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UPDATED: May 11, 2015 Web Exclusive
Studying in China
More and more foreign students are coming to China to learn about the country
By Wang Hairong

Students of the International MBA program of Beijing Normal University visit an exhibition of farming tools and items used by Yantian villagers decades ago on April 19 (WANG HAIRONG)

Lotus Mountain rises more than 500 meters above sea level to pierce the sky. Its summit commands a breath-taking view of the center of Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong Province.

Standing in front of a wall on the mountain, Hu Biliang, Dean of the Emerging Markets Institute of Beijing Normal University, read out the words inscribed on it to his students: "Shenzhen's development and experience prove that our policy to establish special economic zones was correct." The words were written by late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, the father of China's reform and opening-up policy.

In 1980, it was Deng who made the decision to assign Shenzhen the status of a special economic zone. Now, a huge bronze statue of him stands on Lotus Mountain.

A museum in the park exhibits pictures showcasing Shenzhen's development during the past 35 years from a small fishing village to one of the most prosperous cities in the country. Hu's students were struck by the stark contrast between pictures taken in the past and those taken recently.

Hu, accompanied by his foreign students who are from 14 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, visited Shenzhen in April to observe the successful experience of the city in terms of reform and opening up.

All of the 28 students are studying the International MBA (IMBA) program in Beijing Normal University. The students' tuition and living expenses are covered by scholarships offered by the Chinese Government.

From April 19 to 23, the students made a field-trip to Yantian Village of Fenggang Town in Guangdong Province and the nearby cities of Dongguan and Shenzhen to learn about the area's social and economic development.

The IMBA program's curriculum requires two field trips, one to an economically advanced area and one to a less-developed rural area so that students can gain a balanced and in-depth understanding of the country's development.

A rewarding experience

"The trip was a great opportunity for me," said Thaneshor Paneru after visiting Yantian Village. He is a student from Nepal and an employee of the Government of Nepal Revenue Office.

"The chemistry of foreign investment and migrant workers together with the hard work of the local people made Yantian what it is today," he said.

Yantian, adjacent to Shenzhen and across water from Hong Kong, is one of the most affluent villages in Guangdong. In the 1980s and 1990s, an influx of foreign direct investment and labor from inland China fueled the growth of manufacturing industry in the village. During the past 10 years, village leaders, realizing the constraint of limited land resources and increasingly fiercer industrial competition, made efforts to diversify its economic structure by expanding into real estate development, finance and other service sectors.

In the village, students listened to briefings given by the village's leaders about its development process and future plan. They also visited Dongguan Shinano Motor Company, a Japanese-ventured company, and the privately-owned Southern Medical University Guangji Hospital as well as New Century School and other facilities in the village.

Elikem Kevin Kofigah, a student from Ghana and a civil servant in his country, was impressed with the scale and amenities of New Century School. "It is a nice place to stay and learn," he commented.

The school has been rated one of the Top 10 Private Schools of Guangdong. It covers an area of about 300,000 square meters and enrolls more than 3,000 students, including more than 200 from Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and foreign countries.

In addition to studying the economic development of the village, students also learned about the village's governance.

Dayvan Carey, a student from the Bahamas, was particularly interested in this topic.

"The village is managed by three teams: the village committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), an elected five-member village committee, and a village collective development company," explained Deng Fengxing, Director of the village's general office.

The village CPC committee steers the work of the two other management teams. The village committee mainly administers public services such as education, health, as well as both social and public security, while the village development company primarily makes investment and business development decisions for the village.

While labor is divided between the three management teams, they consult and coordinate with each other in decision making and some members of one team also serve concurrently in one or both of the other teams.

Decisions on major issues such as infrastructure construction should be discussed at joint meetings and voted on by representatives of villagers.

Yantian Village's leadership also demonstrates a pretty high degree of transparency. A large bulletin board at the center of village discloses detailed information about the village's revenue and expenses.

"The success of Yantian Village is truly an amazing feat, displaying great leadership and foresight. It offered a great learning experience," said Johnny Mek Kokia, a lawyer from Papua New Guinea.

Foreign students in China

The students in Hu's class began their one-year program in the fall of 2014. They study China's economy, history, political development and other general courses such as statistics. This handful of bright, young academics are just a small portion of all the foreign students in China.

In 2014, a total of 377,054 foreign students from 203 countries and regions outside China's mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan were studying in China, up 5.77 percent from the year 2013, according to data released by China's Ministry of Education in March.

They were enrolled in 775 educational organizations including institutes of higher learning and research institutes. Of the total, 43.6 percent were in degree programs, including 12.7 percent pursuing postgraduate degrees.

The top 15 source countries of these foreign students were South Korea, the United States, Thailand, Russian, Japan, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, France, Viet Nam, Germany, Mongolia, Malaysia and the UK.

Most of the students study in large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin and in provinces with rich educational resources such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Liaoning, Shandong, Hubei, Heilongjiang and Fujian.

The Ministry of Education's survey showed that universities charge foreign students an average annual tuition of about 20,000 yuan ($3,226), 25,000 yuan ($4,032) and 32,000 yuan ($5,161) for bachelor, master and doctoral degree programs respectively.

Of all the students, 9.8 percent were sponsored by a Chinese Government Scholarship.

Better understanding through education

Educational exchange is a component of public diplomacy. Countries seek to strengthen cooperation through educational exchanges.

On April 22, while addressing the Asian-African Summit held in Jakarta, Indonesia, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that "in the next five years, China will offer 100,000 training opportunities for candidates from developing countries in Asia and Africa and host the annual Asia-Africa Youth Festival, inviting a total of 2,000 Asian and African youth to China."

On July 18, 2014, during the China-Latin American and Caribbean Countries Leaders (CELAC)' Meeting, President Xi announced that, "the competent departments of China have started to work on the provision of 6,000 government scholarships and 6,000 training opportunities to CELAC members in the coming five years." In addition, China planned to invite 1,000 leaders of political parties from Latin American and Caribbean countries to visit China as well as the "Bridge for the Future" training program that will involve 1,000 young leaders from China and Latin American and Caribbean countries."

On July 10, 2014, the 100,000 Strong Foundation, housed at the American University in Washington, D.C., announced that more than 100,000 American students had studied in China since 2010. The foundation was set up in response to President Barack Obama's call, made in 2009 during his first visit to China, for 100,000 Americans to study in China by the end of 2014. The foundation's mission is to strengthen U.S.-China relations and ensure that the next generation of Americans is equipped to engage effectively with China. It believes that its best ambassadors are the American students who have studied in China and learned about the Chinese culture, language and people first hand.

In 2013, the UK launched Generation UK-China, a British Council program, which aims to send 80,000 British students to study or intern in China by 2020. The British Council said that experience in China is an excellent investment in a student's future.

According to a press release of the British Government dated May 27, 2014, British Business Secretary Vince Cable said, the global center of gravity is shifting eastward to major economic powerhouses like China. Citing new independent research showing that a lack of language skills including Mandarin Chinese in the UK is costing the economy about £48 billion, he said "I don't want young British people to get left behind."

To facilitate educational exchanges, China has signed degree and diploma recognition agreements with 41 countries and regions that would allow qualifications and awards to be valid in both countries.

Chinese universities are launching more programs for foreign students. Shanghai Summer School, launched in 2008 in more than 10 universities in the city, offers summer courses on Chinese language and culture from June to August. This summer, Shanghai Summer School is going to start a new program to attract 20 students from countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.

Table Foreign Students in China by Sources, 2014


Number of Students

Percentage of Total

Growth From the Previous Year





















(Source: The Ministry of Education of China)

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