Chinese capital dangles carrots to lure foreign talent to its Silicon Valley

BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing, a major hub for artificial intelligence (AI) and semiconductors in China, is touting a new list of incentives to try and bait foreign talent for its equivalent of Silicon Valley in the Chinese capital.

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New foreign hires at Zhongguancun Science Park will enjoy generous visa terms and more will also get the coveted permanent residence certificate, which confers greater freedom of cross-border travel as well as local economic benefits.

Foreigners with permanent residence will also be allowed to head national-level innovation projects, and serve as the legal representative of new scientific research institutions in China, the Beijing municipal government said in a statement at a media briefing on Tuesday.

China has laid out a roadmap to become a world leader in AI by 2030, aiming to surpass European and U.S. dominance in cutting-edge technologies and build a domestic industry worth almost $150 billion.

It has established dozens of new high-tech parks and incubators aimed at promoting technologies such as AI, robotics and big data.

But the talent pool at Zhongguancun Science Park, or Z-Park, still falls short of that in San Francisco, said Liu Minhua, head of the talent management division of the Beijing Communist Party.

“Z-Park only has over 10,000 foreign hires,” Liu told Reuters on the sidelines of the briefing. “In Silicon Valley, a third of the population comprises tech talent from all over the world.”

The goal is to attract top-notch scientists and their innovation teams to come to Beijing, Liu said, with large talent gaps in AI and supercomputing.

Z-Park has 10 overseas liaison offices designed to attract tech talents in countries like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Finland.

Z-Park has offered permanent residence to 258 foreigners since 2016, according to a report by the official Xinhua News Agency in September last year.

In 2017, Beijing processed a total of 662 applications in from foreigners seeking permanent residence under a scheme to attract talent in sectors ranging from culture to tech.

The Beijing municipality has said it will even consider allowing foreign professionals to bring in their own foreign maids, currently illegal in Beijing.

Reporting by Stella Qiu and Cate Cadell; Editing by Shri Navaratnam