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China�s Foresight Beginning To Pay Big Dividends

It�s been nearly three decades since market reforms began in China. And the network of personal, educational and financial ties between China and the rest of the world is finally reaching a new, observable level.

The Chinese government�s willingness to underwrite both advanced education abroad and technology startups at home is starting to pay dividends. There are now close to 800,000 Chinese students who have studied abroad since the government first started sponsoring them for overseas study in 1978.

Drawn by job opportunities overseas, less than a third have come back so far, but the rate at which they are arriving is accelerating. Last year about 35,000 students returned, three times the amount in 2000.

Many of those returnees, armed with cutting-edge technical and managerial skills, have helped kick-start new technology businesses. At the same time, foreign venture capitalists are flooding the country with unprecedented amounts of money, and Chinese companies are finding they can raise money from stock offerings abroad.

Combined with the heady opportunities from an economy expanding at 10% annually, the result has been the creation of private wealth on an unparalleled scale. According to estimates by Merrill Lynch and CapGemini, there are now 320,000 U.S.-dollar millionaires in China.