Look up the definition of ‘the American dream’ and Google enlightens you with this: “The ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved.”
To illuminate the point, it provides an example sentence:
The scapegoating of today’s immigrants makes a mockery of the American dream.
Seems like a subtle jibe at US President Donald Trump’s administration and its diktats on visas and other immigration policies, right?
Because Trump’s ‘American Dream’ appears to consists of a wall to bar the entry of Mexicans and refugees from Muslim-dominated nations – immigrants. Furthering his ‘Buy American, Hire American’ agenda, he signed an order to review the H1-B work visa.
But he overlooks the fact that it is due to the contribution of these immigrants that the US is home to multiple ‘unicorns’, or tech start-ups worth $1 billion or more.
According to a 2016 study on ‘Immigrants and Billion Dollar Startups’ by the National Foundation For American Policy, immigrants were behind 44 of the 87 unicorns in the US. The total value of these 44 startups stands at over $168 billion.
India has been the “leading country of origin” for these firms with 14 entrepreneurs on the list, followed by Canada and the UK with eight each.
China, on the other hand, only contributes 3 out of the 44 even though it tops the list of ‘Top 25 Places of Origin of International Students’ by the Institute of International Education.
So, why do the Chinese students prefer to return home than make the most of what the ‘land of opportunity’ has to offer?
The Return of the ‘Sea Turtles’
The Government of China’s official website boasts press releases and articles titled: “Favourable environment for overseas returnees to start business”, “More Chinese students return from overseas in 2016”, “China job fair to attract overseas students”, etc.
Tax incentives, job fairs, incubators, cuts in vocational qualifications, etc. can be credited for luring the ‘sea turtles’ (overseas returnees) back to the mainland.
In a 2009 study called ‘Losing the World’s Best and Brightest’ authored by Distinguished Fellow at Carnegie Mellon Vivek Wadhwa, regional economist AnnaLee Saxenian, and others, a survey revealed that:
Chinese students in particular strongly feel that the best job opportunities lie in their home country – 52 percent of them, as do 32 percent of Indian respondents.
Speaking to The Quint, Wadhwa says the Chinese students are “introverts” and “stick to their own groups”.
They don’t feel as comfortable here [US] as the Indians do. Plus, Indians come from an open and a liberal democracy like the States, which works in their favour. Language is not an issue for Indians and when they join companies here, they tend to rise much more easily.
Get out of the unicorns’ way
Around $320 billion had been kept aside by the Chinese government last year for tech entrepreneurs after success stories like that of Jack Ma’s Alibaba emerged, according to a Financial Times report, while quoting Zero2IPO, a Chinese consultancy firm.
Even India’s Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in its ‘Action Plan’ dated 16 January 2016 talks of setting up a fund with an initial corpus of Rs 2,500 crore and a total corpus of Rs 10,000 crore over a period four years.
“But it ends ups hurting and not helping the economy… China is wasting money,” says Wadhwa.
The startups receiving the aid aren’t the best companies, but are the ones with the best connections. The government is trying to pick winners and it is hurting the entrepreneurs who can make an impact. This is corruption, and India should not copy China.
India can look forward to an entrepreneurship boom in the next 5-10 years, according to Wadhwa. But the process needs to happen “organically”, he adds.
“India will do fine on its own because it has a robust democratic open system. The government simply needs to provide support to these startups and get out of the way. Also with easy access to smartphones and the internet, the country will see multiple unicorns cropping up,” Wadhwa tells The Quint.
Zero2IPO says that an “incubator/accelerator is one of the important ways to transform modern high-tech into real productive forces.”
It can be done through management training and help in resolving issues related to their business. China stands tall as it has the highest number of incubators in the world, around 5,000 (till the end of 2015), assisting businesses.
One could also call them a driving force, which Wadhwa feels “don’t do much for entrepreneurs”. But it is better to have private incubators than the ones headed by the government as they have incompetent and corrupt mechanisms, he says.
You Have a friend in Trump (Maybe)
The White House has upped the ante when it comes to hiring local for American firms. Trump’s initiative has thus helped kickstart the process of reverse-brain-drain and is driving out technological innovations.
India has a friend called Donald Trump. He is terrifying its students, who are not thinking of staying here anymore. They simply want work experience of 3-4 years and then to return to their home countries.