(Photograph: Lu Ming)
For those who are not comfortable listening to the audio, here are the highlights of this issue.
The first thing to determine is whether we should look at the issue from a global or a local perspective. If we look at the big picture, making the cake bigger is more of a theme that should be focused on than distributing it. Human capital has externalities and the concentration of high-level talent contributes to labour productivity. As a general global phenomenon, college students around the world are concentrating in regions where there are many college students, and China is no exception. This is because of "human capital externalities": talent expects to be closer to more talent, as mutual learning and communication can enhance their skills and labour productivity. Not every city is suitable for the development of knowledge-intensive and productive services. As long as the amount of a given resource is higher per capita, the local population is also able to acquire more wealth. There are many resources in this category, typically represented by, agriculture, tourism, and natural resources. Such areas, on the other hand, may not necessarily rely on attracting highly educated people for development. The optimal talent structure of each city is ultimately determined by the characteristics of its industry.Many cities fall in between the resource-based and production services mentioned above, and require both highly educated and knowledgeable people as well as other levels of labour. For these cities, a higher proportion of college students is not necessarily better. A high concentration of talent in local areas is more conducive to making the "pie" bigger than an even distribution. From a global perspective, there is a strong agglomeration effect in economic development, and the high concentration of highly educated talents in local areas is more conducive to the overall development efficiency and to making the cake bigger. For example, industries such as finance and science and innovation have a high degree of agglomeration effect, and if they are evenly distributed, the economy of scale effect of these industries will be lost. Fundamental to attracting talent is the creation of an industry with its own characteristics. To enhance local advantages in developing specific industries by improving institutions, business environment, public services, infrastructure, etc. Attracting businesses by maximizing corporate profits as a way to build local comparative advantage industries and ultimately attract talent. Moreover, using public funds to subsidize university students is giving public resources to a relatively wealthy group, which violates the principle of fairness of public resources. In short, the right way of thinking is to think about sharing the cake after the whole cake has been made bigger.