China has become a major study abroad country in recent years, having invested tens of billions of yuan in the last three years to accept nearly 500,000 foreign students to study in China each year, with one of the goals of enhancing China’s soft power. But with China closed since the epidemic, a group of students staying in China has been stranded in their home country for the third consecutive semester, and their studies have been hampered. Some students have launched a collective action on the Internet to return to China to continue their studies in the wake of the epidemic, but some students interviewed said their demands have been ignored and they are disappointed with China. China’s plans to expand its soft power face setbacks under the epidemic.
September was supposed to be the exciting start of the school year, but reporters have easily searched the Internet for a large number of students studying in China who have been affected by China’s closure policy, with tens of thousands of students expressing their demands on the Internet with the hashtag “#takeusbacktochina. Some of them criticized China for not responding positively to their demands and for granting permission only to Korean students to study in China, which is not fair. Most of the students contacted by this reporter said that they were confused as to when they could return to China to continue their studies.
Tens of thousands of students have taken to the Internet with the keyword “#takeusbacktochina” to express their demand for China to let them return to China to continue their studies. (Video screenshot)
Chinese university drags its feet in responding to Malaysian girl’s withdrawal from school after customs closure
Xiao Qin (a pseudonym), a Malaysian Chinese, was forced to return to China to take a year off from her studies because of China’s prolonged customs closure early last year, and by this year, she decided to drop her university degree in Xi’an, China. Enrolled in 2019, she has studied in China for only one semester.
Xiaoqin says: I kept going to negotiate, and I asked what it would take for credits to graduate. The teacher didn’t give me a very clear answer, asking when I could enter the country. There is no answer …… all are no answer, is waiting and so on and so on and so on, a long time and so you forget.
The teacher did not give me a clear answer as to when I could enter the country. However, she said that she “felt that she had fallen from heaven into hell” due to the closure of China, and said that many students who stay in China are emotionally unstable, “so this year I decided to officially quit school and go to Taiwan.” At the time of writing, she was preparing to arrive in Taiwan in October.
Self-funded medical students’ internships blocked Indonesian women’s scholarships cut
A large number of students staying in China are in academic and life difficulties, especially in engineering departments that require special equipment and medical departments that require internships, and some have criticized the poor quality of online courses as unhelpful to their studies. In Bangladesh, students protested at the Chinese Embassy.
Khan, a Pakistani-American student who came to China to study medicine at his own expense, has paid more than hundreds of thousands of yuan for five years of hard work and will graduate in 2021.
Khan: I can complete the (Chinese) online course and go for a degree diploma, but according to my country’s regulations, or if I want to practice in the UK, this method of completing my studies will not be allowed …… This will harm the future practice of medicine, as it requires rotation in different positions in the hospital.
Another Indonesian engineering student, who goes by the name Peachy, even had his scholarship cut.
Peachy: It makes me a little angry because I’m a Chinese government scholarship winner and I put a lot of effort into the scholarship. But since none of us were in China, the grant only covered tuition, and they (the university) thought we could pay for our own stipend and daily expenses. Some of my friends gave up studying in China halfway through the year because they came from families in poor circumstances.
By press time, Peachy had been notified that he would be awarded a scholarship for the new semester.
The reporter contacted several students who said they were confused as to when they could return to China to continue their studies. Pictured left to right are Xiao Qin (pseudonym), Khan, and Peachy (pseudonym). (Video screenshot)
China has become a major international study abroad country in recent years with more scholarship spending than key labs
In recent years, China has actively developed into a major international study country, currently receiving the third largest number of international students in the world, after the U.S. and U.K. In 2019, China will accept about 500,000 international students, half of whom are in degree programs. 60% of the students attracted to China are Asian students, followed by nearly 17% of African students, mostly from developing countries, most of whom are optimistic about China’s economic development, lower living costs, and more importantly, the Chinese government will provide them with huge scholarships. Most of them are from developing countries, most of them are interested in China’s economic development, low cost of living and more importantly, the Chinese government will provide them with huge scholarships.
Most of the students in China come from developing countries, most of them are optimistic about China’s economic development, the cost of living is low, and the Chinese government will provide them with huge scholarships. (Photo by Cantonese Group)
The current scholarship program offered by China’s Ministry of Education under the State Council alone gives bachelor’s degree students nearly 60,000 yuan a year, of which 30,000 yuan is all for living expenses, higher than China’s median per capita disposable income, 27,000 yuan. The Ministry of Education handed out more than 3.9 billion yuan to about 63,000 students in 2018, more than the amount spent on key laboratories that year.
In addition to the Ministry of Education, local governments, Confucius Institutes or university campuses hand out scholarships, so it is difficult to estimate how many students actually receive scholarships. About one-third of these scholarship programs provide approximately several thousand dollars for living expenses.
The generous and even unequal treatment provided by China to students studying in China has even caused discontent among students in their home countries in recent years. For example, some students at a Henan university protested against the university’s provision of air-conditioning facilities for international students, but not the “generous” treatment of domestic students. Some domestic students have also complained online about being assigned to clean the dormitories of students staying in China.
The average Chinese government scholarship is about 60,000 RMB. (Photo by Cantonese Group)
Universities actively seek international students for funding Study in China agents have become a multinational industry
Due to the huge amount of funding and the fact that most scholarships are distributed through universities, many Chinese institutions of higher learning see students studying in China as an important source of funding. In the 2020 departmental budget of the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) in Beijing, we found that the annual income from scholarships provided by the Ministry of Education alone amounted to 95.83 million yuan, and the university received 3,375 students studying in China in that year.
The station contacted a Malaysian study agent, who said that studying in China has become a huge multinational industry, many non-brand-name Chinese universities, will actively patronize foreign agencies to find more international students, his agency branches throughout Southeast Asia.
He also said that the Malaysian students he came into contact with, regardless of their performance, are easy to get a variety of scholarships from the Chinese side. And universities are very welcoming to Malaysian-Chinese students because they are well disciplined and speak Chinese. On the contrary, some university presidents privately claim that African students are more difficult to manage. He also said that Chinese students can get preferential treatment in China, such as lower passing standards than local students, and more spacious dormitories than local students.
China hopes to “cultivate China-friendliness” with $10 billion to attract foreign students
Why is the Chinese Communist Party spending so much money to attract international students to study in China? Hu Bilang, executive director of the Belt and Road Institute at Beijing Normal University, has the following to say.
Hu Bilang said: You want to gather people’s hearts and minds very firmly is to study abroad, which is one of the best and most worthy investments.
It turns out that the Chinese Ministry of Education has expressed its desire to enhance the soft power of the country, to build up people’s connections, and to cultivate the power of knowing and friendship with China, especially in line with the development of “One Belt, One Road”. The “Study in China Program” formulated in 2010 also expressed the desire to assimilate students staying in China with local students, and to strengthen education on Chinese laws and regulations and national conditions, so that they can “objectively understand the development of Chinese society”. Prior to the Communist Party Day this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping wrote a letter to international students praising them for learning about the history of the Chinese Communist Party.
Ane Bislev, associate professor of Chinese Studies at Aalborg University in Denmark, explained that it is common internationally to attract capable overseas students with scholarships and to use international students to enhance the soft power of a country. International students usually meet a lot of local friends in the host country, and their understanding of the host country will be deepened, and they are more likely to develop a good feeling. She also said that if one of the international students holds an important official position or is in charge of diplomatic affairs in the future, it will help the exchange between the two sides.
Ane Bislev explained that “soft power” for China means enhancing the country’s positive image. She analyzed that the special feature of China’s student policy is the targeted use of large scholarships to attract students from specific regions, such as the surrounding Asian and African countries, and that many students from developing countries rely heavily on scholarships to obtain their degrees. However, she stressed that international students do not necessarily share the political views of the host country. For example, she is in charge of a dual degree program that requires an exchange to China, but she has not seen a significant change in the attitudes of Danish students toward Xinjiang or Hong Kong issues after their stay in China.
A comparison of spending on students staying in China by the Chinese Ministry of Education. (Photo by Cantonese Group)
China’s unblocked indefinite stay in China students sigh disappointment in China
According to the Wall Street Journal, China’s State Council has decided to keep the embargo in place for the first half of 2022, which means that the situation for students staying in China will not improve. Faced with the hindrance of both their studies and their lives, many students in China have told us that the incident has changed their impression of China.
Xiaoqin: (not as expected) is very different …… There are many cases of bureaucracy and nepotism.
Peachy also said he would not recommend his younger siblings to study in China.
Ane Bislev believes that the obstruction of students’ studies in China will inevitably affect China’s plans to enhance its soft power.
If students have a negative experience in the host country, their attitude will reflect that, Ane Bislev said. It’s not that by bringing students to your country, your soft power will automatically increase.
Students in Bangladesh protested at the Communist Party’s embassy in September this year, demanding to “go back to their country. (Online screenshot)
In fact, Japan and Australia are also closed, but no students fiercely disgusted, Ane Bislev estimated that the degree of information transparency, and whether students rely on scholarships, because many students coming to China are from developing countries, poor economic conditions compared to other overseas students, there is a greater reliance on Chinese scholarships. She also said that unless China changes its zero attitude, I believe it is difficult to solve the problem of students staying in China.