Foreign students are descending upon Beijing, but young Chinese still dream of studying abroadby Alec Ash / July 21, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
At rush hour, it can take 40 minutes for bus 307 to cross three sets of traffic lights and a railway track at Wudaokou intersection in northwest Beijing. Pedestrians cut across the path of our driver as we stutter another metre forward. Cyclists mount the kerb to cross the tracks before a train passes. Street vendors on three-wheeled carts hawk stationery and bootleg get-rich-quick books, getting in everyone’s way.
These crossroads are a candidate for the worst-designed in the country, yet Wudaokou is at the hub of Beijing’s foreign student population. As China rises as a global power, more and more people want to learn Mandarin. The Communist party is fostering this surge of interest, subsidising foreign students with scholarships. Many Chinese universities now offer language courses for overseas students, often with a business focus; private schools have also sprung up. Together with the Confucius Institutes in foreign cities, which promote Chinese culture and language, making international students welcome is key to the government’s soft power drive.