For many Southeast Asian students, a degree from China opens doors at home.
According to the China University and College Admission System (CUCAS), an online information and application portal with links to the country’s Education Ministry, approximately 80,000 students from Southeast Asia enrolled in Chinese universities in 2016, a 15 percent increase from 2014.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, now has the biggest percentage of students studying abroad in China.
Besides the job opportunities and future prospects, what's the draw?
Channel News Asia reported that Zhou Dong, chairman of CUCAS said, "As part of promoting the initiative, the government has been encouraging more students to come to China to study, so they’ve invested a lot of resources." He added, "In 2016, the government allocated 50,400 scholarship spots covering tuition, accommodation and monthly living expenses."
They also reported that Lucian Koh, Managing Director of Singapore Success Stories, a consultancy that designs education programs said, "China can post these talents who have graduated from here back into their respective home countries to develop infrastructure, financial services, logistics services for China."
He added,“For China to be more accepted in the global community in terms of its rise as a new superpower, it starts with people. ... In Chinese, they call them 'Zhihua Youhua' students which means (students) who know China and are friendly to China - these graduates will be the best ambassadors for the country.”
He estimated that eight to nine out of every ten foreign students in China receive some form of funding from the Chinese government.
He said, “We’re neighbors, after all. China is geographically close to ASEAN and most of the countries have cultures and customs which are fundamentally East Asian.”
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