Visitors at the 2018 China Education Expo. (Photo/China Education Association for International Exchange)
Over the past four decades, China has seen nearly 5.2 million students traveling overseas to go to school or university, while 3.1 million of them have since returned home to chase their dreams.
73.9 percent of overseas returnees moved back to China after 2012 when the Communist Party of China held its 18th National Congress. This group of people have made a massive contribution to China’s development in all fields including science, education, economy and culture.
The influx of returning students can be attributed to the economic progress and competitiveness that China has achieved. The Chinese mainland jumped seven places on the 2017 World Competitiveness Yearbook, published by Lausanne’s International Institute for Management Development.
Robin Li, founder of China’s tech firm Baidu, is a well-known example. After studying and working in the US for years, he chose to move back to China to start his own business. Establishing Baidu in Zhongguancun, Beijing’s tech hub, Li has achieved tremendous accomplishments both personally and for the country. Now, Baidu owns the world’s largest Chinese research engine.
As with many other overseas returnees, Li believes that China provides unprecedented opportunities. “Our customers’ needs are changing, and China offers the best stage for top talents to change the world through technology,” he said.
A passion for serving the country is another factor that draws Chinese students back from foreign countries. Yan Wangjia, the founder of an information technology company, told People’s Daily Overseas Edition that she felt happy to be contributing to the country. Nobody wants to be a bystander to his or her national development, she added.
While experiencing a transition from an overseas study craze to an influx of overseas returnees, China is also emerging as Asia’s largest destination for international students thanks to its rising soft power.
Statistics from the Ministry of Education showed that the number of international students in China increased from 1,200 in 1978 to over 480,000 last year. In 2017, 935 Chinese universities enrolled students from 204 countries and regions, with about 75,800 studying for masters or doctoral degrees, up 18.62 percent from the previous year.
As the Chinese government continues to offer scholarships to international students, China’s universities are attracting talents at higher levels. In 2017, 58,600 students from 180 countries enjoyed scholarships provided by the Chinese government, accounting for 11.97 percent of the total. 40,800 of them were enrolled in masters or Ph.D. programs, up 20.06 percent year-on-year.
One scholarship recipient, a Beninese student surnamed Musi, said that China was developing very fast, and the country’s education was also of high quality. He explained that studying in China was his dream, adding, “I hope I can contribute to China-Africa friendship and my hometown through what I have learned in China.”