Economic and Societal Changes in China
Ever since Deng Xiaoping opened up the economic levers in China in the 1980s, Chinese society has fundamentally changed. Unquestionably, one of the most significant worldwide developments of the past 30 years has been the economic growth in China. Millions of Chinese have been lifted out of poverty. For the first time in its history, China has a huge middle class. The average per capita income for many people in China’s largest cities is roughly equivalent to the average income in Taiwan and South Korea.
By some estimates, by 2020, the Chinese middle class will outnumber the middle class in Europe. Nobel laureate economist, Robert Fogel, predicts that China’s economy will be 40 percent of global GDP by 2040.
Construction projects, high rise apartment buildings, gleaming airports and high speed rail trains are all part of China’s new landscape. But many of these changes have come at a price: pollution, inflation over six percent, food contamination and shoddy construction projects.
The family, once the cornerstone of Confusion teachings, appears to be changing. A generation of university-trained Chinese are no longer willing to take care of their aging parents and grandparents. Chinese “old age” or “old people” homes are crowded and new facilities continue to be built to meet demand.
Chinese university students are not immune to the economic and societal disruptions taking place in China today.
A university degree from a foreign institution, once considered a ticket to a comfortable middle class life in China, is no longer the case. According to Amanda Barry, the Chinese liaison director for the Australian National University, “The foreign degree isn’t the edge it used to be. Big employers in China go to job fairs of the top Chinese universities and can fill their graduate intake. They don’t need foreign graduates.”
Nor is a university degree a guarantee of a good paying job after graduation. According to an editorial in China Report, the average monthly salary of the 2017 Chinese college graduate decreased by 16 percent from 2016, to 4,014 yuan, or $590. And the number of university graduates when surveyed who indicated they would pursue advanced degrees decreased from 21.3 percent in 2016 to 9.7 percent in 2017.
As Chinese society changes so will the realities and expectations of Chinese university students. As Chinese universities improve teaching and research and continue to climb in world rankings, more Chinese students will opt to stay and study in China where they can establish valuable contacts for future employment.
The implications for future Chinese international recruitment is obvious.