The Chinese are Coming!
The Koreans are Already Here, So What
The Fraught Exchange between Chinese International
Undergraduate Students and the American University
Jiyeon Kang and Nancy Abelmann
The Number of Chinese Students in the United States
Chinese UG
Chinese total
Korean UG
Korean total
Indian UG
Indian total
 How to understand the American media’s quite particular
attention to Chinese students?
 How is the Chinese Student in America viewed by the media –
and by American university administrators, Chinese students,
American students and their parents, and Chinese parents?
American Media Discourse on
Chinese Undergraduate Students
 American Imagination of China: A Fabled Market and “Yellow Peril”
 South Korea, an Unthreatening Mini-Me
 Three Imaginations of Chinese Undergraduate Students
 an ever-expanding market
 a fair exchange between excellent American higher education and
exemplary Chinese youth
 a fraught exchange with questions about the real value of both
November 2010
November 2011
China Boom
China Conundrum
Exponential growth of middle class
American universities’ drive to
expand their international appeal
One child policy
Chinese “frenzy” for an American
university education
Desire for education
Aggressive admissions-agent
Historical Imaginations of China
Fascination with the Chinese Market
“Fabled market”
“The El Dorado of commerce”
“A billion bellies out there”
Inassimilable Other and the “Yellow Peril”
“The Chinese Invasion”
“Last Days of the Republic”
Red Menace and the Lost Market During the Cold War
“Dangerous foe, a brutal master, and an efficient tyranny”
anxiety over a lost market
Imaginations of Chinese Students:
Inevitable Client of and a Threat to American Liberal Education
“Native would be missionaries” and “directing elites” who would
reform the primitive consciousness of China (1870-80)
“I’m not sure that it is good policy to educate representatives of the
warlike Chinese people, whose number is four hundred or five
hundred million” (Senator Gallinger, 1912)
“Future democratic forces” that would “exert a profound influence on
the future course of their country” (1950s)
South Korea, an Unthreatening Mini-Me
I was having lunch with the President of South Korea. I was
interested in education policy -- they've grown enormously over the
last 40 years. And I asked him, what are the biggest challenges in
your education policy? He said, the biggest challenge that I have is
that my parents are too demanding. He said, even if somebody is
dirt poor, they are insisting that their kids are getting the best
education….That was the biggest education challenge that he had,
was an insistence, a demand from parents for excellence in the
- Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on the ’Education To
Innovate’ Campaign” 2009
How do they do it? Their formula is relatively simple. They take
South Korea's top-scoring middle school students, put those
who aspire to an American university in English-language
classes, taught by Korean and highly paid American and other
foreign teachers, emphasize composition and other skills crucial
to success on the SATs and college admissions essays, and
urge them on to unceasing study.
- NYT 2008
But it tailors its academic courses to American expectations,
said Executive Director Don Shim, with creative teaching
techniques and different types of classes. This summer, the
academy is offering a debate class to bolster students'
communication skills. "Many students know the answer, but they
don't know how to explain it," Shim said.
- Washington Post 2009
Imagination of China 1: The Ever Expanding Market
The growth of the nation’s economy – and the surge in Shanghai real-estate
prices – has helped create 700,000 new millionaires and a middle class of
more than 300 million.
- San Jose Mercury News 2011
The great number of Chinese families with disposable income, two working
parents, and only one child, and a determination to invest their money to
make sure that child receives the best education possible
- New York Times 2010
Ninety percent of Chinese High school students want to study overseas….
About 10 million young people take China’s college entrance exam each
year and only 1 million pass it.
- Portland Press Herald 2011
If we build it, they will come.
- The Clover Herald 2007
Imagination 2: A Fair Exchange
A. The Liberal American University’s Gift to the Chinese Antipodal
I heard that America was a more-free country…I didn’t want to study for
a number on a test. I wanted to study for the fun of learning.
- San Jose Mercury News 2011
The University of Virginia really encouraged me to think as an
independent person and not be afraid to speak my mind.
- Washington Post 2009
In the U.S. they focus on creative-thinking skills, while in China they
only focus on theory… so what university students learn here [in China]
doesn’t prepare them for the real world.
The experience has given her a deep appreciation for the West’s values
of transparency and access to information…. In China, I’m used to
secrecy, so being 18 and able to touch history with my bare fingers
really impressed me.
- New York Times 2010
B. The Exemplary Chinese Student
Enlightening and Internationalizing the American Classmate
Well, youth of America, you better look back because they are gaining on
you. Here come the Chinese and Indian youths who are serious about
making their country No. 1 in this new global economy… If our schools
continue on the present course of not challenging students and continue to
move them along [regardless], then our students will become the customer
service telephone answering people in the future, replacing those now
operating in foreign countries.
- San Antonio Express 2006
It’s ‘the next best thing’ for their children, after studying abroad.
- USA Today 2009
What a wonderful resource for Clinton County students to be able to mingle
with people of a different culture and a different perspective on global
- The Press-Republican (NY) 2009
Imagination 3: A Faltering Exchange
A. American Educational Exceptionalism?
 Chinese Students as Cash Cows
American universities are also shopping for partners that will polish
their reputations…. Some schools want to cash in on an enormous
market for education in the most populous nation on the planet.
-The News & Observer (NC) 2006
 Isomorphic Global universities
But over the next decade, the number of Chinese students applying
to UVA may drop off as more Chinese students decide to attend
college within their own country’s borders. In 1999, China launched
a multi-billion dollar, 20-year effort to increase the quality of its
higher education system.
- - The Clover Herald 2007
B. The Exemplary Chinese Student?
[Admission officers] spend their time on Chinese applications trying to
parse the essays – paying particular attention, as they might with an
American candidate, to whether they detect the authentic voice and
- New York Times 2011
Within a couple of weeks, all but three of the non-Chinese students had
dropped the course. Why did the American students flee? ''They said
the class was very quiet,'' recalls Dr. St. Pierre…. During quizzes, Dr. St.
Pierre now requires everyone to leave their books at the front of the
classroom to prevent cheating.
New York Times 2011
Chinese graduates go to American universities to attain respected
degrees, but retain the expectation that their nation will soon retake its
rightful place as a great power.
- Washington Times 2010
 The quality of both American higher education and the
Chinese student are called into question
 Idealistic notions of internationalization or international
exchange are called into question
 The exchange between American higher education and the
Chinese student is risky, uncertain at best and deceptive at