China’s nouveau riche increasingly study abroad at American universities

Foreign Policy has a lengthy piece entitled, China’s Nouveau Riche Have Landed on America’s Campuses, with the byline:

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

A common observation among the Chinese interviewed for the article was that the students of the previous generation were more idealistic and patriotic. For example: Danchi Wang, a graduate of Wellesley College’s class of 1989, told FP that she pursued education in America because she “wanted to improve [herself], so that [she] could contribute to the modernization of China.” She also recalled wanting to be “the Chinese Madame Curie” – an aspiration she said many of her peers shared.

Chinese studying abroad today aren’t generally looking to cure cancer or serve their homeland. According to Wang, many young Chinese come to the United States to make themselves more marketable – a reason why a growing proportion of Chinese students are choosing to study business, finance, or management.

In fact and for many Chinese studying in the United States, the time is viewed as a steppingstone to a Chinese dream. Thanks to the immense purchasing power of the growing Chinese middle class, the image of the humble and diligent Chinese student of the 1980s has been replaced by that of the entitled full tuition paying fu’erdai, or the second-generation scion in a wealthy family, who studies abroad (usually finance, business management or economics) in order to return home to run the family business.

Upscale department stores Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale’s are even sponsoring events aimed specifically at wooing the spending power of Chinese students as thenformer sponsored Chinese New Year celebrations in January 2014 at New York University and Columbia University and the latter held a fashion show for Chinese students in Chicago in November 2014.

FP also noted that Jiang Xueqin, the author of Creative China, a book published in China about the country’s education system, explained in an August 2014 interview with the Huffington Post that parents in China want to “hedge their bets and diversify their assets” as sending a child overseas makes a “good pretext for capital flight.” Paying for an American education is also a way to elevate a family’s social status back home.

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