Chinese cities are competing to woo overseas entrepreneurs
2018/3/6 | 来源:天府软件园

The authorities are offering foreign founders office space, cash, advice, logistics services and even basic furniture

WHEN Maria Veikhman, founder of SCORISTA, a Russian credit-scoring startup, was considering expansion abroad, China immediately came to mind. She believes the scope there is vast, for two-fifths of Chinese have no credit records. Ms Veikhman settled in Tianfu Software Park, a state-owned incubator in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province where city authorities “offer almost everything for free”. Complementary facilities range from office space, basic furniture and logistics services to detailed guidance on entrepreneurial methods.

Chengdu aims to catch up with Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, which at present are in a different entrepreneurial league—together they have over a hundred unicorns, or private startups worth over $1bn. The south-western city allocated 200m yuan ($30m) in 2016 to an innovation-and-startup fund for overseas founders, and hands out up to 1m yuan in cash to well-capitalised foreign startups and joint ventures. If the founders are “top international talents”, such as Nobel laureates, the incentive soars to 100m yuan. Last March Chengdu’s Hi-Tech Zone opened an office to provide startup services for expats, including corporate registrations. Some 3,000 foreigners now work there, many operating their own businesses.

Other cities are making similar moves. Beijing and Zhejiang have opened well-funded centres for overseas entrepreneurs. The authorities may be particularly keen on attracting venturesome “sea turtles”, meaning foreign-educated or foreign-born Chinese, but they help non-ethnic Chinese too. Shanghai and Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, are planning new facilities for winners of international startup competitions held in China. In at least ten provinces, new immigration policies are easing the visa process. Foreigners graduating from Chinese universities can apply for two- to five-year residence permits marked “startup”. If they meet certain criteria, expatriates working for young firms can apply for permanent residence. In Zhongguancun, a tech hub in Beijing, 353 expatriates have been issued with “green cards” since 2016. A state-owned incubator there, Zhongguancun Inno Way, in 2017 incubated 878 startups; 121 of them were founded by foreigners or by sea turtles.