Let’s examine some aspects of the Chinese economy and the implications for future international recruitment and enrollment of Chinese students
Most higher education institutions worldwide have an interest in recruiting and
enrolling Chinese students or engaging in joint research projects with Chinese
academics and scholars. Because I believe future higher education in China
cannot be separated from the country’s $14 trillion-dollar economy, I have
researched certain facts about China’s economy that I think are relevant to future
engagement with China.
Despite often contradictory facts and figures published about the Chinese
economy, there are a few facts that cannot be disputed. The Chinese economy is
slowing and is in transition, moving from a manufacturing economy to a
technology- based economy. The trade war with the United States has negatively
impacted the Chinese economy, and several countries in China’s Belt and Road
projects, including Malaysia and Sri Lanka, are questioning the value of Chinese
investment in their countries’ infrastructure.
In February 2019, 5,000 delegates of the National People’s Congress convened in
Beijing for the annual meeting on the country’s economy. Chinese Premier Li
Keqiang informed delegates that the projected growth of the Chinese economy
this year would be lower than the 6.6 percent growth of last year. The Chinese
economy is expected to grow between 6.0 and 6.5 percent, the slowest in three
It is interesting to note that the Premier’s address made no mention of the “Made
in China 2025”, although China remains committed to enhancing industrial
development and technology innovation. The Premier did warn of the potential
risks to the Chinese economy of excessive borrowing. ($119 billion higher than in
2018.) China’s total debt has risen from 150 percent of GDP to nearly 300 percent.
This is a cloud not only over the Chinese economy but over the world economy.
China still exports nearly $500 billion annually but its share of global exports
appears to have peaked. China can no longer rely on the rest of the world for
Chinese investment in Europe and in the United States decreased 73 percent in
2018. China is looking elsewhere to build alliances and change the geopolitical
map, especially through its Belt and Road initiatives.
With the blessing of the Chinese government, Chinese families are expected to
buy 60 percent of the world’s electric cars by 2035.
Since 2012 China has been the world’s biggest source of tourists, making nearly
150 million trips in 2018 and spending more than $250bn in 2017. This is an
extraordinary statistic since only 10 percent of Chinese people hold passports.
According to Global Blue, a tax-free-shopping firm, Chinese visitors bought more
than one-quarter of all tax-free products sold in Britain in 2018. Chinese shoppers
account for one-third of all global spending on luxury goods.
One percent of the richest Chinese hold one-third of all household assets; income
inequality is a pressing issue in China.
There are more billionaires in China than in the United States.
In 2017, 175,489 Cadillac cars were sold in China, the first time more Caddillacs
were sold in China than in the United States.
Higher education facts
According to a report by Hurun, a Shanghai-based research firm, of the nearly 3
million Chinese citizens who earn over $1 million a year, 85 percent intend to
send their children abroad to be educated.
In 2018 the Chinese Minister of Higher Education cancelled 234 higher education
agreements, or one-fifth of its international university partnerships worldwide,
including more than 25 with American colleges and universities. The reasons
given were ambiguous.
There are 37 China Cultural Centers around the globe and another 13 are planned
to open by the end of 2020. The purpose of the centers is to promote Chinese
culture similar to Germany’s Goethe Institutes and France’s Alliances Franchises.
In 2016, more than 430,000 Chinese students returned to China after completing
their education abroad, nearly 60 percent more than returned in 2011.
Connect the dots
If you believe, as I do, that a country’s economy will eventually and ultimately
affect its higher education sector, I suggest international enrollment managers
and admission deans take a look at their current China recruitment plan and
perhaps come up with a Plan B. Will Chinese parents in the future be willing or
financially able to send their children around the world for higher education when
Chinese colleges and universities are now ranked among the best in the world?
I believe there are recruitment and enrollment opportunities in China but I also
believe they will be distinctly different from how Chinese students were recruited
in the past.