(OPINION) A roadmap for preserving American advantage in the global fight for talent

Nearly every 2024 Republican presidential candidate has made competitiveness, particularly with China, a key component of their campaign. The urgency of the issue resonates with voters — over 80 percent of Americans view economic competition with China as a somewhat or very serious problem for the U.S. If the candidates want to address those concerns and compete effectively, workforce development and retention must be at the heart of their strategy.

As President Xi Jinping opened the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, he emphasized the role of human capital in global rivalry. He revealed that he intends to win the race for innovation by relying on talent as his primary resource. He says, “No effort should be spared[…] in the endeavor to bring together the best and the brightest from all fields for the cause of the Party.”

China is one of many countries recognizing the tremendous power and potential of human capital. The European UnionRussiaAustraliaCanada, and the United Kingdom, among others, have dedicated themselves to the global competition for talent and have been carefully strategizing on how they intend to win it. The United States has maintained a passive lead thus far, but it is dwindling as political inaction stalls us while our competition provides more enticing opportunities and visa pathways for sought-after talent.

Cecilia Esterline, Niskanen Center, September 6, 2023
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