young people around the world dream to learn, to make their career and realize their potential? Is it going to keep the openness?

Around me among the Chinese community at Harvard, I’ve already begun to hear people saying they’ll probably go back to China after graduation because of the difficulty in getting a job and the required work visa in the U.S. and also because the potential for growth they are seeing back at home. How is U.S. going to maintain its attractiveness to world talent? Ten years from now, will we see a different version of this ad?

  • Joanna

    My daughter is in her third year of studying Mandarin in high school. Maybe the next ad will be one of me, showing her the cat and waving at the camer, while she studies and works in China :)