Jul 24, 2019 07:48 PM

Chart of the Day: China’s Foreign Student Spending Grows 20%

Government funding for foreign students in China grew more than 20% last year, according to new data published by the Ministry of Education in the wake of recent anger over alleged favoritism toward international students at Chinese universities.

Money allocated for scholarships for foreign students more than doubled between 2012 and 2019, jumping from 1.55 billion yuan ($225 million) to 3.92 billion yuan this year. In 2018, 63,000 international students received Chinese government scholarships, accounting for 12.8% of the total studying in China, the ministry said, adding that the “quality” of foreign students at some institutions needed improvement.


China has signed student exchange agreements with more than 180 countries, according to a ministry representative. Funding from the Ministry of Education mostly takes the form of scholarships paid to the universities attended by foreign scholars. The only money received directly by the scholars is an allowance for living expenses.

Earlier this month, media reports about Shandong University’s practice of assigning multiple local female “buddies” to male international students prompted ire on Chinese social media over what some people saw as favoritism toward foreigners. The university apologized on July 12 for a “lack of strict checks” and “inappropriate options” on its sign-up form for students participating in the buddy program, which allegedly involved mostly male foreigners and female local volunteers.

Anger over the program also prompted misogynistic online attacks on female Shandong University students, as well as harassment on campus, the state-backed Global Times reported.


Meanwhile, reports that a foreign student had pushed a police officer in the southern Chinese city of Fuzhou after he was stopped for carrying a passenger on his scooter prompted commentators to ask if a Chinese person would have gotten away with the same behavior.

On Saturday, the Ministry of Education said in a statement that it would “crack down on illegal situations” involving foreign students, even as it continues to see foreign students in China as a way to grow the “international influence of China’s education and promote mutual understanding and friendship between Chinese people and foreigners.”

Contact reporter Teng Jing Xuan (

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