Intellectual migration: considering China

Wei Li, Lucia Lo, Yixi Lu, Yining Tan, Zheng Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The ‘global race for talent’ has drawn immense attention from academics, policy-makers and the media. China is on both sides of the race. On the one hand, rapid economic growth has created the opportunity for many affluent and middle-class families to send their children abroad for higher education while stimulating intense internal migration for education and/or career opportunities. On the other hand, to affirm its (re-)emergence as an economic giant, China has begun recruiting talent from abroad, gradually forsaking its traditional role as a brain-drain country to become an exemplar of brain circulation. This paper elaborates an ‘intellectual migration’ conceptual framework that asserts both higher-education and highly skilled migration is a dynamic process that occurs along a spectrum where migration stages intersect with life transitions. Arguing that intellectual migration should be analysed as a continuum, we provide evidence from our own empirical work and the literature to ascertain its relevancy and applicability to China at this juncture and suggest a more integrative approach to analysing the framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2833-2853
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2021


  • China
  • Intellectual migration
  • intellectual capital
  • intellectual gateway
  • intellectual node
  • intellectual periphery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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