Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What to Expect from Record High Chinese Overseas Students

BBC News reported that Chinese overseas students 'hit record high'
Officials say there are now some 1.27 million students attending foreign universities.

In 2010 alone more than 284,000 Chinese went abroad to study, most of them privately funded.

At the same time, more Chinese students are choosing to return home to work after graduation.

Chinese officials say the country has the largest number of overseas students in the world.

In the 2009-2010 academic year, for example, the University of Cambridge had nearly 1,000 Chinese students, mostly from mainland China, reading for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in engineering, sciences, mathematics, international relations, economics and finance, and administration.

While Chinese students have brought money to foreign colleges and universities hard-hit by the global financial crisis, China is getting the knowledge and skills needed to drive the country's rapid growth.

In the past 30 years or so, more than 630,000 Western-trained students and scholars have returned home, about one-fifth of that number in the last year alone.

Many of them are now engaged in research and development that is boosting China's global competitive position.
The fact is very interesting and somewhat sobering.  China, has definitely become a force to reckon with.  However, this great close contact between the west and the brightest young people from China, does not necessarily translate into a better understanding of the West - its system, its value, its culture, and its believe - by China or Chinese people.

Many of those students, came with pre-existing values, often only interact with the natives minimally, and stick to one another in their own circle, and don't gain much societal knowledge and insights.  That might come if they stay on for years and really try to understand the local cultures often quite different from their own.  If they return home before that, they go home with classroom knowledge and not much more.  Considering the much inflated nationalist pride those young people cherish, and certain disdain to the countries they are studying in, the barrier to a better understanding between those countries and China remains.  Anyone has doubt about my this assertion, should try to remember the red flags all over the world when the Olympic torches paraded from all continents before it triumphantly entered Beijing. 

On 24 April 2008, the Olympic torch reached Canberra, Australia. 15,000 Pro-Chinese, most from Sydney and Melbourne, marched together in an act of patriotism, against the Tibetan protesters. Filmed using a Nokia N95 by benlisquare

A more compelling case is on China's entering World Trade Organization.  Before its entry, Chinese government made all the promises of fair play and yet, and its supporters in the political and business arenas all over the world claimed that by opening up the business to the world, it would inevitably introduce democracy into China.

Yet, Chinese's currency Yuan is artificially high; its internet censorship made Saudi blush; its trade imbalance grew bigger by the month; China's inequality are approaching and surpassing the U.S.; its people arrested and made disappear daily.

It's absolutely wonderful to have such exchanges between the west and China but pinning much hope on those bright young men and women from China is perhaps foolhardy.

1 comment:

  1. New Yorker: The Grand Tour, Europe on fifteen hundred yuan a day. by Evan Osnos April 18, 2011 both reinforced my view and gave some hope to the situation. He wrote:

    "I asked Promise [a college student] if he used Facebook, which is officially blocked in China but reachable with some tinkering. “It’s too much of a hassle to get to it,” he said. Instead, he uses Renren, a Chinese version, which, like other domestic sites, censors any sensitive political discussion. I asked what he knew about Facebook’s being blocked. “It has something to do with politics,” he said, and paused. “But the truth is I don’t really know.” I recognized that kind of remove among other urbane Chinese students. They have unprecedented access to technology and information, but the barriers erected by the state are just large enough to keep many people from bothering to outwit them. The information that filtered through was erratic: Promise could talk to me at length about the latest Sophie Marceau film or the merits of various Swiss race-car drivers, but the news of Facebook’s role in the Arab uprisings had not reached him."

    "Li [tour guide] was so boosterish that I might have taken him for a government spokesman, except that his comments were familiar from ordinary conversations in Beijing. “Analysts overseas can never understand why the Chinese economy has grown so fast,” he said. “Yes, it’s a one-party state, but the administrators are selected from among the élites, and élites picked from 1.3 billion people might as well be called super-élites.”"

    And lastly, he said that:

    "I was struck that, for all his travels, Zhu saw an enduring philosophical divide between China and the West: “two different ways of thinking,” as he put it. “We will use their tools and learn their methods. But, fundamentally, China will always maintain its own way,” he said.

    His sentiment didn’t inspire much optimism about China’s future alongside the West. On some level, it was hard to argue with him; the myth that a richer China would soon become a Western, democratic China has rarely looked more frayed than it does today. But if it was naïve to imagine that China’s opening up would draw it close to the West, it is also naïve, perhaps, to dismiss the power of more subtle changes."