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Ten years ago, China hatched an ambitious plan to bring home its best and brightest scientists and entrepreneurs. Government officials would offer funding, tax breaks, and other perks to Chinese-born luminaries working overseas — and appeal to their sense of nationalism — to convince them to permanently relocate to China to feed what they hoped would be a renaissance in the country’s long underachieving biotech sector.

That renaissance has materialized: China’s biotech sector is indeed rising as a powerhouse.


But its recruitment program, called Thousand Talents, has failed to live up to its initial expectations, experts say. That’s because the leading Chinese-born lights trained at America’s top universities and biopharma companies have not, for the most part, gone back to China. For many, the uncertain risks and rewards of returning to China as so-called “sea turtles” have been less appealing than the allure of tenured positions and well-established jobs in the United States.

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