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Transforming China from within: Chinese Students Head to American Universities

September 22, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Beijing—China’s economy is growing. So is the country’s university system. However, the latter still lags behind the U.S. and other Western nations. With few spots available at top schools, Chinese students increasingly are heading to America for higher education.

While recently playing tourist in Beijing I spoke to a number of young Chinese. They tend to be bright and inquisitive, ambitious and nationalistic. They worry about finding good jobs and are irritated by government restrictions on their freedom. For many the U.S. offers the yellow brick road to the fabled Emerald City. This educational exodus benefits Americans as well as Chinese.

The People’s Republic of China is the world’s most populous nation with, by some calculations, the world’s largest economy. It continues to gain international influence. Much depends on where the PRC is headed.

But no one knows where that is. Economic problems loom: official growth rates are overstated, “ghost” cities abound, overextended banks threaten, state enterprises distort development. The “one child” policy has created a demographic cliff: the PRC’s workforce is shrinking and China might grow old before it grows rich.

Chinese politics also is unsettled. President Xi Jinping launched a far-reaching campaign against corruption and targeted a number of party potentates. However, observers disagree whether he is becoming a modern emperor or facing a dramatic fall.

The PRC has become the largest exporter of students around the world.”

Despite the unsettled environment at home, Beijing has become more assertive, even confrontational, abroad. China has increasingly challenged several of its neighbors over contested territories in the Sea of Japan and South China Sea. The PRC’s relations with North Korea and Taiwan are even more complicated. Most important, Beijing is no longer willing to defer to the U.S.

However, China’s global influence depends upon domestic economic growth and political stability. And that ultimately depends upon China’s young. Do they want open markets or state leadership for the economy? Do they want a liberal or an authoritarian society? Do they want continued peaceful international rise or are they prepared to risk war to achieve national ends?

China’s university students today are most likely to become the PRC’s leaders tomorrow. Beijing is investing about $250 billion annually in higher education. Over the last decade the number of universities has doubled to more than 2400. The number of college graduates has increased to seven million, a four-fold jump over the same period. The comparable U.S. number is roughly three …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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