OPINION / OBSERVER
China should continue to enroll more foreign students
Published: Jul 14, 2019 08:10 PM
Several recent cases in which foreign students were preferentially treated have raised public concern over "privileges" international students are given in China. It's true that in the process of promoting the internationalization of China's higher education, quite a few Chinese universities and colleges regard the number of international students as an important indicator to gauge the level of their internationalization. 

They tried to lure more students from abroad by lowering enrollment standards, offering their preferential treatment including better living facilities and generous scholarships, and giving them the green light to some practices their Chinese counterparts are forbidden from doing such as absenteeism. However, does that mean China should change its policy of attracting more international students? The answer is no. 

Over the past few years, China has stepped up its efforts in bringing in more students from abroad. Back in September 2010, the Ministry of Education outlined a plan with the goal to increase the number of full-time international students in the Chinese mainland education system to 500,000 annually by 2020. Striving to attract more international students is, and should be, a policy that China has to long adhere to.

For China, hosting more international students is of particular importance, especially at a time when Western bias against China's political system is deep-rooted and outside views on China can be easily influenced by negative Western reports that play up China's weakness and exaggerate its potential as a regional threat. International students can gain a better understanding of the Chinese political system, culture, economic model and values and so on by studying in the country, and act as a bridge between China and their home countries, offering a new channel for people in their own countries to know the true picture of China. 

More importantly, China has made remarkable development achievements since its reform and opening-up. Those studying in China, especially those from other developing countries including African countries and Southeast Asian countries, could learn development experience from China. 

China over the past decades has cultivated generations of outstanding students for foreign countries, be they from developing or developed countries.

Over 3,300 military students from over 100 countries reportedly graduated from the PLA Nanjing Army Command College, which is founded in 1952. Among them, five became president, one became vice president, one was elected prime minister and eight served as defense ministers. 

With the advancing of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China should further strengthen cultural and educational links with countries along the BRI routes. The current public uproar against preferential treatment of international students should be taken seriously. 

The universities and colleges should continue to increase their attractiveness to international students, as it is important to their self-development, enhance state-to-state cultural exchanges and build up China's soft power. 

But noticeably, the best way to achieve this is to improve the quality of their education rather than treating foreign students with excessive care. They cannot become more attractive and competitive by just offering "privileges" to international students.


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