Are China’s “Sea Turtles” Becoming “Seaweed”?

A Changing Job Market

  • David Zweig The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
  • Zaichao Du Fudan University
Keywords: China, reverse migration, push-pull-family, wage premium, job search for returnees, saturation rate


Analysts of China’s “reverse migration” largely ignore returning, short-term MA students, who comprise close to 70 percent of all returnees, seeing them as less significant. Drawing on surveys of the past 15 years, this article makes four points: The share of returned MAs in the domestic job market is huge; MAs who plan their overseas sojourn well, succeed after coming home; returning because of “family” issues is problematic; and a 20 percent “wage premium” for an overseas MA persists.

Author Biographies

David Zweig, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

David Zweig is professor emeritus, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, director of Transnational China Consulting Limited, and vice-president, Center on China and Globalization. Email: URL:

Zaichao Du, Fudan University

Zaichao Du is professor of economics, Fudan University, China. Email: 

How to Cite
Zweig, D., & Du, Z. (2021). Are China’s “Sea Turtles” Becoming “Seaweed”?. International Higher Education, (106), 29-30. Retrieved from