China will continue to strengthen preferential policies to attract top foreign talent, encourage more of them to play a leading role at universities, and further simplify work permit procedures, a senior official said.
The State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs and the Ministry of Education last year allowed 16 Chinese universities to appoint expats as deans as part of a pilot project.
This year, the project will be expanded to more universities, Zhang Jianguo, director of the foreign experts administration, said in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the Conference on International Exchange of Professionals over the weekend in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.
"China values talent more than ever before. We'll encourage more expats to play a leading role not only in the education sector, but also in some enterprises," he said.
Schools and businesses are the workplaces that most frequently hire foreigners, accounting for 50 percent and 33 percent of all foreign employees, respectively, according to a report released at the conference.
Zhang said regulations will be drafted soon to provide better guidance in helping more foreign experts become leaders of some important research projects and participate in national science and technology programs.
"We will also encourage foreign experts to participate in the selection of China's science and technology awards, in equal measure with their Chinese colleagues," he said.
To encourage more foreign talent to work in regions like western China, that have a greater need for support, the administration has launched pilot projects to provide financial and other preferential policies to universities.
Fifteen universities joined in the project last year, according to Nie Biao, director of the administration's Cultural and Educational Experts Department. He said the number of applicants is expected to grow this year.
Zhang said expedited visa applications also will be available for top talent, like allowing them to do an application online, without any paperwork, as well as cutting the time needed to complete the procedure from 10 to 5 working days and offering a visa of up to five years at a time.
"Together with other sectors, we may consider giving high-end expats a quick way to get a multiple-entry visa with a longer validity period, to make sure that the visa issue will not become a hurdle preventing high-end overseas talent from coming to China," he said.
More than 900,000 foreigners worked in China last year, according to the administration. That same year, 1,576 permanent resident cards were issueed, according to the Ministry of Public Security's Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration.
In terms of lowering the threshold for permanent residence applicants, Zhang citied Shanghai as a model in reforming its talent recruitment policies.
The city's newest policy allows expats who have worked in the city for four consecutive years and have lived in China for at least six months a year to apply for residence permits providing their salaries met required levels.
"Such preferential policies show our determination and effort to welcome more top foreign talent to work and live in China," Zhang said.