Chinese techies flee Silicon Valley, ‘bamboo ceiling’ highlighted: report

Chinese tech workers are not only looking homeward, they’re moving back for better jobs, according to a new report.

Part of the reason for the purported exodus? A perceived “bamboo ceiling” that blocks the rise of Asian techies into leadership positions.

The report cites a number of factors driving Chinese workers out of the Valley and pulling them back to the nation of their birth. Aside from potential ethnicity-related handicaps to advancement, career opportunities are seen as “more abundant” in China, Bloomberg reported. “Bubbly times” for Chinese internet firms means compensation is sometimes higher in those firms than in their U.S. peers, according to the report.

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“U.S.-trained Chinese-born talent is becoming a key force in driving Chinese companies’ global expansion and the country’s efforts to dominate next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning,” according to Bloomberg.

“Where college graduates once coveted a prestigious overseas job and foreign citizenship, many today gravitate toward career opportunities at home, where venture capital is now plentiful and the government dangles financial incentives for cutting-edge research.”

Hans Tung, a managing partner at venture capital firm GGV Capital — which has offices in Beijing, Shanghai and on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, told Bloomberg that “more and more” Chinese engineers who have worked long-term in the Valley are finding it “much more lucrative” to hitch their futures to fast-rising Chinese firms.

“At Google, at LinkedIn, at Uber, at Airbnb, they all have Chinese engineers who are trying to figure out ‘should I stay, or should I go back,'” Tung said.

The tech industry has surpassed the financial sector as the No. 1 attraction for Chinese returning home from overseas, making up some 16 percent of returnees, a 10 percent jump from a 2015 poll, according to a survey by the Center for China & Globalization and employment website, Bloomberg reported.

“The number of graduates returning from overseas – mainly from the U.S. – skyrocketed to 432,500 in 2016, up 22 percent from 2013, the survey shows,” Bloomberg reported.

Diversity data from major Silicon Valley tech firms gives credibility to the report’s suggestion that a “bamboo ceiling” is in play, hindering Asians from becoming tech company leaders.

At Google — which led the way on reporting diversity numbers — Asians make up 39 percent of the tech workforce but only 27 percent of leadership. At Apple, Asian workers hold 31 percent of tech jobs, but just 23 percent of leadership positions. At Facebook, Asians make up 49 percent of the tech workforce, but occupy only 21 percent of “senior leadership” positions.



Photo: Apple’s “spaceship” campus in Cupertino in April 2017. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)


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  • alex carter

    The job situation is in the toilet here. Hell I’d move to China for a better future too if I weren’t a round-eye.

  • Taxpayer

    Good for them, good for the valley, remember there are still people here who don’t work in tech and reap the stock option bonanza,spread yourselves out, please.

  • Ralph Wolf

    I’m sure trump’s horrible record on race relations has nothing to do with this brain drain….

    • Haggy

      It doesn’t. Trump wants so called merit based immigration where we take people with talent instead of based on quotas from different countries and instead of allowing relatives into the country. The current system allows companies in Silicon Valley to list a PhD as a job requirement for a job that doesn’t really need one. That way a foreign born worker who is willing to work for less can get a job that a US citizen can do fine but is told that he or she isn’t qualified for. The way the system works, the foreign worker can’t just change jobs at will. That person was supposedly brought in to do a job that no American could do, and there should be no reason for the person to be on the open job market. So these companies have no reason to offer advancement. The system is already set up so that if these people don’t like it, they can leave the country. There’s no shortage of new foreign high tech workers who are willing to take their place, so advancement isn’t necessary.

      The real solution is not to pretend that a person needs a master’s degree or PhD to program a computer, but to hire people based on actual job requirements and qualifications to do those jobs. It should be completely separate from the immigration issue. Bring people in to make the country better, not because they are willing to work for less relative to their level of education. Make the country better by allowing family members to reunite and allowing people to escape intolerable conditions, not so we can keep educated Americans from getting good paying jobs.

      The problem is caused by the current system and Trump wants to make it worse. Don’t blame Trump for a problem that’s already there. But don’t expect him to fix it. That’s not what got him elected.

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