Why So Many Chinese Students Come to America

Why So Many Chinese Students Come to America

This video is sponsored by Skillshare. Use the link in the description to watch my
course or thousands of others with a free two-month trial. In 2018, the U.S. imported $540 billion worth
of goods from China, but exported only 120. In response, President Trump imposed tariffs,
immediately shaking the Chinese, American, and, therefore, world, economies. But while the trade war defines today’s
economy, another deficit will decide tomorrow’s. In the 2017-18 school year, 363,000 Chinese
students came to study in the U.S., while only 24,000 Americans went to China. This, on the surface, isn’t all that surprising. What’s weird – really weird – is how fast
it happened. All of a sudden, starting in 2007, Chinese
students in the U.S. absolutely exploded, accounting for 93% of all international student
growth in the last decade. More students come from China to America than
the next six countries combined, including India, despite having almost the same size
population. So, why so many? Why so sudden? And is the U.S. right to worry about incoming
spies? The answer has less to do with academics and
more with economics, complex social dynamics, and, above all, politics. On June 7th, Chinese cities become… eerily
quiet. Traffic is as busy as ever but no horns are
honking, stress is collectively unusually high, free water bottles are handed out, and
drones watch overhead. Today, tomorrow, and sometimes, on a third
day, 10 million students across China take the National Higher Education Entrance Exam,
aka the Gaokao, aka, the most important nine hours of a Chinese person’s life. The test covers Chinese language and literature,
math, foreign language (usually English), and a choice of social or natural science. The top roughly 7-million scorers are admitted
to college, and a select few are offered places in the C9 – mainland China’s equivalent
to the Ivy-League. But unlike the SAT, AP, or IB, Gaokao scores
are really the only factor in Chinese college admissions. The first 18 years of your life, therefore,
are dedicated to preparation. Leading up to the big test, parents burn incense,
pray, and book hotels near the exam to avoid traffic. Students sometimes study with IV drips. Some, known as “Gaokao migrants”, travel
to other provinces with higher admissions quotas in hopes of having a slight advantage. When the day finally comes, provincial governments
order quiet streets for concentration and fly drones to catch cheaters. Supporters of the Gaokao say it levels the
playing field – creating a meritocracy wherein any student, from any geographic or socioeconomic
part of China has the same opportunity for social mobility. Critics, in turn, argue a level playing field
is only ever an illusion – that success is handed to those with families wealthy enough
to afford private tutors. Like continued middle-class growth, the national
exam is both a practical and political tool for maintaining stability – shifting questions
of who has power and who is entitled to riches onto the individual. The extreme, sometimes insurmountable stress,
they say, doesn’t even produce good citizens or employees. While Chinese students rank very highly in
math and science, they’re often seen as lacking in other skills like creative and
critical thinking, a side effect of their rigid education system. Classrooms are dominated by the teacher, who
lectures behind a podium to a sea of totally-silent students expected to memorize as much as possible. To ask questions is both to disrespect your
teacher and admit to your peers that you don’t understand the material. Finally, discipline is placed above all else,
with low performers at one high school not being allowed air conditioning. For any number of these reasons, some, disenchanted
parents seek a way out. If their child performs poorly on his or her
high school entrance exam, rather than lose face, families may place them in international
schools, designed to prepare them for exams like the SAT, instead. Others pursue an education abroad with the
intent of eventually migrating the whole family, or, simply, for more opportunity. The perception is that, while school in China
is more intense up until the Gaokao, afterward, students feel they’ve satisfied their family’s
expectations and can relax at university, whereas American college is when students
start getting serious. In other words, students leave China on their
parents’ suggestion, who usually pay their tuition. And pay, do they! There are English lessons, extracurriculars
for admissions, exam fees, and travel costs. On top of that, families pay agencies about
$10,000 per child for help in the process. In other words, this is only possible thanks
to China’s rising, newly-wealthy middle-class, and the demographics which leave parents with
only one child to pay for – and, more importantly, only one chance to get it right. The truly wealthy get started even earlier
– sending their child to an elite American feeder middle school, which can charge up
to 60, $70,000 a year. And when old fashion studying doesn’t work,
upper-class families resort to “gifts” – usually about $250,000, and as much as $6.5
million. There’s one more, unexpected reason Chinese
students come to America… When Deng Xiaoping began opening up the country
in the ’80s and ‘90s, creating thousands of newly rich families, he also, for the first
time, allowed students to study overseas. For this reason, the first international students
who returned to China were its most well-off, launching high-paying, high-profile careers. This association of studying in America and
success in life has never faded. So, while the American Dream may not be alive
and well in America, it certainly is in Beijing. Americans have Louis Vuitton, McMansions,
and Porsche’s. Chinese people have Harvard and Yale. One hospital in central China even named its
maternity wards after Ivy-League schools for good luck. All of these factors help explain this, but
they don’t justify this. Why did it all happen so fast? To answer that, we need to understand how
schools really make money. Broadly speaking, in the U.S., there are two
university business models. The first way a school can make money is simple:
charging students. Private schools are the Apple of education
– they forgo massive market share in exchange for a smaller number of higher-paying students. And, because they attract high-income families,
they can expect good, lifelong customers – aka endowments! On the other hand, the way public schools
pay the bills is a little less obvious. Lower tuition is made up for by state and
federal funding – aka, everyone’s favorite, taxes! Government subsidizing is great – when it’s
great. Low prices grant low-income families access
to a great education. The problem is that state and federal governments
have other priorities and are subject to economic downturns. During the 2008 recession, Americans spent
and made less money, governments collected less revenue, and colleges received less funding. From 2008 to 13, states alone lost out on
$283 billion. Now, ten years later, most of us have long
forgotten the recession – but not universities. Still in 2018, state funding for higher education
was down 13% from before the crisis. So, as government subsidies fell, schools
immediately turned to a new subsidy – international tuition. The current model is one where colleges can
segment prices without appearing to discriminate. In other words, tuition is set very high,
but aid is handed out very generously. The average full-time undergraduate in 2017-18
received nearly $15,000 in total aid. But while something like 85% of students receive
some amount of financial aid, international students almost always pay full price. At Michigan State University, for example,
in-state freshmen pay $25,064 a year for tuition, fees, room, and board. Out-of-state residents pay just over double,
and international students pay $9,133 on top of that. Across America, an international student generates
about twice as much revenue as an in-state resident. Students also complain about a so-called “International
Tax”, where schools place a greater emphasis on English courses to prolong their studies. Increasingly, Chinese students find themselves
caught between two worlds… As more and more students return home, 30%
in 2007, but 80% today, they’re often disappointed by what they find. While English is still very valuable and many
find high-paying jobs in America, the rest, “Haigui”, as they’re known in Chinese,
have a disadvantage. One study found U.S. diploma-holders were
18% less likely to receive a call back from potential employers than Chinese ones. On the other hand, they may also feel isolated
and unwelcome in America. Because schools tend only to keep one or two
dorms open during breaks, during which international students tend to stay on campus, they get
placed in the same dorms, have less opportunity to perfect their language skills, and a harder
time socializing outside their bubble. At the same time, some Chinese students are
experiencing delayed or rejected visas and accusations of espionage. The fear stems from Confucius Institutes or
Chinese Student and Scholars Associations, groups set-up by or associated with China’s
Communist Party on American campuses. Officially, their goal is to help Chinese
students acclimate abroad – like, by organizing parties around Chinese New Year. Chinese embassies also create WeChat groups
to organize students, even paying them to welcome Xi Jinping during his 2015 visit to
Washington. Several Chinese students and faculty have
been arrested or fired in recent years for alleged spying or failing to disclose connections
to China. According to sources, President Trump seriously
considered banning all Chinese students completely, only narrowly deciding against it after an
ambassador pointed out how it would harm American schools. Students in STEM fields, in other words, most
Chinese students, are already subject to additional scrutiny. The truth is, visa issues are not yet widespread,
and the U.S. government has, at times, even encouraged Chinese arrivals, with Trump declaring
“We want to have Chinese students (go) to our great schools and great universities. They are great students and tremendous assets”. Regardless, issues are common enough to create
a perception of risk, leading to an 8% drop of international students in 2018, who increasingly
choose other countries like Canada or affordable Thailand. The University of Illinois went so far as
to take out a $424,000 insurance policy in case of a significant drop in Chinese students. The U.S. can and should be worried about Chinese
influence on campuses. Their free, open-minded approach has the potentially
dangerous side-effect of also creating a vulnerable hole easily filled by nationalist propaganda. There has never been a better time in history
to be wary of China’s influence abroad. But there has also never been a more important
moment to be cautious about conflating a government and its ideology with 1.4 billion individuals. Suspecting everyone of espionage leaves America
economically and culturally weaker, not stronger. Every year, Chinese students contribute $15
billion to the U.S. economy. Education is now Australia’s third-largest
export, more than tourism, and behind only iron and coal. But whether economically useful or not, cultural
exchanges act as a countervailing force to propaganda – both exposing Chinese nationals
to a wider intellectual world and American citizens to foreign cultures. The fact that America has so many high-ranking,
sought-after institutions – where even Xi Jinping sends his daughter – is a massive
diplomatic advantage that risks being wasted if foreigners aren’t welcome. When students return to China, these schools
often constitute their entire conception of America, the one that spreads to friends,
family, and, eventually, decision-makers. Cutting off Chinese students may help win
today’s trade war, but welcoming them is the only way to stop tomorrow’s conflicts
before they even begin. While not everyone can leave their country
and study abroad, we all have access to some of the most interesting classes online with
Skillshare! For example, maybe after watching “The Magic
of In-N-Out”, you want to start your own business – this course can help you create
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free trial using the link in the description. After that, an annual subscription is less
than $10 bucks a month. Thanks to Skillshare, and to you for watching!

54 thoughts on “Why So Many Chinese Students Come to America

  1. Someone earlier noted how different Chinese-Americans are from Chinese themselves. Appearances may be similar, but the differences can be in products owned, languages spoken, skills learned, differences in ideology (in several Marvel superhero movies, the heroes say that so long as the people survive, the culture and the community lives on, while in Chinese movies, the idea of land being essential to the notion of family and home is increased, just look at the word for 'family' or 'home', both of which is the same writing: 家)

    it all depends on what your Asian parents' goals for you to do better than them resulted in as an Asian-American, whether that meant trying multiple sports, studying hard for multiple exams, or wanting you to learn multiple languages or customs or foods to have both.

    But keep in mind that those international students who come to America may not be getting any financial aid, and are potentially hailing from some of the more middle-class/better off families in China. There are still so, so many people in the land of China who have severely less wealth, resources, or basic commodities than that which the vast majority of Americans enjoy. There, their Gaokao exam somewhat defines life and career opportunities to rise up in status/class, to a degree, and university options and reputations there are still growing at a fast rate thanks to government aid. To some degree, rural folk are still integrating with city rules, with regards to cars or traffic rules, and there's a lot to consider when evaluating how different those folks, too, are different from the international students in The States.

  2. I was wondering the same thing!!!😂

    They told me their parents want them to know English and it looks good on their resume. Plus American universities are seen as a privilege to go to. American culture is also popular. I don’t mind international students at all. I like international environments.

  3. After I arrived in the America, I bought a Bentley GT V8 S, because it was very cheap. It only cost me about $130k. You can never buy this model with so little money in China, so I think It is a bargain. But when I drove this to school, my American classmates were very surprised. I didn’t aware of the reason for I always thought that Americans are rich.
    So I asked one of them the reason, and after that I bought a very cheap second-hand Benz the next week and drove this cheap car to school ever since. Feels weird.

  4. Have been in some of those wechat groups for more than 5 years. I can tell you one thing.

    They are, indeed, spy groups.
    Majority of the people in those groups might not be your "conventional James Bond spy" but they would give or sell Chinese government whatever information, confidential or not, whenever they were asked to.

  5. I was wondering why there was so many chinese students at my college lol.
    I kinda find it funny becuase I dont understand what they're talking about when they talk or they always have there phone language is in like chinese(mandarin?) …not that i snoop, but just happen to see it quite often

  6. Add to that changes in Australia's residency legislation in 2007… Education was the pathway to citizenship with the option to have the rest of the family follow later.

  7. 9:20 I have never met a foreign student willing to teach anyone their language, so no, they are not isolated by the university, but they frequently isolate themselves.

  8. 11:07 free, open-minded approach of colleges lead to national propaganda brainwashing? Wtf? I'd like to see a single study that observes an association between the two.

  9. Hey, thanks for making this video. I think this happens too in Australia, I came here to take my masters degree and my class has about 70% Chinese mainland students. I didn't expect that at first but after a while and talking to a few of them they said that university back in China is harder to get into so they got no option but to come here. These people also very rich, and they can buy whatever they want using their parents money. They can easily wear top brands like Prada, Gucci, Balenciaga, or whatever the most expensive brand available.

    Here's the interesting part about some University here at Australia. Some major, they didn't even gives you an admission test, just see your previous academic record and of course, money. Tuition here maybe not as high as in America (IDK tbh, I didn't look at American University tuition so i don't have direct comparison), and therefore it's very easy for them to just pay and make sure their children get into the university here.

    Moving on into the studying part, because the class is 70% Chinese, sometimes they don't bother to communicate in English. While the course delivery is in English, they will talk too each other in Chinese, making class discussion a bit difficult sometimes. Some of these people also doesn't really trying to speak English either. When the lecturer ask them, they could having a hard time answering because they rarely practice using their English.

    So this is my personal experience. REMEMBER, I'M NOT TALKING BAD ABOUT THEM, all I did was highlighting the truth. So, if any of you feel offended, I will apologize in advance. I DO NOT WANT TO OFFEND ANYONE. This is just from my observation. I think if you want to make a video about "Why So Many Chinese Students Come to Australia", this could be a good start. Thanks

    P.S. : English is not my first language, my grammar in general sucks, apologies for mistakes in writing

  10. I hate the rich Chinese students at my Uni. The administrators import 30% of the undergrads from China and I can barely get into my classes still because the admins get paid like $300,000/year for doing absolutely nothing and the professors are expected to teach 1,000 student classes. Each year the class sizes increase. The Chinese students only ever hang out with each other and YES they do often drive Maserati's and Porches to school and take up all the parking spaces.

  11. Me and my friends rarely see anyone who is actually rich, some just like nice cars or fashion. As a Chinese student who is now an American, I am seeing some updated stereotypes against international students…

  12. 1. Xidiot adopts a keeping Yuan lower policy, to lure foreign investment and expand export, at the expense of its own people, and making China labor intensive country (in another words, a slave country!). So smarter students need to get out of it.

    2. Xitler is an oppressing regime, limiting people's chance to success through hard working and genius.

    3. Rich and corrupt CCP officials and business men want their children to live in a less polluted country.

    So this leads to the brain drain from China to US, and some other western countries. Once the brain drain started, it become a down-spiral and hard to stop.

  13. In Iran we have a similar exam to GAOKAO for entering universities called “konkour” so a lot of things said in this video resonate with me.

  14. when a country has ideals such as the american dream and lost out due to probability or poor wealth distribution. That feeling of being discarded or forgotten drives them to suspect others taking their spot which they claim more deserving or entitled.

    Either way, what has been done cannot be change, Only way is to keep moving forward, knowing full well that those that missed out on the opportunity. Would one day come for your throats. No matter how much dissent that have been form. Never promise them a future that you cannot keep. Because once they have grown up, they have a few path in front of them.

    To have their hatred towards their visionaries who promise of extravagant future.
    Understand that their visionary have done all they could to keep you from being depressed.

    What Americans have said about foreigners being spies, is nothing short of those that were not able to be as lucky as other Americans had. What Trump did was certainly insulting but ever more being an American. What Trump state is only the symptom of the problem, not the cause.

  15. If I spend X amount of dollars to study and live on the other side of the planet someone come slap me if all I do is hang around Americans, speak English and eat American food…

  16. Speaking of nationalism, I hope those Chinese student aren’t attack and bullied by anti-Chinese group.

    In my heart I hope my mother country (China) succeed in improving people’s life and gets along and cooperate with my birth country ( USA).

  17. Idk why everyone values prestigious schools so much, we are now in a skill based economy where what you study matters much more than where you studied

  18. The video failed to mention that in Chinese culture and among Chinese students several ideas/actions are pervasive.
    1. They think they are better than every other country.
    2. Success by any means necessary including cheating is considered better than failing. Being honorable and a good loser makes you stupid.
    3… or 2b…. In university they are able to purchase answers to most problems in books from China in Chinese … it is a cottage Industry along with selling scans of textbooks to avoid buying the actual book.
    4. Study groups, even when explicitly required to do an assignment alone.
    5. Pretending to be friends of non Asians to get help.

    Obligatory… not all…. But many/most are like this

  19. lol I can tell you this video is BS. "To ask questions is to disrespect your teacher." FFS! Chinese teachers are not heartless. This is the traditional teaching method, but literally for the past couple decades, things have been completely different. I have visited my Cousin's elementary school in China and I can tell you it's better than most elementary schools here in the U.S. To say these students lack creativity and critical thinking… My cousin is in 4th grade and you'd be shocked at how much he "lacks" creativity and critical thinking. Just have a simple convo with him and you'll see what I mean. And I am going to admit, my cousin goes to a pretty good school in Beijing and his parents are pretty well off. But I have also taught English at a village school in a rural area of of China near Harbin, and other than the school lacking decent facilities (toilets are just holes dug in the ground, but that's common in rural China), the education was mind blowing. I was shocked that kids who are pretty much living off of the food they grow in their back yard were getting such great education. A lot of the teachers hail from the city and really deeply and passionately care about educating these kids. So idk where you did your research, PolyMatter, but it's completely inaccurate. Mainstream media propaganda.

  20. This is what the American education system is going towards. We put so much importance on grades rather than individuals. As if your ability to solve for “x” somehow translated to how you would handle extremely high social pressures and demanding real life situation. Let me tell you…it doesn’t. Most engineers, architects, and doctors have a base knowledge but experience is what builds them, not the exams.

  21. Academia is run by anti-american communists and more than half the student body on college campuses is now female. Good luck getting your white male sons into college in the states. White male students represent less than 10% of the freshman student body.

  22. I've taught in China for over a decade,
    and the way most school kids get treated here by their parents is simply inhumane.
    And don't give me that, “better future” nonsense, I've heard that one enough already. These kids are being crushed. They have no life, no friends, no hobbies, no social skills, no hope.
    They only times they feel sunlight the whole year are the walks to the schoolbus. Two ex-students of mine have killed themselves in the last year alone. Suicide statistics are fake here.

  23. They come to America is because the education system in China is terrible, as well as it fouled air, rich Chinese families would rather have their kids study in America or abroad rather than in China, and by the time their kid graduates from that school and gets a good job in America, they bring their family over to get them naturalized as permanent residents and live in the country, that's how it is.

  24. Studying for the sake of the scores? I prefer testing about new invention based of available theories when I was studying in University, it's more learning and contributing to society rather than memorize every words from books.

  25. There’s a lot of lost talent in Chinese kids.. because it is wasted into them studying and being stressed just to get a ‘good’ or decent job they probably are going to be unhappy with… I understand they sacrifice to come to America.. but still the fact that there’s so much talent going to waste is sad

  26. Overall good analysis. A lot of comments wondering why Chinese students are so rich. Well, some of them are but most of them appeared to be richer than they actually are. What is not mentioned in the video is that the cost of university in China (<$2,000/yr) is much less than going to university in US as an international student (~$50,000). So the families that can afford this tremendous cost easily must be rich enough so that their children will have enough money to live better than most local students. However, this is only a tiny portion of all Chinese students in US. The most of them comes from middle classes, who have only one child to invest for (thanks to China's one-child-policy for the last few decades). As mentioned in the video, Gaokao is competitive route and involves high risks that is potentially disproportional to wealth (which wealthier middle class family don't want). For this reason, they spend much of their life saving for their children's education abroad to avoid Gaokao, much more than the proportion of a normal America family spend on their children's education. This "boost" their social class, making them appeared to be richer than what they are supposed to be, but it's sad to see that their families try hard to save money for their children to show off in America…

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