Deng Weiwei felt a sense of loss when he found out his former schoolmates were working on the launch of China's Tiangong-2 space lab, while he could only follow it on social media.
It was on April 27, 2017 that Deng abandoned his tenured position as associate professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
After giving his last lecture, he finally returned to China after living in the United Sates for 15 years.
Deng is among thousands of overseas Chinese talent flooding back to China. In 2016, a total of 432,500 overseas Chinese students and researchers returned. The number first exceeded 100,000 in 2009 when China started its overseas talent introduction plan.
The Chinese government at central and local levels has helped top overseas talent to return and settle with a scientific fund to facilitate their research.
China invested 1.57 trillion yuan (235.6 billion U.S. dollars) in research and development (R&D) in 2016, with an annual growth of 11.1 percent. Now, China has become the world's second largest investor in R&D. Such bold investment guarantees favorable research conditions for returnees.
Wang Zhonglin is a tenured professor in Georgia Institute of Technology and academician of the European Academy of Science. Wang used to lead a research group of 20 people in the United States. Now, he can select 200 researchers to join his program in China.
Eight Chinese doctors from Harvard University jointly developed a world-leading high magnetic lab in eastern China's Hefei city. Wang Junfeng is one of this group.
"Scientific research conditions in China were far more advanced than before. We had an independent lab here, which was nearly impossible in the U.S.," Wang said.
China's effort is paying off. Returned researchers are playing a leading role in advanced technologies and innovation.
Manned space flight, the Tianhe supercomputer, BeiDou navigation project, quantum communication are all cutting-edge technology where returnees have proved crucial.
In 2016, China launched the world's first quantum satellite, Quantum Experiments at Space Scale. Lu Zhaoyang, who returned from Cambridge University with key theories, was among the core research team.
Lu and his colleagues are making more breakthroughs in quantum theory, communication and calculation. Their achievements, including the distribution of entangled photon pairs over 1,200 kilometers, have secured China's leading position in quantum research.
Huang Danian, known for his expertise in deep earth exploration technology, studied and worked in Britain for 18 years before returning to China in 2009. Over the past years, he helped China become a world leader in deep earth exploration equipment.
On Jan. 2017, Huang died of cancer, aged 58. A bright star of the sciences fell, leaving the science community saddened and inspired by his patriotism.
On Sept. 12, 2017, people gathered at the annual meeting of the Western Returned Scholars Association, with advanced knowledge and innovative ideas. Over a century has passed since the founding of the association.
"It never requires a reason to return home," said Bai Chunli, who studied abroad in the 1980s, and is now the president of the Chinese Academy of Science.