Huawei case casts shadow over Canada-bound students

By Wang Yi Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/18 21:50:03

Staff at overseas-study agencies take wary attitude on recommendations

An education exhibition for studying in Canada held in Beijing on October 20 Photo: VCG

Tensions between China and Canada over the detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou have stirred new worries among Chinese parents who planned to send their children to study in Canada.

Chinese study abroad agencies are taking defensive measures such as  promoting Canada programs less enthusiastically than before, industry insiders said.

People-to-people exchange businesses like tourism and education will incur significant losses from possible sudden deterioration in relations based on similar diplomatic incidents in the past, these sources said.

The detention has caused a diplomatic spat between the two countries, and uncertainty over the China-Canada relationship caused by the incident has cast a shadow on China's study abroad agencies.

A Beijing-based industry insider surnamed Li, who has worked at study abroad agencies for years, told the Global Times on Tuesday that his agency has removed Canada projects from important positions on the company's homepage. Several friends in other companies told him that their companies were taking similar measures.

"These wait-and-see approaches are often used as temporary measures to deal with policy uncertainties. If the spat gets worse, we could limit our losses in this way," Li said.

In recent years, Canada was among the most popular study abroad destinations for Chinese students. From 2008 to 2017, the total number of Chinese students studying in Canada increased by as much as 226 percent, according to a report issued by EIC Education in August.

In 2017, about 141,000 Chinese students were studying in Canada, or 28.4 percent of the total number of international students there, the report said.

Including visiting scholars and short-term exchange programs, the total number of Chinese students studying in Canada was 186,000 in 2016, according to information released by China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) in March.

According to the Canadian authorities' estimated expenditure of C$31,000 ($23,114) per year per international student, Chinese students contributed about C$5.77 billion, MOFCOM said.

However, education agencies' wariness could have an impact on Chinese students and their parents.

"Education agencies' customer services staff might skip Canada when they first recommend destinations to new clients," Li said.

A study abroad adviser at EIC Education told the Global Times on Tuesday that previously, Chinese parents' major concern was Canadian legalization of marijuana. Now there's a new worry.

A mother of a high school graduating girl surnamed Zhang who went to Canada in May to make preparations for the girl's overseas study in 2019 said on Tuesday that their plans may change.

Zhang studied in an international high school in Beijing.

"Although we still don't know if the spat will have a negative impact on average people like us, we do worry that Canada might tighten its visa policies," the mother said.

"It would be unbearable if parents can't go to the country to visit their children who are studying abroad for such reasons." she said. "In the WeChat parents group, other parents also have similar concerns."

Canada doesn't seem irreplaceable in China's competitive education market.

"Cost, application requirements, and the international ranks of the university are the major factors influencing families' choices. Europe is promoting its education business harder by offering tailored packages for Chinese students," Li said.

"Not many families only consider sending their children to Canada, and in most cases they made their choice with the assistance of education advisers," Li added.

"Their decisions are highly likely to be influenced if agencies take a wary attitude because of the bilateral tension over the Huawei case."


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