China’s Nouveau Riche Have Landed on America’s Campuses

Sep 7, 2015 by

chinese rich kids

Chinese students abroad used to be seen as diligent, penny-pinching, and idealistic. No longer.

When Lingjia Hu arrived in the United States from China in 1996, she did so thanks to a scholarship that would allow her to pursue post-doctorate training at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Raised by a family of doctors, Hu told Foreign Policy she wanted to “save the country with science,” but there were no opportunities for her back home. At Xiangya Hospital in Hu’s native city of Changsha, the best medical institution in China at the time, the lights would intermittently turn off because electricity was unreliable. When Hu moved to Colorado, she did a homestay with an American family. It would be six months before her first bite of Chinese food in the United States, only after learning how to drive to the local take-out restaurant. She then married, raised a son, and has lived in Denver ever since.

China U. is an FP series devoted to higher education’s role as a major and growing node of connection between the world’s two powers. How will a new generation, fluent in China and in America, shape the future of bilateral ties?

Fast-forward to Boston in 2015, where Yikun Wang will soon enter his senior year as an undergraduate at Northeastern University. Wang hails from Anhui province, a historically impoverished region of China, but pays full tuition at the private school — which charges over $44,000 per year — and lives in a co-op with two other Chinese students. Wang said he often sees young Chinese peers cutting class, driving luxury cars, and going into the city for extravagant weekend shopping trips. He is an economics and finance major, and hopes to pursue a career in investment banking. While he thinks that he may stay and work in the United States after graduation, he is an anomaly: For many of his peers, the American higher education experience, Wang said, is a bit like a four-year vacation.

In less than two decades, the image of Chinese students studying in the United States has transformed drastically. While Hu and Wang are just two of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese students who have made the trans-Pacific journey, they embody the archetypes of each generation. The Chinese students who arrived in the early 1980s — when then-paramount leader Deng Xiaoping first announced his “open door” policy, which allowed Chinese scholars and students to study in the United States after decades of national isolation — represented some of the nation’s best and brightest. Funded by international scholarships and money from Beijing, they sought to escape poverty and instability for a land of opportunity. The majority wanted to stay in the United States, where they could get a green card, land a job, and integrate themselves into American society. They were, in other words, pursuing the American dream.

 

Source: China’s Nouveau Riche Have Landed on America’s Campuses | Foreign Policy

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