More pragmatic measures needed to attract foreign students: political advisor

By Li Xuanmin and Chen Zishuai (Global Times) 09:02, March 12, 2024

More pragmatic measures need to be taken to attract foreign students to China, such as simplifying their internship application procedures, allowing qualified foreign students to work at certain "non-sensitive" enterprises and public institutions, and lowering the work visa thresholds for foreign college graduate applicants, a political advisor told the Global Times, amid a deep decline in the number of foreign students in recent years, especially from developed countries.

Jia Qingguo, a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and a professor with the School of International Studies at Peking University, highlighted the dive in the number of foreign students by pointing out that the number of US students in China was only 350 in 2023, declining over 90 percent from the peak of 15,000 students a decade ago.

"There are multiple factors, including US media's smear campaign against China and a downward spiral in relations instigated by US politicians, which all contributed to US citizens' negative views on China," Jia explained.

Jia submitted two proposals at the two sessions this year, with one suggesting that China double down on its efforts to attract foreign students.

"From a long-term perspective, it is very important to make it easier for foreigners to visit China and vice versa. Otherwise, negative views of each other will prevail, fueling misunderstandings that could weigh on diplomatic exchanges and economic and trade cooperation," Jia said, listing a number of measures aimed at reversing the trend.

Jia suggested that authorities take measures to make life more convenient for foreign students, involving aspects such as identity authentication, opening bank accounts, and online payments. There is also a great deal of room to further lift their expectations on employment and internships in China.

China has been taking a slew of concrete efforts to facilitate visits by foreigners. The State Council, China's cabinet, released a notice on Thursday, asking banks and payment and clearing entities to strengthen cooperation to continuously improve and expand mobile payment services, with a particular focus on improving mobile communication and payment services for foreigners coming to China.

Effective from March 14, China will also waive visa requirements for citizens from six European countries, including Switzerland, Ireland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China said in January it has also set a target of increasing the total number of international flights to and from China to 6,000 a week by the end of this year, about 80 percent of the pre-pandemic level. From February 12 to 18, the number of international flights to and from China each week stood at 5,389, nearly 71 percent of the level before the pandemic.

More specifically, the number of direct passenger flights between China and the US will be raised to 100 per week at the end of March, up from the current 70.

With regards to how the 2024 US Presidential election will affect China-US relations, Jia said that if President Joe Biden was re-elected, it is highly likely that Washington will continue its Chinese policy, whereas if Donald Trump wins the election, his presidency will cast great uncertainty over relations between the world's top two economies.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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