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More Chinese students turning to Belt and Road countries

by September 21, 2017 General

A growing number of Chinese students have been choosing to study in the Belt and Road countries including Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar since China’s Belt and Road initiative was proposed in 2013.

Statistics from the Ministry of Education showed that China had signed 45 agreements on education cooperation with Belt and Road countries by the end of April. Diplomas issued by Chinese universities and 24 universities from these countries are mutually recognized, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

More than 350,000 Chinese students have studied in countries along the Belt and Road since 2012, with some 11,900 of them sponsored by the Chinese government, said Vice Minister of Education Tian Xuejun, according to Xinhua.

In addition, 3,454 Chinese students have studied local languages in Belt and Road countries since 2012.

Due to their lower tuition fees and similar culture, Belt and Road countries, especially ASEAN countries, will attract more Chinese students to study and work there in the future, analysts said.

New destinations

Wang Ge, a Thai teacher and admission consultant for Thai universities in Kunming, Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, said that more people in the past year or two studied Thai for their bachelor’s and master’s studies in Thailand.

“Many parents and students said that they chose Thailand because they saw the opportunity of China’s Belt and Road initiative, which greatly increased the cultural and economic cooperation between China and Thailand,” Wang told the Global Times.

Another reason is that more of Thailand’s private universities have come to China for recruitment in the past two years and some have even set up offices in Yunnan, Wang said.

According to the website of the Chinese Embassy in Thailand, over 8.7 million Chinese visited Thailand and some 30,000 Chinese students studied in Thailand in 2016.

Many Chinese students apply for majors including management, marketing and Thai language, Wang said. He majored in Thai during his undergraduate studies in Thailand from 2011 to 2015.

“The tuition fee was only 35,000 yuan per year, and my four years’ tuition fee in total is less than the fee in the US for one year,” Wang said.

In addition to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have also witnessed a growing number of Chinese students.

“There have been about 10,000 Chinese students applying for universities in Malaysia each year since 2011, and previously the number was only a few thousand. Many chose to study hotel management and MBA,” an agent surnamed Gu in Shanghai told the Global Times.

She said that her company could help students get admitted into 18 private Malaysian universities, and all the lectures in the 18 universities were delivered in English.

“Studying in Malaysia is like studying in the US or Britain, but with much less expenditure,” Gu said.

Many universities from the Belt and Road countries have opened Chinese social media accounts to promote their teaching programs and answer related questions from potential Chinese students.

Meanwhile, Chinese universities have launched exchange programs with their counterparts from the Belt and Road countries.

The Yunnan Vocational College of Judicial Police in Kunming sent 28 students majoring in Burmese to study at the University of Yangon this year. The college launched the exchange program with the University of Yangon in 2011, according to the college’s website.

Teachers from the Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology in East China’s Jiangsu Province visited several universities and high schools in Laos this year and discussed various exchange programs.

Closer communication

Chinese analysts believe that Chinese students influenced by the Belt and Road initiative who decide to apply for universities in Belt and Road countries will further boost the project.

“The initiative allows more Chinese to become familiar with Belt and Road countries and makes it possible for not just the rich to access overseas studies,” Hu Xingdou, deputy president of the Global One Belt and One Road Association and an economics professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, told the Global Times.

ASEAN states are the core of the Belt and Road countries, and Chinese students studying in these countries can boost educational cooperation, cultural communication, tourism and economic ties between China and these countries, he said.

In the first five months of this year, China-ASEAN trade rose 16.2 percent year on year, and trade between the two sides reached $452.2 billion in 2016, according to Xinhua.

Hu said that compared with the mainstream destinations for overseas studies such as the U.S. and UK, Chinese enjoy a higher political status in ASEAN countries.

“Many Chinese can easily find work after finishing their further studies in those countries, and some may even enter the political arena,” Hu said.

Wang taught Chinese for two years at Thai primary and middle schools during his years in Thailand, adding that the country is in need of Chinese language teachers.