Number of American students in China falls as bilateral tension rises

American USA China Chinese flag US dollars Ukraine

The rising bilateral tensions between Beijing and Washington have been causing a drop in the number of American students in China, according to the Voice of America (VOA).

Students from China and the US have been travelling between the two countries for decades, which has been trying to boost people-to-people ties.

During a talk at the Brookings Institute in Washington last week, US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said that there were 15,000 American students in China “six or seven years ago,” but that number dropped to 350 in 2022.

While the number of American students rebounded to 700 in 2023, Burns added that the number doesn’t represent interest in Washington, VOA reported.

However, for some American students studying in China, their decision extended beyond their desire to enrich their understanding of the country and further upskill their Chinese language skills.

“I have studied Chinese for a while, and I think if I don’t go to China, I’ll probably lose my language skills,” Brock Mullen, a student at Johns Hopkins University’s Hopkins-Nanjing Center, said.

As domestic political attitudes towards China become more negative in the US, some students hope that their experience in China could help reverse the current trend, according to VOA.

“There is a trend in the US on both sides of the (political) aisle where people want to read about China, but very few want to come here to study,” Sam Trizza, a student at the Hopkins Nanjing Centre, said in a video interview, adding that he hopes to discover nuances that should be raised in the China policy landscape in the US through his time in China.

In the last few years, exchanges between American and Chinese students have been hampered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Highlighting his urge to improve people-to-people ties between the two countries, Chinese President Xi Jinping said during his meeting with his US counterpart Joe Biden last month that Beijing is ready to welcome 50,000 American students to China on exchange or study programmes in the next five years.

However, some American students are hesitant about studying in China, stating that their programmes are having difficulties recruiting American students to study in China, reported VOA.

Mullen from the Hopkins Nanjing Centre said, “The goal of our program is to have about 100 to 150 American students each year, but we only have about 30 American students here (in Nanjing).”

According to him, a factor that causes American students to hesitate about studying in China is the impact of China’s surveillance regime or potentially being arbitrarily detained by Chinese authorities, reported VOA.

“A big reason why [some American students] might feel nervous about coming to China is due to concerns about surveillance or hearing stories about people being arbitrarily thrown into prison or facing exit bans,” he said.

Meanwhile, some current American students said that an important value of studying in China is to build up a more thorough understanding of Chinese people’s views on things and the dynamics in China.

“Being in China allows me to better understand what’s happening in the country from sources other than the Chinese government’s statements,” an American student in China said.

“You can have more frank conversations with Chinese people and compared to reading about China from the outside, which gives you a passive understanding of China, being in the country allows one to develop a more subtle understanding of Chinese people’s politics and their understanding of what’s going on in China and outside of China,” the student added.

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024