China’s National Talent Plan: Key Measures and Objectives

With unusual fanfare and publicity, the central government recently announced the launch of a new national talent development plan, which will form the cornerstone of efforts to combat emerging development issues and maintain the Chinese growth locomotive. This talent cultivation plan, the National Medium- and Long-term Talent Development Plan (2010–2020), creates a blueprint for creating a highly skilled national work force within the next 10 years. This plan is the first national comprehensive plan in China’s history of national human resources development and is of vital importance to China’s current and future development in the next decade and beyond. In Chinese, the plan refers to the development of rencai, which can be translated as educated and skilled individuals.  

China’s National Talent Development Plan was jointly issued by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the State Council on June 6, 2010. It is remarkably unusual that these two leadership bodies would jointly endorse a plan on such a high note. The announcement of this plan was also very unusual in that President Hu Jintao and all of the other eight Politburo Standing Committee Members attended its formal release ceremony, where President Hu, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice President Xi Jinping all delivered important speeches. In addition, all 31 Chinese provinces’ party chiefs and governors attended this nationally-televised meeting in their own localities, making it one of the most effective central government meetings in terms of immediately attaining national attention. During the meeting, President Hu stated that “talent is the most important resource and it is a key issue that concerns the development of the Party and country.” Following the conclusion of the session, Minister of CCP Department of Organization Li Yuanchao chaired a study meeting jointly organized by his department and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

China’s official news agency, Xinhua, and all other major Chinese media simultaneously released the 19,000-word plan nationwide and China’s central TV station CCTV broadcasted a series of programs on the subject during primetime. This media effort indicates that China’s top leaders have attached unprecedented importance to the talent development plan and are committed to publicizing it throughout Chinese society. Among the plan’s goals is the transformation of China from a manufacturing hub to a world leader in innovation, a grand objective that, according to the targets laid out in the plan, will be met in part by an increase in the pool of highly skilled workers from the current total of 114 million to 180 million by 2020, with government-allocated spending on human resources increasing from 10.75 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) now to 15 percent by 2020.

Dr. Huiyao Wang was a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center and is the Director General of the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing. He participated in the drafting of China’s Medium and Long-term Talent Development Plan, 2010-2020. This paper is a product of his research during his time at Brookings.