The reflexive cosmopolitan
However, return migration is not as straightforward as bringing overseas qualifications and 'international experience' back to the home society and converting them into a rewarding career path. Judging from the distaste for certain phenomena in China expressed by a considerable number of informants, I argue that their eventual return to China would be problematic in a way that the 'serving China' discourse fails to address. The assumption that overseas students are culturally highly connected to China, and are yearning for a way to contribute to China's modernisation and development, ignores the possibility of interpreting Chineseness in multiple ways, and oversimplifies the realities of a Chinese person becoming disillusioned about certain Chinese ways of doing things. Without attempting to make a direct comparison between Chinese people who had lived abroad and those who had not, I would argue that, for my informants, their experiences of living in Japan had made such disillusionment quite acute. For example, Yinzi, who had worked in China for several years before embarking on her postgraduate study in Japan, spoke implicitly of her disdain for the need of strong connections to find a job in China:
It's hard to find a job everywhere. ... China is a society that emphasises renmai (networks/connections). If you have established your renmai, it'll be easy to find a job; without renmai, it will be hard no matter how able you are.
Interviewer: But your renmai should be quite good. You have worked in China for some years, so you must know a lot of people.
Well ... in Japan renmai is renmai, but in China renmai means kone (a Japanese word for strong connections); in other words, backdoors and patrons ... (in contrast,) job-seeking in Japan is very fair.
She did not think it would be particularly easy to find a job in Japan, but she still intended to do so in this comparatively 'fair' system, as she lacked the necessary 'connections', or 'renmai in the Chinese context', to secure a job in China. Meiyu expressed a similarly negative view of the more systemic and structural aspects of how things are done in China. Although, as discussed in the previous section, she foresaw that she would have certain disadvantages in the context of her research work in the long run, she still preferred to stay in Japan to do research for the short term, because of a number of factors relating to the relative research environments in Japan and China:
First of all, for preventive medicine, the platform, level of support and attention in China are all not as good as in Japan. Japan's research platform is better, and there are more opportunities and a wider range of research topics. Secondly, there are many areas in which I don't like China. If I go back I may find it difficult to adapt.