Never Tired of Learning

Aug 22, 2014 by

When our thousands of Chinese students abroad return home, you will see how China will transform itself.” — Deng Xiaoping

China is exporting more than cheap “stuff” to America. Increasingly, the Chinese are sending us their most prized possession: their children.



According to a study by the Institute for International Education, China has become the largest source of foreign students in U.S. universities.


This is the fourth wave of Chinese immigration, which began in the 19th century with Chinese laborers in search of the “Golden Mountain” during the California gold rush.


Through the years Chinese labor and intellect have helped build the West and continues to do so to this day.


In the words of Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader following Mao, China was to “bide its time and hide its capabilities.” Clearly, the Chinese are no longer hiding their capabilities by sending some of their best and brightest to the West to be educated.


It is reported that a record high 765,000 international students came to the United States last year. More than 158,000 are from China. This is a 23 percent increase from the year before.


A recent article in the South China Morning Post points out, “China has long been the top feeder of international students in the United States. Now Chinese high-school students are following suit in astonishing fashion: Last year U.S. schools welcomed 50 times as many of them than they did just eight years earlier. The high schoolers want to escape the rat race at home, where students often study late into the night with little opportunity for extracurricular activities. They also believe studying in the United States will help them snag coveted spots at more prestigious US institutions.”



Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson, always a trail blazer, at my urging called for the teaching of Chinese language, history and culture in all Oakland schools in 2006 to help prepare students for the flattened, global planet they will inherit — and to also make Oakland County an economic magnet for Chinese investment in the future. There are Chinese educational pioneers spreading across Michigan offering Mandarin Chinese to K-12 students in a number of school districts, and Michigan’s Internet-based virtual school now offers such classes to anyone, anytime, anywhere.




Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson (seated left) has launched an innovative Chinese Mandarin language program in conjunction with all 28 Oakland school districts.


We could and should do more to open Michigan schools to enroll Chinese students willing to pay top dollars for a quality American education.


The rising economic prosperity in China has provided the means for more Chinese families to afford a Western education, said RAND Corporation economist Jim Hosek.


”There are a lot of Chinese entrepreneurs, businessmen of all sorts business leaders, who are simply wealthier today, and they can afford to send their sons and daughters abroad,” said Hosek.


The negative, anti-China rhetoric practiced by many politicians during the political elections cycle digging for votes is not worthy of a great nation. In this past year’s U.S. presidential election, China once again became a vote-seeking magnet and boogieman. American presidential candidates have often used China as a battering ram during elections only to moderate their position once in office and confronted with the reality of a strong Chinese economy, rising military power, and an internationally engaged partner/competitor. With thoughtful leadership– China’s rise need not come at our demise.



Learning From Past Mistakes


The Asia Society ( has reported that the Chinese will invest over a trillion US dollars around the globe over the next decade and America is anxious to be a magnet to attract that investment.


Chinese students coming to America are, to a great extent, from a pampered class of “little princes and princesses,” products of the “one child” policy and raised to excel by the 1-2-4 formula: one child, two parents and four doting grandparents.


The Chinese view a quality Western education as the passage to economic security, English-speaking skills, and a good life.


Confucian Tradition Of Valuing Learning


An entire family’s energies and resources are usually dedicated to the single cause of obtaining a quality education for their Chinese offspring. These students, in turn, channel all their energies to being successful academically.


These students are not only bright, ambitious, and driven, they typically come from the connected — including politically connected — and wealthy families of China.


The Chinese economy has been on steroids, growing at an annual rate of 10 percent the previous three decades. With its 267 million children under the age of 14 (approaching the size of America’s entire population), China has a near-endless supply of students to educate, as well as limited educational slots at home to accommodate them.


Thoughtful policymakers are attempting to ride the China wave by marketing our state as the “brain bank” of the world, aggressively recruiting the best students to our state and helping them stay to build a new life and new opportunities.


Chinese high school seniors spend two grueling days taking the Chinese university entrance exam or the dreaded, gaokao—the college entrance examination. This exam is the ultimate sorter, rather like a national game of musical chairs. There are more students seeking that ticket to success — a coveted seat at a prestigious university — than there are seats available. The top test-takers go to the top universities until seats are filled, and then students tumble down to the lesser institutions until all the slots are filled. This process leaves many qualified students without a seat.


Historically, immigrants and students put down roots where they first land. U.S. states like Michigan are developing thoughtful, deliberate strategic plans that nurture and encourages Chinese students (and all international students), along with their families, to establish roots in the state.


Exporting Abroad– Improving At Home



China is not only exporting its children to be educated in the West, they are also investing heavily to create and enhance higher education domestically. The New York Times recently reported, “China is making a $250 billion-a-year investment in what economists call human capital. Just as the United States helped build a white-collar middle class in the late 1940s and early 1950s by using the G.I. Bill to help educate millions of World War II veterans, the Chinese government is using large subsidies to educate tens of millions of young people as they move from farms to cities. China wants to move up the development curve by fostering a much more broadly educated public, one that more closely resembles the multifaceted labor forces of the United States and Europe.”


Zhang Weiwei, in his book, The China Wave – Rise of a Civilization State sums it up this way: “China’s capacity for learning, adaption and innovation, together with an unmatched scale effects thanks to size of the population, has produced immense internal and external impacts.”


Clearly the Chinese are not content to be the factory for the world-they are striving and succeeding to be an educated innovation nation.


The viability of a society, the strength of their economy, the quality of their lives and their place in the world are inextricably linked to the quality of education provided to their people.


Haoxuebujuan – To be never tired of learning.


Knowledge is power on a global scale.


To learn more about Michigan in Chinese or English see:


Tom Watkins serves on the University of Michigan Confucius Institute Board of Advisors the Michigan Economic Development Corporation international advisory board and is an advisor to the Detroit Chinese Business Association.

Never Tired of Learning |

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something
    that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me.

    I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.