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Title: Haigui  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Victor Koo, Naked official, Kikokushijo, Gireogi appa, Great Recession
Collection: Chinese Words and Phrases, Economy of China, Employment, Great Recession, Neologisms, Recruitment
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


"Sea turtle" in Chinese (海龟) is a homophone of the term for a student returned from study overseas

Haigui (Chinese: 海归; pinyin: hǎiguī) is a Chinese language slang term for Chinese people who have returned to mainland China after having studied abroad for several years.[1] These graduates from foreign universities are highly sought after in Chinese business, and thus can gain employment ahead of those who have graduated from Chinese universities.[1] However, the salary demands of haigui are considered unrealistically high by some employers.[2] The homophonic 海龟 (also hǎiguī) meaning "sea turtle" is sometimes used as a metaphor since sea turtles also travel great distances overseas.


  • Motivations 1
  • Etymology 2
  • Notable haigui 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Some haigui have returned to China due to the Late-2000s recession in the US and Europe.[3] According to PRC government statistics, only a quarter of the 1.2 million Chinese people who have gone abroad to study in the past 30 years have returned.[3] As MIT Sloan School of Management professor Yasheng Huang states:

The Chinese educational system is terrible at producing workers with innovative skills for Chinese economy. It produces people who memorize existing facts rather than discovering new facts; who fish for existing solutions rather than coming up with new ones; who execute orders rather than inventing new ways of doing things. In other words they do not solve problems for their employers.[4]

The Westernized way of thinking of haigui may be a threat to the politics of the People's Republic of China, which curtail personal freedoms.[5]


The word is a pun, as hai 海 means "ocean" and gui 龟 is a homophone of gui 归 meaning "to return." The name was first used by Ren Hong, a young man returning to China as a graduate of Yale University seven years after leaving aboard a tea freighter from Guangzhou to the United States.[6]

Notable haigui

See also


  1. ^ a b Fan, Cindy (March 7, 2010). "Materialism and Social Unrest".  
  2. ^ "Overseas Chinese Try to Build a Community in Homeland".  
  3. ^ a b Zhou, Wanfeng (December 17, 2008). "China goes on the road to lure "sea turtles" home".  
  4. ^ Huang, Yasheng (March 7, 2010). "A Terrible Education System".  
  5. ^ "China’s long march to the modern world". Abu Dhabi Media Company. December 19, 2008. 
  6. ^ "Hai Gui: The Sea Turtles Come Marching Home". Asia Pacific Management Forum. 

External links

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