In Singapore, the issue of attracting foreign talents has become a hot topic of discussion among the people again. However, this is not a new topic in history. More than two thousand years ago in China, Prime Minister Lisi once wrote to the First Emperor to advise him not to drive away the foreign born talents and the First Emperor accepted his advice. The following is his main argument:
I have heard that many officials have discussed the need to dismiss their foreign clients (talents), but I dare to think that this is a bad thing to do.
In the past, when Lord Mu was searching for distinguished men, he found You Yu from western Rong and Bai Lixi from Wan, he welcomed Jian Shu from Song, and he spotted Pi Pao and Gongsun Zhi in the kingdom of Jin. Although these five gentlemen were not born in Qin, Lord Mu used them and thus was able to annex twelve countries, and Qin emerged as a strong country in the western Rong.
Lord Xiao implemented the new legal system of Shang Yang and as a result, our old customs and habits were either changed or eliminated, and thus enabled our people to live better life. With this, our country is stronger and more prosperous. Our people are then happy to join the armed forces, and our neighbouring countries are willing to listen to us. After we defeated Chu and Wei, we occupied more that thousand square kilometres of land, and today our country are still strong and well managed.
King Hui adopted Zhang Yi’s strategy and thus occupied many territories around the Sanchuan River. We also annexed Ba and Shu in the west, Shang Jun in the north, and Han Zhong in the south. We conquered many minority races (tribes), controlled two major cities Yan and Ying, and occupied Cheng Gao in the east. A lot of fertile lands were seized, the alliance of six countries was dissolved and these countries were forced to pledge their allegiance to Qin. The impacts of the strategy have lasted even until today.
King Zhao employed Fan Sui and discharged his corrupt uncles Ranghou and Huayang, only to eliminate unauthorized behaviour and to invigorate the strength of the ruling family's position. He devoured the territories of the feudal lords and made the house of Qin able to become emperors.
These four rulers were successful because of their foreign advisors. From this aspect, how could the foreign advisors let the rulers of Qin down? If these four rulers would not have employed and incorporated foreign consultants in their courts, the state of Qin would not be as rich and prosperous as it is now, and Qin would not be a strong and powerful country…..
I have heard that a country with ample land and fields can grow abundant grain, a state with a vast territory can accommodate many inhabitants, and a strong army will have brave soldiers. Equally, the Mount Tai is large because it was not picky about the size of its rocks. All the rivers and seas run deep for they do not reject small streams. And a king can manifest his virtue only by not driving out the inhabitants of his country. Therefore, it is important not to stretch a country all over the world, and not to make people become estranged to their country; and only then, the four seasons will be completed and beautiful, the spirits and gods will grant good luck, and all will be like during the age of the Five mythical Emperors and the Three holy Kings (of Xia, Shang and Zhou), who are invincible in this world. If your majesty now would dismiss your foreign advising clients (talents), they would be a fortune for your enemies' countries. If you would allow people of ability under Heaven to draw back from your court and not to come here to the west, they would not put one step on the ground of your state of Qin. That would be tantamount to lending weapons to robbers and giving grain to the bandits who robbed Qin.
A lot of products may not be produced in Qin, but they can be treasured by us; many wise people may not be born in Qin, but they are willing to serve our country with loyalty. Now if we dismiss these people, they will become the treasure of other kingdom, this is to disadvantage us and benefit our enemies. This is amounting to weaken us internally and causing unhappiness among our dukes and princes. Under such circumstances, how can we avoid danger to our country?