This is not a China bashing blog. The information is meant to inform readers of some of the economic, political and societal changes taking place in China today and how those changes could impact the recruitment and enrollment of Chinese students in the future.
Unquestionably, one of the most significant worldwide developments of the past 30 years has been the economic growth of China. Millions of Chinese have been lifted out of poverty. Construction projects,high rise apartment and office buildings, high speed trains and modern airports are all part of China’s new landscape. But development has come at a price and has brought changes to some fundamental aspects of Chinese life and society.
On March 14th about 70% of China’s senior leadership was replaced. The change in power structure comes at the same time as the economy in China and the rest of the world changes and the need to re-calibrate Chinese economic policies becomes necessary. As the party shifts from one generation to the next, there are political pressures, fueled by social and economic changes that the new leadership has inherited. The economic model of the past 30 years was built on cheap labor, cheap land and cheap capital as well as the world’s appetite for cheap imports. This is no longer the economic reality.
Inflation remains over 6%, despite five recent interest rate hikes. China has lowered its economic growth rate below 8% for the first time since 2005. Moody’s Investors Service has reported that China has underestimated by half a trillion dollars the exposure of state-owned banks’ loan portfolios.
Beneath the surface, there are many signs that Chinese society is churning. There are as many as 180,000 “mass disturbances” a year. Strikes are frequent as are complaints about corruption, pollution and unsafe food supply. In 2007 an Asian Development Bank 2007 report estimated that 300 million people a year suffer from food-borne diseases.
The gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. A May, 2010, headline in the “People’s Daily,” cited World Bank statistics ranking Chinese inequality as among the highest in the world. Chinese families worry about unemployment, health care, retirement, the environment and their children’s education.
Clean water is a national issue as is health care. An estimated 17% of the Chinese population suffers from mental disorders. China has one of the highest suicide rates in the world and a reported 20% of Beijing’s high school students have considered suicide. Over 90 million Chinese suffer from diabetes. As pollution continues to affect the everyday life of ordinary Chinese people, there has been more than a fivefold increase in mortality rates from lung cancer. An estimated 8,000 premature deaths was linked to air pollution in 2012.
Fear and uncertainty of the future permeates most of Chinese society and 16% of wealthy Chinese have emigrated. In 2011, mainland Chinese received more than twice as many investment-based green cards from the United States than all other nationalities put together.
China graduates an estimated seven million college students a year. Many of the graduates are unable to find suitable employment after graduation. In March, 2012, former Prime Minister Wen Jiabo acknowledged that only 78% of the previous year’s college graduates had found jobs.
Over 90% of Chinese parents want to send their child abroad to study in an English speaking country. In December, 2012, the College Board reported that the number of Chinese taking the SAT exam increased 48% over the previous year. Chinese students studying in U.S. colleges and universities increased 23% last year and 27% of all overseas Chinese study in the U.S. The U.K. has a 22% market share followed by Canada at 15%.
Here is where caution comes in. Given the economic, political and societal changes taking place in China today, the future Chinese student will be very different from today’s student. That will necessitate a change to current marketing and recruitment practices. How should colleges and universities alter their marketing practices? Stay tuned. More to come on that subject.