Ted Tokuchi, a former senior executive of CITIC Securities International, a Chinese securities company, recalls the moment he had a face-to-face meeting with President Xi Jinping five years ago.
It was Dec 5, 2012, the date of Xi's first seminar with foreign experts in China after being elected top leader of the Communist Party of China in late November.
At the 80-minute meeting, Xi received proposals from 20 experts including Tokuchi, China's first foreign senior executive at a State-owned enterprise. The proposals ranged from reforming universities to better accommodate the real needs of society to helping Chinese firms going abroad.
"We're open to the world, and we want to learn from the world," Xi said at the meeting, adding that foreigners with expertise in their fields had contributed immensely to national development and had served as a bridge between China and the outside world.
Looking back, Tokuchi, a 65-year-old Japanese economist who has spent about two-thirds of his life in China, said he was impressed by China's great determination to develop and its magnanimous attitude in welcoming talent from abroad.
"China is now showing its charm in the new era, providing more chances and opportunities to the world, and will be an attractive dreamland to the younger generations worldwide," he said.
The State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs said it has records of overseas workers entering China about 3.3 million times in the past five years.
To attract more top overseas talent, the administration has made joint efforts with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security as well as the Ministry of Public Security to simplify the visa application process from weeks to five days. Other preferential policies, including lowering the threshold for permanent residence applicants, also have been adopted.
Zhang Jianguo, head of SAFEA, said a more proactive, open and effective policy on competent professionals will be pursued to further implement Xi's remarks in a report to the 19th CPC National Congress in October.
In the report, Xi said, "We should value people with talent, be good at identifying talent, have the foresight to employ them, be earnest to keep them, and welcome them into our ranks."
Zhang said applications for work permits for foreign experts whose skills are in urgent demand as well as top talent in all fields will be streamlined next year to attract more talent.
"We've seen great progress in policies to recruit more overseas talent, and there will be more of them," he said. "Those preferential policies reveal the country's openness and inclusiveness, which a great power should demonstrate to the world."
Apart from that first seminar five years ago, Xi conducted two similar seminars with foreign experts — one in Shanghai in 2014 and the other in Moscow in 2015 — showing the great value he places on foreign talent in China.
In May 2014, Xi met with 50 foreign experts in Shanghai and listened to their proposals, ranging from reforming the talent evaluation system to better supporting innovation.
The president said the country must implement a more open policy for talented workers, to bring in talent no matter where it comes from, make the most use of it and trust it fully. "China will always remain devoted to learning, will learn modestly from the world no matter how well it develops, and will openly enhance learning and exchanges with other countries," he said.
Anthony J. Leggett, a Nobel Prize winner in physics from Great Britain and now a professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said he was greatly impressed by the earnestness Xi showed at the meeting. He said he was especially impressed to see the president taking notes. "President Xi knows the necessity of bringing in and fully using foreign expertise," Leggett said.
Wang Huiyao, founder of the think tank Center for China and Globalization, said that Xi's remarks on foreign experts had shown the direction of the country's talent policy.
"In such an era, we should try to realize a Chinese dream that talent around the world could all come to China for a better development," he wrote in an article published after the Shanghai seminar.
In May 2015, Xi also met in Moscow with about 40 Russians who once worked in China or their family members. Since 1978, tens of thousands of Russian experts have come to China and participated in its reform and opening-up drive as well as its modernization.