Chinese Overseas Students, Then and Now

The first Chinese overseas student is Rong Hong, who went to the US to study in 1847, first at Monson Academy, then at Yale. Since then, more Chinese gradually studied abroad, with the first surge appearing at the turn of the 20th century. Back then, China was in a difficult transition period from the late Qing Dynasty to the republican period, marked by foreign humiliation and domestic suffering. But it was also an age of awakening. Hundreds and thousands of Chinese students went to advanced countries like Great Britain, Germany, France, America and Japan to study all sorts of matters. They brought back visions of modernity, which included not only Western technical knowledge, but also society, politics, laws and culture, bestowing great hopes on the modernization of China. They acted like a bridge which connected China to the outside world, and made important contributions in arousing Chinese people’s wake to overthrow the corrupt Qing Dynasty, establish a republic, abolish obsolete traditions, and modernize and strengthen China.

Today, it is fashionable to talk of China as the next superpower. With the shift of power from the West to the East, the special position of Chinese overseas students has also eroded. Perhaps they are no longer needed as saviours of China. They might even need to rely on China’s glories. But beyond China’s economic rise lies authoritarian politics, rampant corruption and mounting social problems. However, the current generation of Chinese overseas students see little interests in making things better. In a few recent articles, Beijing writer and FT Chinese columnist Xu Zhiyuan, and prominent Hong Kong writer Tao Kit, have portrayed them as a confined community, predominately interested in enhancing their personal careers while showing little interests in Western ideas and cultures. In other words, they fail to act as agents of change in China, quite unlike their predecessors.

A confined community

Drawing on his exchange experience at Cambridge University during 2009-2010, Xu Zhiyuan described in FT Chinese how Chinese students in Cambridge live in their own confined world, showing little interests in things around them:

The largest overseas student community in Cambridge is Chinese. Counting in the sixth formers and visiting scholars, it includes nearly 1,500 people. They are numerous and everywhere, but are invisible in Cambridge’s public life. In Varsity, the largest student-run paper in Cambridge, I seldom see their news. I am not familiar with the overly-rich student activity scene, but I rarely see a Chinese face, whether in the theatre showing the tragic life of Alan Turing, in bookshops, or in the cinema screening the great famine of Ukraine. It is also apparent that Chinese students here are not interested in making their voices heard, even when the world media is hotly debating about China.

These Chinese youth live in a new kind of confined life. New technologies and open information have liberated but also destroyed them. Armed with Skype, emails, MSN, Facebook and Youtube, they live a tribal life. Even though they are in Cambridge, they will not miss any popular TV series in China, or the latest film If You Are The One. For them, Britain is just a temporary background. They neither have the ability nor the interests to express their views on Britain or the world. Meanwhile, the rise of China affects them in another way. They no longer view themselves as a progressive force which will improve China. Conversely, they strive to integrate themselves into the current Chinese order. The internal logic of the rise of China has also forced its way into their lives. Three decades of successful commercialism and consumerism is accompanied by political stagnation and incompetence, and a noisy and coarse culture.

Narrow visions

In addition to a lack of interests in the world outside, Tao Kit also pointed out in Hong Kong’s Next Magazine the narrow visions of Chinese overseas students, who are only interested in pragmatic subjects like engineering, finance and commerce, rather than the arts and humanities:

The scope of subjects studied is narrower. Late Qing scholar Shen Jiaben studied law in Britain. He returned to China and tried to reform the legal system based on the British model. At least, he abolished many inhumane corporal punishments. Zhu Guangqian of the republican era went all the way to Edinburgh to study aesthetics, and became a great master after returning to China. While Jeme Tien Yow studied engineering in America, Sun Yat-sen read medicine in Britain, and Liang Ssu-ch’eng studied architecture in the US, at least, there were those who chose to study law and aesthetics in order to enlighten the minds of Chinese.

Today, business administration, finance and technologies are the hottest choices among Chinese overseas students. Who would choose to read Latin or arts history? […] A century ago, Chinese decided to study overseas so that they can contribute to the nation, akin to the spirit of Fukuzawa Yukichi [one of the founders of modern Japan]. Today, Chinese overseas students only care about finding a good job, while the Chinese Communist Party only believes in GDP. […] How can Westerners not view them merely as a group of consumers?

The US public believes that young Chinese students are particularly good at maths. This is a prejudice brought about by the bias in subject selections. Westerners only know that the Chinese are good at engineering and sciences, but not arts and humanities. This is just like how Hollywood views Chinese movies – it is Chinese kungfu rather than romance that is recognized. This is because Western audiences don’t believe that Chinese can be romantic.

Blurred identities

Overseas Chinese students are well placed to bridge the ideological divides between China and the West, and lead social progress in China. But, unlike their counterparts a century ago, they have failed to do so. In another article on FT Chinese, Xu Zhiyuan explained why, and set out the political implications:

When Hu Shih returned to China in 1917, he said to his friend who welcomed him in Shanghai, ‘now that we are back, everything will be different.’ He was referencing Erasmus Darwin’s famous sentence. This was the confidence of Chinese overseas student at its height. They acted as a bridge between Eastern and Western civilizations, shouldering the responsibility to introduce new ideas, technologies and organizations into the Chinese society. In one of his later articles, Hu Shih wrote, ‘we always carry with us new insights and a critical spirit. They could not be found in a race so indifferent and used to the existing order, but are absolutely essential for any reform movements.

Those ‘new insights’ and ‘critical spirit’ often enjoy bad luck. They are swamped by the inertia of Chinese people. Their ambitions, anxiety and constraints are exactly the characters of China itself. But no one can deny their importance. In between the enormous gaps between China and the West in terms of power, wealth and knowledge, they act like transmission belts. However, the tragedy lies here – they are just that. Facing external pressures and internal weaknesses, they never develop their self-determination and value. Their roles are functional – they can build railways, chemical factories or new buildings. But their influence is only limited to the surface of the Chinese society. They are too eager to be useful. They may be noble hearted, aspiring to save the motherland; they may also be calculating, seeking personal successes.

20th century China was just like the Soviet Union criticized by Andrei Sakharov: ‘our society must gradually find its way out from the dead end of non-spirituality. This non-spirituality is killing the possibility of development, not only spiritual, but also material.’

Generations after generations of Chinese overseas students rushed in to join the rank. They helped new China to acquire missiles and hydrogen and atomic bombs, and were recognized as national heroes. But how many of them have followed the line of Andrei Sakharov to question the meaning and value of these actions, and their relationship with the profound suffering of this race? The ability and knowledge they learned from the West turn out to be tools of oppression and illusion directed toward their fellow countrymen.

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0 thoughts on “Chinese Overseas Students, Then and Now”

  1. Great article, very interesting. I have noticed that the Chinese students in Edinburgh also rarely get involved in life outside themselves and their own groups.
    But maybe also the students are a product of the system? Maybe they’re not allowed or given the leeway to challenge the system, or take arts subjects, the pressure from society and family to succeed and conform being too much?

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  2. This article kind of confirms the stereotypical picture that I have of Chinese overseas students. They are often a tight-knit group, that don’t mingle with locals or other foreign students that much. Of course this is a generalization, I have also met students that had their “awakening”, enjoying their new found liberties to the fullest.
    I think the reason why a lot of Chinese students are hardly noticeable, has to do with the way they are treated in their universities in China, namely like children. Being independent and making discoveries on their own, is not something that is enforced in China, partly due to obvious reason, I think.
    A lot of universities are usually located outside of the cities with little possibilities for any amusement except for karaoke or internet cafés. Going out is often frowned upon. On more than one occasion I was told that a certain student is a “bad boy” or “bad girl”, because they went to bars.
    It therefore makes sense that a lot of these students act the same as in China.

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  3. it is completely out of match to compare overseas students “then” to “now”. it is like comparing the residents of windsor castle to those who are allowed to pay several euros to spend a few hours in the open area. overseas students “then” are top elites in the “then” china, who came from an extremely small social group. they returned to china knowing that their future is for sure top leaders of the country no matter which filed they work in. of course, another reason is that the chinese family tie at that time was too strong to break from. even the most influential intellectual like hu shi cannot choose to divorce his unenlightened wife.

    another huge mistake of this article is that it assumes that these returnees did have a social life when they were overseas. they went back to china with ambitious plans – true. but how does this have anything with their life in the foreign countries? go read the memoriors of any of these figures. they spent MOST of their time with chinese. the reason they chose to read arts or humanities is simply that their family is rich enough to afford them choosing any subjects they want.

    if the real issue is to promote the comunication between china and the west. i have no idea why pointing a finger at chinese overseas students would do any help. many chinese overseas students become even more nationalist after they have experience living in the west. don’t say that they just fail to adapt. they easily mingle with locals in immigrants-friendy countries. also, unlike many of the older generations of chinese immigrants, they now have a choice, which is to go back to home.

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  4. What is here beyond age-old stereotypes about Chinese students? It seems as if nothing has changed? One thing I will say is that, as Canadian students’ university fees are largely subsidized by FUTURE TAX RECEIPTS, any international student has to pay much higher fees (since no one expects them to stay in the country, work, pay taxes). As such, Chinese students, coming from a developing country, are expected to pay exorbitant tuition fees.

    With that in mind, do you think they’re going to go into a degree in ‘Art History’? Not a chance. No point. They want something they know will be applicable (as you said, pragmatic) right out of college: computer science is hot, accounting is good, an MBA is good too.

    I don’t think this fully covers it, I’m sure someone will stand up and say, “Ha! Many families in Shanghai are rich enough to pay 100 times your tuition fees, they don’t care”, fair enough. But to that I would respond, “The students who are obscenely rich, don’t really have to get college degrees. They can live a life of leisure. The students I went to Economics class with intended to work their way to success. If their families were so rich (and they were so pragmatic, only caring about $), they wouldn’t have been motivated to attend University at all. Based on this, I believe most of my classmates were from very average Chinese families.”

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  5. “Today, business administration, finance and technologies are the hottest choices among Chinese overseas students. Who would choose to read Latin or arts history? […] A century ago, Chinese decided to study overseas so that they can contribute to the nation”

    Right…. so the author of this article is comparing current Chinese students with those from a century ago. Hmm, a century ago China was a helpless fragmented wreck of a nation where civil war was strife and everything was falling apart. Obviously during those hard times it is natural that overseas students contribute profoundly to the development of China.

    However, it is extremely wrong to say “oh current Chinese overseas students aren’t serving as much purpose as those from a century ago because now they only focus on engineering and economics etc”
    Why is that? Because we’re living in a totally different era!! A hundred years ago China not only needed a new modern political system but a whole host of other knowledge and ideas from the rest of the world, thats why overseas Chinese students studied the whole breadth of these topics in order to build a future China. Now, a hundred years later China already has all of these things. From a modern political system to education to law to economics system… This is no longer the era where EVERY overseas Chinese HAS to study some kind of topic, however obscure it may be, to bring back to China and spread it.

    Now is the era where Chinese aspire to become more prosperous, have better living standards and improve their lives. Not only in Chinese culture but most other cultures as well, higher education means a better future and better living standards. Therefore, what are the topics in higher education that grants the most visible means of livelihood improvement? You guessed it, computer science, economics, management, general science etc. Precisely the topics which most Chinese students aspire to and which the article criticizes.

    I totally agree with what Michael A. Robson said above, that Chinese overseas students have to pay exorbitant fees, often painstakingly gathered by their parents over many years, in order to be able to enroll in a top international university. In this situation, would most people start to take courses such as latin studies or art history when they’ve payed such a high price for admission?? As such, the majority of self-financing students and not only Chinese ones will choose to take a subject which will promise some sort of benefice later on.

    “The ability and knowledge they learned from the West turn out to be tools of oppression and illusion directed toward their fellow countrymen.”
    I find this last sentence to be extremely insulting to overseas Chinese students. As one myself, this sentence makes it sound as if Chinese students are some kind of extreme fascist agents who study overseas simply for the sake of working in the Public Security Bureau or some other state security organ. As if studying overseas is a crime against humanity and that instead of studying scientific and useful subjects, we should all turn to obscure random courses such as latin or art major, this way we won’t become “tools of oppression and illusion directed toward their fellow countrymen.”

    What a joke this last paragraph of the article, the author Xu Zhiyuan only stayed as an exchange student in Cambridge for only one year, what does he know of the countless numbers of studying required to enter universities like this and the aspirations of those who graduate??

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  6. “… many chinese overseas students become even more nationalist.”

    If you don’t know why? Just google “rush limbaugh mock Chinese”.
    Chinese overseas students are not all stupid.

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  7. “… many chinese overseas students become even more nationalist.”

    Don’t know why? Just google “rush limbaugh mock Chinese”.
    Chinese overseas students are not all stupid.

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  8. Robson said above, that Chinese overseas students have to pay exorbitant fees, often painstakingly gathered by their parents over many years

    Not likely. Most Chinese students studying abroad are the children of factory owners, CCP bureaucrats and coastal financiers. You need to update your roadmap a little jcyin.

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  9. I used to work as an academic copy editor and a postgraduate academic advisor in Beijing. I agree with My Red China in that most of the students going overseas are going over on new money.

    Most of the clients I worked with were essentially interested in prestige. Its difficult to overemphasize how pragmatic these people are. They are entirely indifferent to topics on culture and the arts, in fact they’re even often indifferent to the subject that they have “chosen”. Not only that but they have no interest in ethics and are indifferent to things like academic process and morality of research. I’ve read award winning Chinese university essays and dissertations which don’t even include referencing, and worked with prospective Ph.D students who (take for example in P.R., marketing, political science) are entirely, and consciously, willing to work against public good in both their research practice and prospective careers.

    I would say a very large proportion of Chinese students going overseas are doing so with more than a little help from ghostwriters writing everything – their applications, their personal statements, their personal history, writing samples etc. A lot of them end up being admitted to foreign universities with very poor practical and written English skills and relying on classmates or ghostwriters back in China to do their essays and frequently even entire dissertations for them. Nobody wants to take risks on courses that cost enough for the average Chinese to retire off. Its not surprising that a lot of them return to China with a newfound sense of nationalism and an abstract resentment for the country they never adjusted to.

    In my country people generally treat Chinese immigrants very well, but unfortunately, but still understandably, they still stick to their own groups and rarely step outside their comfort zone. I’m also a son of a Chinese immigrant and a local, and while we did experience racism while I was growing up I don’t think this is a case of “its because the locals are being jerks”, I think its that “keeping to your own” is a part of Chinese culture. The family is one of the last social bonds left after the CR and the reforms – and even then it took a huge hit, so its natural that Chinese going overseas will want to recreate those kinds of close bonds with each other.

    I’ve met a few black sheep, but they’ve been few and far between. I wanted to end this comment with some kind of blame laying, but its too big a thing for me to comment on and I’ll just end up spouting crass generalizations – selfish, amoral Chinese contemporary culture, blind patriotism, critical thinking choking education, corrupt Chinese academic culture, the CR, etc etc etc. I can’t think of any quick fixes. I’m just going to grimace and peter out here before biting off more than I can chew if I haven’t already.

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  10. “With that in mind, do you think they’re going to go into a degree in ‘Art History’? Not a chance. No point. They want something they know will be applicable (as you said, pragmatic) right out of college: computer science is hot, accounting is good, an MBA is good too.”

    @ Michael A. Robinson

    The art and museum sector is very poorly attended to in China. It does have virtually zero public funding, but the sector is in need of qualified professionals – there is terribly low levels of expertise in heritage, arts policy advisory, etc etc etc. Though low levels of industry know how doesn’t necessarily equate to there being jobs, i would put my money on a masters graduate in Art History getting a job more easily in Beijing than a masters graduate from a comparable university with a masters in Business.

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  11. Though low levels of industry know how doesn’t necessarily equate to there being jobs, i would put my money on a masters graduate in Art History getting a job more easily in Beijing than a masters graduate from a comparable university with a masters in Business.

    I would agree with this. If everyone is running after the obvious there are probably stacks of money (and prestige) in going after the fruit that is a little higher on the tree. I’ve seen historical areas, museums and, well– anything old– in China and there are crowds. Swarms of people paying 一百块 to get in, or just to have a look. All of that adds up.

    As the government continues to hold on to their power they will continually point to nationalism and history to do so. A curator at a museum could hit the jackpot while all those scientists and businessmen fight over 水稻.

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  12. This isn’t much different than Korean or Indian students, or students from most of East Asia. As other’s have noted, the extremely high fees mean that students MUST justify their overseas study with a “relevant” degree. After all, if they want their parents to foot the bill for four years of study, these parents aer hardly going to be willing to do so for kids who major in gender studies or art history.

    Besides, except for the very very best of the lot, their English skills just aren’t up to the coursework that humanities requires. The business colleges are full of courses chock full of familiar terms and business jargon, as opposed to the sometimes esoteric and EXTREMELY western philosophy based programs of the humanities and social sciences.

    For me, and I assume for most others, this article might be much more relevant if – oh God, if only – the clique-ish behavior of CHinese students differed somehow from other Asians, or for westerners, for that matter. I’d bet the rent that the westerners who go to CHina to study are 90% in less than a dozen cities… all of which have pubs and discos where they hang out (nearly exclusively) with each other on the weekend.

    Is this article being held up as something relavant, as post bait, to be mocked? Curious why this sort of freshman 101 writing made it to this good blog.

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  13. There is another dimension to this topic, which is the whole chain of $ parasitism which guides the student thru the process of overseas study.

    Here I am writing of the average situation, not the filthy Beijing/Shanghai wealthy.

    There are a limited number of registered agents existing in each province – 6 in Fujian for example – who organise documentation which clears the way for the granting of the overseas visa. These agents get kickbacks from notaries for their business, health insurance providers in the west, etc, plus their fee.

    This web of backscratching corruption has its western counterpart in the International Student Affairs depts who work hand in glove with the above. Okay, said student is advised to go for that old tried and true 4/5 study program International Business Law and Commerce (or some such variant). In tubbyland it comes to about $18,000 per year, not to mention food and housing, plus all the outlays before landing at the airport. The first years tuition goes into paying off all the facilitators before the uni in question turns a credit.

    Whole business-international studies departments depend upon Indian and Asian student numbers to remain financially viable. If lecturers maintained academic standards of some 20/30 years ago, many of these os students would simply fail, but now that short-term staff contracts are tied to the bottom line, total failure/student exclusion is a rare event indeed. Consequently, staff are dispirited, standards are shit and plagiarisation is rife.

    But you cannot put it all down to student stupidity. IELTS 6 in no way prepares an Asian student for a tertiary course in an internationally rated uni. Parents also put their children thru this process in the hope that their offspring can acquire pr and later full citizenship…the weasel route made possible by unclear immigration rules of the host country.

    Don’t get me started. If I was a Chinese parent I would send my son/daughter to a decent HK uni. Standards are better than the average Western uni, and I could keep a close eye on my investment.

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  14. I agree with Xu Zhiyuan’s characterization of Chinese students in the U.S. I spent 8 years at Harvard, and most of the Chinese graduate students I came into contact with were hard working, insular, extremely quiet in seminar, and apparently uninterested in anything beyond the immediate demands of school. In addition, when given half a chance, most were also extremely patriotic and critical (if not downright hostile) of the U.S. A few also complained bitterly of the racism they believed they encountered – at the supermarket, in restaurants, from classmates, at Harvard’s international students office, etc. (In all my years in the U.S., I’ve never experienced a single instance of racism directed at me – not one.)

    After years of English study in China and nearly a decade of graduate school at Harvard, many Chinese students can still not speak or write English very well. Many Chinese graduate students spend time with their American counterparts only when absolutely necessary, preferring instead the company of other Chinese and the Chinese language internet.

    I immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager and attended high school in Boston. On occasion, my English fluency, obvious comfort with the American style of classroom instruction, and easy relationships with classmates and professors, made me a target of suspicion – even derision – among some of my Chinese classmates.

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  15. Sorry but everything sounds fine to me so far. Why is not studying humanity looked down upon? A lot of Chinese study a certain set of subjects and that’s that. You can formulate hypothesis about all the causal linkages, social economic hypotheses etc while the Chinese continue on with what they happen to be doing. These are regarded as valid intellectual discourses in the universities. They are simply being distasteful in monotonously not breaking any rule of academic formation.

    The part about integration is even more ludicrous. One doesn’t have to accept a world to start studying kant, adorno or black-scholes. It’s hardly more than an aesthetic orientation. Being cosmopolitan is not one of the a priori ontological conditions for being an academic, is it? While delimiting the horizon of their perspective may seem unfortunate to some, I suppose a Chinese has the option of feeling bored by the homogeneity at cambridge, harvard or whatever. Alternatively, they may not be open enough simply because they don’t happen to be.

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  16. Good lord, when the overseas Chinese students piped up and contradicted the prevailing anti-China sentiment before Beijing Olympics, they were labled “angry youth”, “50 cent party”. Now they choose to be ordinarily indifferent, they are faulted for not overthowing their government for us.

    Free will is a b!tch ain’t it?

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  17. Let’s just be blunt: Chinese people are pragmatic by nature, as are immigrants in general. Of course, people want a well paid job when they decide to go into the sciences or finance fields. Contrary to Asian stereotypes, I’m awful at math, mediocre at science, but excel in history and English composition. Regardless, I majored in economics for practical reasons.

    Unfortunately, the bit about Chinese students forming cliques is simply too prevalent for me to discount as mere generalization. I was in a few myself until my senior years at high school. Stinky’s experiences up there are almost a mirror of my own. Apparently not being insular and passive-aggressive all the time made the other Chinese kids really uncomfortable and resentful…

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  18. Honestly I don’t get all of the articles about China which make Chinese look like exceptions. Chinese exchange students don’t mingle with the rest? Could it be that many if not most of them are grad students who already have families of their own and/or don’t have time/money to party? I know that’s my parent’s reason for not hanging out with too many Americans when they were grad students at NYU. First generation immigrants typically stick by their own groups. When I went to grad school I hang out with Koreans because they loved to drink, and sometimes the Japanese group because I married one, but it’s not like these groups mingled much with outside groups either.

    On the other hand I don’t find Americans/British to be all that much different in China. They stick by their own circles, never venturing out of their safe zones. Most of them can barely speak Chinese after many years of staying in China. On their affinity towards their own government, even the Americans/brit expats who are critical of their own government at home still defend their mother nations when Chinese people criticize their politics.

    Regarding the subject of their studies, I find Chinese to be quite a bit more into music than most other international groups (the big exception is Japanese, who apparently love to send their kids to study music at places like Berkeley School of Music). At least you can easily find tons of professional Chinese violin/piano players. This makes sense, up until very recently the major of the Chinese international students came to the US per government grant. They don’t cover subjects like creative literature and african american history. Indians actually send even more students to study in the US but despite Bollywood’s well known musicals/movies how many Indian grad students can you find who are not in computer science/medical/MBA fields?

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  19. @ LOLZ

    Chinese grad students are typically very young, and normally have never been out of a learning institution.

    If we’re talking about Americans/British students in China, then almost all of them come here to study Chinese (since the universities are third rate at best for any other topic.)

    In regards to Chinese and classical music, while on paper its technically within the arts, IMO Chinese parents regard classical music as an easy one-stop-shop for signifying taste and civility. You won’t see many Chinese students learning jazz or contemporary composition for example. don’t get me wrong, I actually used to be a classical pianist myself, and I love the music, but classical music in China carries a different meaning to what it does in most other countries.

    Unless some real research is done on the topic I don’t think we can really talk about the habits of Chinese students meaningfully.

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  20. “classical music in China carries a different meaning to what it does in most other countries. ”

    I disagree. It carries the same meaning in Korea and Japan at least. Classical music is mostly used to exemplify a good upbringing and is viewed as a status symbol of sorts. Tennis was the other fad at the time, now the trend has became golf. When I was growing up my parents made me play piano mostly because all other well to do asians in the neighborhood were doing exactly the same, for the exactly same reasons. The fact that you don’t see too many Asians (besides the Japanese) doing jazz probably has more to do with their personal tastes and the general market. Most Chinese have yet to be introduced to jazz so how do you expect them to appreciate it.

    “Unless some real research is done on the topic I don’t think we can really talk about the habits of Chinese students meaningfully.”

    True, although if you apply this logic to China blogs in general there wouldn’t be much content left. Most topics use specific examples to generalize a larger picture without additional research to back up the more general conclusions.

    However, there are many logical explanations for some of the observations made in this piece just based on common sense. For example, this article grips about Chinese foreign students’ affinity to the Chinese government. If you look at the age of the average Chinese student (likely in the mid 20s), most of them were born in the 80s and early 90s where they have witnessed significant growth in their lifetimes. The fact that they are in foreign countries to study already put them within the top tier in China. Why do the Western folks expect them to be anti-Chinese government is beyond me. If anything you would expect the migrants working in the cities, or farmers who got their land taken away to be a lot more hostile to the government. But these people typically are not represented in the overseas student population.

    If there are topics which need to be researched, they would be ideas like: that financial liberation will generally lead to political liberation; that political liberation is generally good countries; that people always want political freedom over political stability. We hear these concepts all the time when it comes to justifying the West’s opening up of China. However due to political correctness political scientists tend to stay away from anything which may indicate that some people simply don’t value freedom all that much. The typical explanation for this is “Chinese nationalists are forcing/brainwashing others into nationalists”. Really? Where is the research on that?

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  21. “On the other hand I don’t find Americans/British to be all that much different in China. They stick by their own circles, never venturing out of their safe zones.”

    During my few years in China I found that non-Chinese stuck together more than people of the same nationality stuck together. Given that the distinction between Chinese and non-Chinese is delineated so clearly in the language and thoughts of people, foreigners in China from a variety of nationalities immediately have a bonding agent to help bring them together during their stay in the country. My friends and I were American, Pakistani, German, French, British, Canadian, Australian, Kiwi, Bangladeshi, Thai, and Dutch, but to the vast majority of people in China we were simply foreigners from Foreignland. Although all of us had Chinese friends as well, we still spent a good deal of time with one another. However, our grouping wasn’t as homogeneous as one might expect.

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  22. I know quite a lot of undergraduate and MBA students studying in the US from China who fit quite a lot of the descriptions everyone has mention so far.

    However, for graduate students in the sciences and engineering, I will be very frank with you. It is extremely hard for anyone to complete the program (in the US), if they aren’t serious or enjoy it to some degree. Whatever their motives maybe (perhaps wanting to be an instructor, researcher, entrepreneur, etc.) for all the Chinese and non-Chinese students in the US studying those subjects at that level do deserve a little more respect than what most people give to Chinese students in general. While there’s a lot of dark sides of many students, such as their command of English or reliance on methods which would be considered as plain cheating, almost no one would be able to finish their graduate degrees in the sciences and engineering without their utmost effort.

    Most often, at the graduate level, the social activities are already limited in many ways, regardless of their nationality or origin. If students can’t afford or don’t really have the time for such social activities, no one can really blame them. For those who do, and insists on hanging out with their own, well, that is their lost. It’s really no one’s business to be honest.

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  23. Keeping to one’s own? Wow obviously you’ve never met the Japanese.

    When it comes to sociology issues such as the group mentality, “keeping to one’s own”, etc., the Chinese are mostly like their neighbors.

    Yet because of China’s political system, every discussion about why the Chinese are like this or that has to involve the CCP.

    Learn to distinguish, please.

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  24. @ jc.yin: “I find this last sentence to be extremely insulting to overseas Chinese students. As one myself, this sentence makes it sound as if Chinese students are some kind of extreme fascist agents who study overseas simply for the sake of working in the Public Security Bureau or some other state security organ.”

    So what have you done to help make China better?

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  26. oh come on, stop this bullshit. I know the government is not the liberal minded people but it is better to have a stable one than none. This article talks about all the “heroes” of the early 20th century like Zhu Guangqian,Jeme Tien Yow, Sun Yat-sen, and Liang Ssu-ch’eng. Have all of you forgotten what happen afterward, civil wars, warlords, being exploited by the might U.S and U.k. You guys are too naive to think the west are all about “human rights” and “democracy”. They are like every other empire, to domain others. There is a saying in the west “with friends like you who needs enemy”.

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  27. @Danny

    “While there’s a lot of dark sides of many students, such as their command of English or reliance on methods which would be considered as plain cheating, almost no one would be able to finish their graduate degrees in the sciences and engineering without their utmost effort.”

    Nobody deserves to pass a course, no matter how talented they are, if they cheat. The pathetic state Chinese academia is in is partly due to a slack attitude around this.

    Like

  28. @Danny: I wonder what you mean by “there’s a lot of dark sides of many students”, or that “reliance on methods which would be considered as plain cheating”. Are you implying that most Chinese students overseas cheat their way to success?

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  29. Back in Finland Chinese students do have their own groups but they do also have Finns as their friends. And also some chinese has joined to student union activities. Of course not all of them.

    I would say vietnamese students have their own big group in Finland and doesn’t want to communicate with others. Of course some of them do that. Well… Africans and Indians have their groups also.

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