International Cooperation and Exchange

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9 International Cooperation and Exchange







A more open China that collaborates and conducts exchanges with the world community more effectively is vital to the government's strategy for education development. The general principle for this strategy is to “attach equal importance to governmental and nongovernmental exchanges, develop bilateral and multilateral relations simultaneously while keeping a strategic balance, ensure the success of key exchange programs, and be mindful of practical results.” In short, China must advance international cooperation and exchange in all fields of education and at a higher level. Only thus can it absorb and assimilate the advanced science and technology of other countries and draw on their successful experience in education development and administration, and introduce the outstanding cultural achievements and intellectual and financial resources of various countries in order to upgrade China's education, science and technology, cultivate all types of talent, foster friendship between the people of China and other countries, and serve the economic and cultural progress of this country. After China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the government is actively honoring its commitment to reduce tariff-barriers on trade in education services on a WTO list and is opening its doors still wider to exchanges with the world community.

China is committed to cooperation and exchanges in education with other governments, among universities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The cooperation and exchanges can be both bilateral and multilateral, and entail dispatching students abroad while receiving incoming international students, teaching Chinese as a foreign language to foreigners, inviting foreign experts to work in China, and running schools in cooperation with foreign partners. The Ministry of Education provides the overall planning, administration, coordination, and guidance for such cooperation and exchanges throughout the country. The education administrative departments of local governments are empowered to manage local programs on international cooperation and exchange in education. Universities have offices that handle such affairs. Apart from government administrative departments, there are many NGOs in this field, such as the China Education Association for International Exchange, the China Scholarship Council, and the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange.


To draw on the successful experience of other countries, the government follows the guiding principle of “gear(ing) education to the modernization drive, the world, and the future,” and the work principle of “opening up conduits widely, promoting exchanges, giving prominence to key fields and programs, and striving for practical results.” The opening up of the education field to the outside world is designed to serve national socio-economic progress in general and education reform and development in particular, and it follows the country's general policy for foreign affairs. Following these guidelines, the country has fostered cooperative and exchange relationships with over 170 countries and regions and signed more than 100 agreements and executive plans for bilateral or multilateral exchange in education. The Action Plan for Rejuvenating Education 2003–2007 by the Ministry of Education has set new tasks and higher requirements for work in this field.

Bilateral cooperation and exchanges among universities

China promotes cooperation among “strong partners,” that is, accomplished universities at home and prestigious universities and research institutes abroad, and in fields in which both partners are strong. For instance, Peking University maintains exchange ties with over 200 universities and research institutes in forty-nine countries and regions and receives more than 20,000 foreign visitors annually—so far, it has received dozens of Nobel laureates and twenty-one heads of state who have visited its campus and talked to its students. In return, it has sent 5,000 teachers and students abroad for visits and exchanges. Since 1998, Tsinghua University has fostered good cooperative relationships with some of the world's elite universities and signed exchange agreements with 150 prestigious universities in thirty countries and regions. Such bilateral exchanges have paid off in raising the teaching and research levels of China's university teachers, hastening development of key and new fields of study and key laboratories, helping to tackle technical problems in research work, and cultivating top-notch innovative and competitive professionals who have global vision and international exchange abilities and who are badly needed for the country's social and economic development.

Statistics show that about 300 universities in China are engaged in mutually beneficial cooperation with over twenty transnational corporations in developing computer hardware and software and in training students in relevant technology and accreditation. Such exchanges have widened these universities' avenues of cooperation with the international community, improved their teaching environment, promoted the development of their information programs, cultivated software engineers, and speeded up the development of computer and networking technology in this country.

Government agreements on the mutual recognition of academic credentials, diplomas, and degrees

The government actively promotes mutual recognition of academic credentials, diplomas, and degrees with other countries and regions. As early as 1983, China joined some Asia-Pacific countries in acceding to the Regional Convention on Recognition of Studies, Diplomas, and Degrees in Higher Education in Asia and the Pacific.

In April 2002, a mutual recognition agreement on higher education academic credentials and degrees was signed between the Chinese and German governments, which set an example for the world's other education powers to officially recognize China's higher education academic credentials and degrees. In 2003, more such agreements were signed, with France, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, where education is well developed. Similar agreements with some countries in north, central, and south Europe are being drafted. Taking the situation of the United States, Canada, and Japan into consideration, China's experts are promoting cooperation with these countries' education appraisal and professional accreditation organizations for the mutual recognition of higher education academic credentials and degrees. Preparations are also underway for concluding mutual recognition agreements with the five founding member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia.

So far, China has signed mutual recognition agreements with nineteen countries. This indicates that the academic credentials and diplomas of graduates from China's universities are gaining increasing recognition in the international community and that the world's education powers have begun to endorse the quality and standard of China's higher education.

Diverse multilateral activities

The government is stepping up participation in and support of the plans and activities of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). To “promote dialogue between high-echelon policy-makers” and “promote substantial partnerships,” China takes an active part in major international activities organized by UNESCO, accelerates establishment of UNESCO research centers of various types, and encourages universities to set up such research centers in their respective fields if they are capable of doing so. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education continues its cooperation with such international organizations as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNEPA), the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), and such regional international organizations as the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the International University Sports Federation (FISU). The ministry has formed high-level consultative mechanisms to implement the common understanding reached through consultation with these organizations.

A government education delegation from China attended APEC's first ministerial conference in Seattle in 1992. As head of the delegation from China, then Minister of Education Chen Zhili delivered a keynote address to UNESCO's first world conference on higher education in Paris in October 1998 and attended the second APEC ministerial conference held in Singapore in April 2000. In May 2000, at the invitation of the Asia-Europe Foundation, Minister Chen headed China's education delegation to the “International Conference on Education in the 21st Century—Education for the Knowledge Economy” and delivered a keynote report entitled “On Innovating Education for the 21st Century” on behalf of ministers of Asian countries. As head of the education delegation from China in September 2003, Minister of Education Zhou Ji delivered a speech at the Thirty-Second UNESCO Session and a keynote report at the roundtable of the ministers of education, and had bilateral talks with some of these ministers to promote mutual understanding and friendship and advance international cooperation and exchanges in education.

China's university student-athletes are active in the world sporting arena, taking part in all kinds of sporting events on an annual basis and displaying their athletic talent to spectators all over the world. At the FISU election conference held in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in August 2003, a Chinese vice-minister of education was elected vice-president of the organization, an event which wrote a new page in the annals of cooperation between the Chinese government and the world's university student sporting body.

China sets great store by absorbing and assimilating the world's advanced concepts and administrative experience in education. It is stepping up the development of intellectual and other human resources, promoting new standards for higher education development, and studying how to evaluate and monitor students' academic performances. It also organizes university teachers and students to take part in the Asia-Europe Foundation's university student exchange projects and APEC's teacher-exchange programs.


China is one of the largest sources of students studying abroad. As a matter of fact, the work of sending students overseas plays a major role in promoting China's cooperation and exchanges with the rest of the world in education, science and technology, trade, and culture.

Development in sending students to study in foreign countries

From 1978 through 2003, more than 700,000 Chinese students studied and carried out research in 108 countries and regions. Some of them were paid by the government or their own organizations, but more than 520,000 or 74% did so at their own expense. Their academic pursuits covered virtually all the fields of study available. This phenomenon was unprecedented in China's history and unparalleled anywhere in the world. The annual number of students going abroad has ballooned from 11,000 in 1998 to 120,000 today. The growth has been even more impressive since the beginning of the new century, due mainly to an increase in the number of those who pay their own way through their studies abroad. In 2003, those studying at their own expense accounted for 93% of all the Chinese studying overseas while the figures were 2.6% for those on government scholarships and 4.4% for those supported by their organizations.

Since the birth of New China, overseas education for students from China has undergone a number of changes. First, in the beginning, virtually all the students studying abroad were government supported, but later the sources of financial support diversified to include money from organizations and private citizens. Second, virtually all the first arrivals in foreign lands were language students, but the situation was changed by the arrival of those majoring in science and technology, and now students from China can be found pursuing studies in all fields of academic endeavor. Third, in the past, developed countries were the destinations for the overwhelming majority of students from China studying abroad. Today, although developed countries remain their major destinations, more students are heading for the developing countries. Fourth, in terms of choice of courses, the preference of the students has shifted from a dominance of applied technology to a balance in technology, basic sciences, and social sciences. Fifth, in the beginning, those studying abroad were predominantly baccalaureate and graduate students, but now the number of visiting scholars at senior and intermediary levels is increasing while the government is experimenting with cultivating doctoral students in cooperation with foreign universities and establishing mobile post-doctoral research stations in China.

Policies concerning students studying and returning from overseas

On the basis of a rapid growth in the number of students studying abroad and the changing circumstances, the government has shaped the principle of “supporting students to study abroad, encouraging them to return after they have finished their studies, and allowing them to come and go freely.” This principle marks the maturity of the government policy concerning those studying abroad.

A tilt in favor of the country's needs and cultivation of high-level talent

To ensure the overall quality of government-sponsored students sent abroad and to improve the results of such dispatches vis-à-vis the quality and level of the returnees, in 1996 the government overhauled the administration of this field of education and adopted the policy that “individuals aspiring to study abroad must submit applications

that will be examined by experts, only those who excel in fair competition can be selected, and those who have been chosen must sign a contract before being sent abroad on pain of compensation if the contract is violated.” The new administrative methods and the new policy have registered good social results.

With a view to the country's needs for national socio-economic development and the cultivation of top-notch talent, the 2003 plan of the State Overseas Study Foundation Administrative Committee gave priority financial support to those going abroad for study in seven WTO-related fields—telecommunications and information technology, agricultural high technology, life science and population health, materials science and new materials, energy and environment, engineering, and applied social sciences. The plan adjusted the categories of students to be sent for studies overseas and added the category of Senior Research Scholars who enjoy strong financial support. It also merged General Visiting Scholars and Senior Visiting Scholars into the category of Visiting Scholars, and adjusted the duration of financial support for this category of students to 6–24 months, an arrangement believed to conform with the norms of studying abroad and the candidates' actual needs. The committee's 2004 plan called for sending 500 more students abroad than the previous year, including 200 doctoral candidates, and setting up China's first program for sending 200 scholars abroad for postdoctoral research.

To speed up the training of high-level education administrators, academic leaders, and creative talent, the development of key universities and academic programs, the raising of universities' knowledge-refreshing and research levels, and the cultivation of more talent for the western regions' bid to achieve quantum leaps in education, research, and industry, the government has launched a program for aiding deans and core researchers from key universities to study and carry out research abroad. The government has also launched a special project for training talent for western regions, and brought the amounts of stipends for government-sponsored students on a par with what is provided in their destination countries.

Improving services for those studying abroad at their own expense

First, those paying their own way through their studies abroad are given more encouragement. In November 2002, the government scrapped the rule that college graduates must serve the country for at least five years before they become eligible for studying abroad, streamlined the red tape for these students, and abolished the fee that had been collected for the previous twelve years from college graduates who paid for their expenses while studying abroad in compensation for the college education they had received at home. In October 2003, the government set up a national scholarship to encourage outstanding students studying abroad at their own expense to return to work or serve their country in other ways upon finishing their studies abroad. During its experimental stage, this scholarship applies to those below forty years of age and pursuing doctoral studies in the United States, Japan, Britain, France, and Germany. The second improvement is with regard to the protection of the lawful rights and interests of self-supporting students abroad. The Ministry of Education issued the Regulations on Intermediary Services for Sending Self-Supporting Students Abroad in 1999 and set up the Foreign-Related Education Supervision Office in 2002 to tighten up the administration of activities involving students receiving education abroad, to guide local education administrative departments in handling those who had violated the law and breached the disciplinary rules in this field, to bring order to the “go-study-abroad” brokerage market, and to exercise dynamic supervision over brokers and examinations organized by Sino-foreign education joint ventures. A website was established to announce lists of certified foreign education organizations and provide counseling for the public. In June 2003, the Ministry of Education announced a list of universities in twenty-one countries that had been certified to receive students from China. The ministry also issues, through the media, warnings on possible fraud in the foreign education brokerage market. In April 2004, the ministry and the State Administration of Industry and Commerce jointly issued a standard version of the Entrustment Contract of Intermediary Service for Sending Self-Supporting Students Abroad (Standard Form). These steps serve to install a comprehensive service and supervisory system, maintain order in the market, provide applicants with ready access to reliable information, and effectively protect their lawful rights and interests.

More incentives for returning overseas students

Since the 1970s, the government has adopted a series of policies, rules, and steps, and launched a number of financial projects to encourage and aid students, excellent ones in particular, to return to China upon finishing their studies in foreign countries or to serve the country in other ways. The Ministry of Education has set up a national center that provides a complete array of services for students studying abroad, such as helping them find employers, handling their homecoming and permanent residence registration, organizing and maintaining their files, arranging their holidays in China, helping them with their applications to start businesses in China, providing them with counselling services on investment opportunities, evaluating and accrediting their academic credentials granted by foreign universities, operating the China Network for Scholarly Exchange (, and applying for start-up research funds on their behalf. The Start-up Research Fund for Returning Overseas Students has processed twenty-three batches of applications and extended financial support to 10,476 returning students, amounting to 347 million yuan.

Spring Sunshine Program

The Ministry of Education has set up a database of high-level talent and experts under the Spring Sunshine Program. So far, the Program has spent more than 100 million yuan and helped more than 4,000 students studying abroad return and work in China for a short period of time. It has also launched over 1,000 research projects and cooperative technology development programs for this purpose. The Spring Sunshine Program has thus become a popular brand name among overseas students seeking opportunities to serve their country.

Changjiang Scholars Award Program

This program aims at enlisting the service of outstanding scholars and experts at home and abroad. So far, 494 guest professors and forty-three chair professors have been appointed under this program, 93% of them having studied or worked abroad, and 200 of them being brought directly from abroad. This Program has effectively attracted outstanding people to teach and carry out research in universities around the country, boosted the building of a contingent of competent professors for these universities, and provided an impetus for revamping the country's traditional personnel and distribution systems.

Career-launching parks for returning overseas students

In collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Personnel, the Ministry of Education has set up twenty-one experimental career-launching parks for overseas students wishing to return and work in China. Local governments have followed suit and created eighty or so similar parks that provide research, education, cultural, housing, finance, taxation, and customs services of international standards. Statistics indicate that thanks to these career-launching parks, returning overseas students have launched over 4,000 companies of various kinds with a total annual output value of over 30 billion yuan by the end of 2002.

Governments at all levels and many enterprises and institutions have shaped policies, and established administrative and service offices and databanks for overseas students to woo them to return upon completing their studies abroad or to serve the country in other ways during their time abroad. Foundations have also been established for these purposes.

In the last quarter century, 180,000 students have returned to work in China after finishing their studies in foreign countries. They have brought in a wealth of new ideas, theories, methods, and technology, and contributed hugely to education, science and technology, and socio-economic development in China. As a November 2003 Ministry of Education survey indicates, 84.29% of the academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and 75.14% of the academicians of the Chinese Academy of Engineering have studied in foreign countries, and the same is true of 62.31% of the advisors for doctoral candidates, 77.61% of the presidents, and 47.77% of the deans of the seventy-two universities affiliated to the ministry. Many students who have chosen to stay overseas are serving the country by making short-term lecture tours in China, engaging in academic exchanges and cooperative research, bringing in projects and funds, and providing information and technological counseling.


The number of international students studying in China has been rising steadily thanks to the country's growing status and influence in the world community and improvements in the quality of its higher education. Setting great store by progress in this field, the government has set the principle of “deepening reform, improving management, ensuring quality, and developing prudently.”

Progress in receiving international students

By 2002, there were some 80,000 international students studying in over 400 universities in the thirty-one provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities of the mainland. During the fifty-four years from 1949 to 2003, universities in China received over 600,000 students from 170 or so foreign countries and regions. Development in this field has gone through three stages.

Stage One, from 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded, to 1978, the year the reform and opening up policy was adopted. A hallmark of China's policy towards international students during this stage was the grant of a government scholarship to students from countries that had diplomatic relations with China. During 1950–1978, thirty or so universities were open to international students, and virtually all of these students came on a Chinese government scholarship. The government was the host for these students, while the universities concerned were only fulfilling a government task by providing them with education.

Stage Two, from 1978 to 1989. At this stage, international students started paying their way through college in China, a fact which was seen as a major outcome of the reform and opening up policy. Under this policy, universities, formerly open to international students on a government scholarship, began to receive those who came at their own expense. In 1978, 95.3% of the 1,236 international students in China were on a government scholarship, but in the eleven years that followed, the number of self-supporting students rose dramatically. In 1979, only 300 or so international students came to study at their own expense, but in 1989, their number topped 2,500. However, at this stage, the incoming international students were low in both numbers and academic levels.

Stage Three, from 1990. Universities have now superceded the role of the government as hosts for foreigners seeking education in this country, most of them coming at their own expense. In 1989, the government vested the education administrative departments of provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities with the authority to receive international students in local universities. The universities, on their part, decide how many international students they want to accommodate. In 1990, the number of self-supporting international students in China reached 3,800, and outstripped for the first time the number of those who came on a government scholarship, which stood at 3,600. Of the 77,715 international students studying in China in 2003 (Figure 9.2), 92% were self-supporting. The channels and forms of schooling for the new arrivals have diversified too. They may come through inter-governmental agreements or exchange programs between Chinese and foreign universities. They may also enlist the help of a broker, or apply directly to the universities of their choice.

The government is adjusting old policies and enacting new ones to make China a better place for international students. For example, it will install a system for evaluating the education delivered to international students, and help universities set up self-improvement mechanisms. The scholarship system will be further transformed and the amount of money in aid of international students coming to China will be increased, so that the government scholarship will continue to play a leading role in attracting international students. This scholarship will be used more efficiently and its competitiveness in

the world student market enhanced in order to bring in more outstanding students from abroad. New logistics services and administrative methods are also being explored, and university and public resources pooled, to provide a safer and more convenient environment for international students.

Making China a better place for international students

Standardizing administration and services

Government policies are adjusted constantly to ensure the healthy progress of accommodating international students. As the number of new arrivals and source countries rise and the international students' academic levels improve steadily, the government sees to it that the quality of education is maintained while allowing universities to make more of their own decisions so that the work of receiving international students can proceed smoothly. To protect the rights and interests of international students pursuing studies in this country, the government is setting the standard for student fees and implementing an administrative system that treats international students' registration and academic files in the same way as those of the local students.

In universities in China, international students are taken care of by experienced teachers and managers with a wealth of administrative experience behind them. A national administrative system coordinates efforts of the education, foreign affairs, public health, and quarantine departments at central, local, and university levels to serve foreigners pursuing studies in China.

Material guarantees

Many universities put the education of international students high on their agenda and list it as part of their long-term development program. They conduct research and investigations to keep themselves informed of the situation with regard to international

students studying in other countries, and build modern teaching and living facilities to accommodate students from abroad. Some local governments are doing the same, listing accommodation of international students in local development plans and creating better learning and study conditions for them.

In 2003, the Ministry of Education and the China Ping An Insurance (Group) Company signed the Agreement of Cooperation on a Comprehensive Insurance Package for International Students on Chinese Government Scholarships. The agreement stipulates, “The Ministry of Education shall cover the comprehensive insurance (group insurance) for international students who come to this country on Chinese Government Scholarships.” This comprehensive insurance, tailored to the needs of international students and covering group insurance, medical insurance against contingent damage, hospitalization insurance, and insurance against huge medical expenses, is seen as another major step to make China a better schooling environment for foreigners. International students paying their way to China may also buy insurance from any of China's insurance companies that broker insurance policies from their own countries.


The government offers a whole package of special scholarships to encourage top international students to study or carry out research in China. These include the Great Wall Scholarship (offered through UNESCO), the Scholarship for Foreign Teachers Taking Short-Term Courses on Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, the Scholarship for HSK Winners, the Chinese Cultural Research Scholarship, and the Scholarship for Outstanding Students.

Some regions have lifted the restriction on international students taking on off-campus jobs. The Beijing Municipal Education Commission has drawn on the experience of other countries and adapted a part-work, part-study policy that enables international students to teach in schools other than the ones where they are studying. The municipal government will also establish special scholarships for international students.

Encouraging international students to study and work in China is a major area in China's education exchanges and cooperation with foreign countries. Its results are keenly felt worldwide: 170 countries and regions have students studying or working in China. They are serving their own countries and playing a positive role in promoting cooperation and exchanges with China. Most middle-aged and young diplomats working in foreign embassies in Beijing were former students of universities in China. A considerable number of international students who have studied in China are engaged in exchanges and cooperation with China in business and trade, science and technology, education, culture, public health, and other fields.


Chinese is a working language of the United Nations. The government invests heavily in teaching Chinese as a foreign language to foreigners. Established in 1987, the State Leading Group for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language leads and coordinates work in this field, with an executive office, known as the China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, handling the day-to-day work. Riding on a robust Chinese economy and a steady increase in the country's comprehensive strength and international prestige, the Chinese language is gaining increasing attention from governments and people of many countries. The world demand for teaching Chinese as a foreign language is growing rapidly. The central government, education administrative departments at all levels, and schools are working to provide those learning Chinese around the world with richer and more varied teaching and learning resources.

Diversifying the teaching of Chinese as a foreign language

During 1992–2002, the number of international students studying in China averaged an annual increase of 23%, the majority having come to learn Chinese. Of the 86,000 foreigners studying in universities in China in 2002, nearly 64,000 or 74% majored in Chinese language. In the past, universities in China only provided preparatory and short-term courses; today, they have added baccalaureate and graduate courses to meet international students' diverse demands for learning Chinese. Many have set up Chinese teaching centers, and scores of them have opened colleges to teach Chinese as a foreign language. All this has met the international students' demand and laid a solid foundation for teaching Chinese to people from all over the world.

At least ten universities in China are situated in regions bordering on Russia, Korea, Mongolia, and countries in Southeast and Central Asia. They provide major support for teaching Chinese in these countries by undertaking cooperative and exchange programs with their governments and schools.

Apart from regular school teaching, China also provides radio and television and international correspondence courses on Chinese as a foreign language. China Radio International broadcasts its “Chinese Teaching Program” in twenty-eight languages, and has compiled standard textbooks in fifteen languages to go with this program. Asian Satellite No. 1 transmits a televised Chinese teaching program to a European satellite-transmission television network. At least 100 universities in North America are receiving a Chinese teaching program transmitted twenty-four hours a day through the SCOLA network of the United States. With more than 8,000 registered students, the Distance Education College in Chinese opened in China is by far one of the world's largest websites in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. There are also bilateral cooperative projects between Chinese and foreign governments, such as the US-China E-Language Learning System. In December 2003, China and the United States announced the Chinese Course and Exam for Advanced Placement Program, which will be available in several hundred American high schools in 2006.

Speech contests in Chinese are held in China among college students from various countries to promote international exchange in learning Chinese as a foreign language. The State Leading Group for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language has run two sessions of the “China Bridge” International College Students' Chinese Speech Contest. The finalists from the preliminary heats held in various countries meet in China for the finals, and winners of the finals are awarded the “China Bridge” Scholarship to study in China and are honored as “Chinese Language Ambassadors.” Sixty-three finalists from twenty-eight countries competed in the finals in 2003. This event has drawn the attention of college students in various countries and has emerged as a prestigious international brand name.

Academic research and teachers' training

Academic research is a motivating force behind the efforts to improve the teaching of Chinese as a foreign language, a nascent discipline of learning in this country. Chinese scholars have persisted in this field of research for years and the results they have achieved have laid a profound theoretical basis for raising the level of Chinese teaching and promoted development in the curriculum, teaching methodology, textbooks, faculty, and testing and evaluation of teaching results.

The government plans to build national Chinese teaching bases in the Beijing Language and Culture University and nine other universities to provide the core for the worldwide teaching of Chinese as a foreign language. Since the 1990s, the publishing of Chinese textbooks for foreign learners has been thriving in this country. Statistics show that more than 500 such textbooks are available in the market, and those compiled and published by the Beijing Language and Culture University, Peking University, Nankai University, and Fudan University enjoy a high prestige worldwide. Apart from providing schools with textbooks for regular education in Chinese, the China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language is developing Great Wall Chinese, a multimedia Internet courseware designed to meet the demand for training in Chinese as a foreign language.

The Chinese Association for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language and the World Chinese Teaching Society have taken it upon themselves to advance exchanges and cooperation between Chinese and foreign scholars in the teaching of Chinese by holding national academic conferences at regular intervals. Chinese experts are sent abroad every year to give short-term training courses for those teaching Chinese in various countries. In 2003 alone, nineteen experts were sent in ten groups on lecture tours in the United States, the Republic of Korea, Japan, France, Mongolia, and some Southeast Asian countries; a total of 1,200 foreign teachers attended the lectures.

Thirty-two schools of higher learning in this country have established Chinese language teaching departments that offer courses from bachelor to doctoral levels. To ensure the quality of teaching, they pay due attention to building a contingent of competent teachers. While devoting major efforts to cultivating professional teachers, no effort is spared to improve the competence level of part-time teachers. In China, teachers in Chinese as a foreign language are subject to strict accreditation procedures before they qualify for teaching posts. The Ministry of Education Committee for Accreditation for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language is in charge of accreditation of these teachers. From 1991 to 2003, the committee processed eleven batches of applications, and conferred certificates to 3,690 people who passed the examinations.

HSK: Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language

As the world's only standard test of Chinese as a foreign language, HSK provides a tool for benchmarking the linguistic aptitudes of Chinese language students around the world. In 1992, China officially designated HSK as a national test. A national HSK committee organizes the tests at basic, junior, and senior levels. There are three grades at the basic level, eight grades at the junior level, and three grades at the senior level. To meet the examinees' diverse demands, the committee is developing HSK tests for four fields—business, tourism, secretaries, and children.

HSK has become a world-famous brand name for testing Chinese language abilities. Some countries use HSK test scores as standards for enrollment in and graduation from Chinese courses. Some transnational corporations doing business with China use HSK test scores as an important employment criterion. On December 26, 1995, the government published the Provisions on Registration of International Students with HSK Certificate to Study in China, which officially adopts HSK test scores as the legal ground for admitting international students to universities in China for credit courses. By 2003, China had set up HSK testing centers in eighty-four cities in thirty-three countries and regions, where nearly 300,000 had taken the tests. The number of people taking HSK tests at foreign testing centers recorded an average increase rate of 38% during 1993–2003, reaching 26,846 in 2003, up 44% from the 2002 figure.


Foreign experts working in China roughly fall into two categories: first, experts in business and technological management hired by government departments, business and community administrative departments, and industrial and commercial enterprises; and second, cultural and education experts serving in education or cultural institutions, the press, publishing houses, and research institutes. Institutions of higher education in China hire foreigners to teach languages and other academic programs for tenures of at least six months; they also invite experts on short-term lecture tours or cooperative research projects.

Universities in China regard bringing in foreign cultural and education experts as a major step towards enlisting foreign talent and learning from the advanced science and technology and culture of foreign countries, and as an important way to upgrade academic programs, improve the teaching and research levels of faculty members, and cultivate more top-notch professionals. China has come a long way in bringing in intellectual resources from other countries to boost higher education reform and development.

Development in inviting and bringing in foreign experts

With education proceeding apace in this country, more and better cultural and education experts are coming from all over the world to China, thanks to the enactment of a sound body of legislation. Universities in China have hired a total of 70,000 foreign experts in the twenty or so years since 1978, which is fifty-one times more than the total hired during 1949–1978. The Action Plan for Rejuvenating Education for the 21st Century (1998–2002) entailed a financial plan to help seventy-eight universities in China to invite world-class scholars on short-term lecture tours. So far, sixty-seven projects from sixty universities have benefited from the Plan, and the experts they have brought in have included seventeen Nobel laureates. These experts have contributed greatly towards accelerating the development of key academic programs and new fields of study and construction of key laboratories, tackling key research problems, and cultivating top-level talent.

Administration of foreign experts

The Ministry of Education shapes policies and legislation pertaining to inviting foreign teachers to universities in China and monitors and guides the progress of this. It makes annual invitation plans according to university demands and arranges for universities affiliated to it to apply for financial support. The ministry also guides and oversees universities in implementing the invitation plans and evaluates their performance on an annual basis. The government is actively honoring its WTO commitment to the flow of talent in the education services trade and does its best to protect the rights and interests of all the experts working in this country.


Cooperation between China and foreign countries in running schools is a new phenomenon born of the reform and opening up policy adopted towards the end of 1978. More than two decades later, with the country becoming more open and education reform growing in depth, education joint ventures are growing robustly in both scale and academic level, and their forms are diversifying as well. They have become a major part of China's higher education system that throws its doors wide open to the rest of the world, and have provided a major conduit through which quality education resources and advanced expertise in the running of schools are brought into China.

Development and salient features

Statistics indicate that toward the end of 2003, nearly 800 Sino-foreign cooperative schools and programs—more than 270 of them in higher education—had been established in twenty-eight provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities.

Most of these education joint ventures are in eastern coastal regions and large and medium-sized cities, such as Shanghai, Beijing, Shandong, Jiangsu, Liaoning, Zhejiang, and Guangdong. They are tailored to local needs for talent in various socio-economic development endeavor.

The foreign partners to these joint ventures come mostly from countries with a high level of development in economy, science and technology, and education, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Britain, France, and Germany.

Cooperative schools encompass a wide spectrum of studies. The number of those in business management (industrial and commercial management, marketing, accounting, finance, human resources, and tourism) is the largest, and those in foreign language training (English, German, French, Russian, and Japanese, among others) come second. The others are in electronic information (such as computer science and technology, and electronic science and technology), economics (international economics, world trade, finance, and banking), the arts (art design, theater, film, television, literature, etc.), and education.

Education joint ventures are running smoothly in China. Some of them have gained popularity for their high quality, distinctive features, and good management. Their Chinese partners have drawn on good experience in introducing quality education resources from foreign countries and exploring new ways of running schools and cultivating talent. Through effective law enforcement and guidance, education administrative departments are able to keep these education joint ventures on a course of orderly and healthy development.

Regulations on Chinese-Foreign Cooperation in Running Schools


The WTO's three basic principles, that is, non-discrimination (national treatment and most favored nation status), transparency, and fair competition, set higher requirements for China in running education according to the requirement for its accession to the world body. The enactment of the Regulations on Chinese-Foreign Cooperation in Running Schools in 2003 is a clear statement by the government of its intention to convert its WTO commitments into solid domestic legislation. These regulations also pave the way for China to further open its education system to the outside world in order to meet the populace's diverse demands for education, promote education reform and development, and make China's education system globally competitive.

These regulations set standards for the rules governing cooperation with foreign partners in running schools and give transparency to this field of endeavor. They set the stage for foreign education institutions to open schools in China on a cooperative basis, for joint-venture schools to operate according to law, and for government departments to oversee these schools according to law. These regulations will also impact education reform and development and enhance China's international competitiveness in the field of education.


In the conviction that schools run through Chinese and foreign partnerships are a component part of China's education system, the government follows the principle of opening the country's school system to foreign partners, provides norms for education joint ventures, and exercises administration over them and promotes their development according to law. The government encourages the introduction of quality education resources from abroad to such joint ventures, the establishment of more cooperative schools in higher education and vocational education, and cooperation between home institutions of higher education with renowned foreign counterparts. Chinese and foreign partners may run a good variety of educational programs, but they are not supposed to do so in compulsory education and special fields with regard to the military, the police, and politics.

The Regulations on Chinese-Foreign Cooperation in Running Schools provides that the lawful rights and interests of Chinese and foreign partners and the schools they run are protected by the law of China. Cooperative schools enjoy preferential policies granted by the government according to law and make their own decisions on teaching activities within the framework of the law. These regulations also govern the establishment, organization, and management of these schools, and their teaching arrangements, assets, finances, changes, termination, and legal responsibilities. Accordingly, the establishment of Sino-foreign joint schools and programs that provide credit education at or above the undergraduate level is subject to examination and ratification by the State Council's education administrative departments; the authority to approve the establishment of such schools and programs that provide junior college courses or non-credit post-secondary education rests with local provincial governments; and enrollment in joint schools that give credit higher education is part of the national university enrollment plan. When enrolling students, cooperative schools that deliver other forms of credit education should follow the rules and regulations of the administrative department of local governments at the provincial level. These provisions shall be referred to for the setting up of schools by mainland institutions of education in cooperation with partners from Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan.

Developing cooperative schools and education projects and providing norms for the conduct of those who run them is for the ultimate purpose of bringing in quality education resources from foreign countries. Thus, it is only proper to encourage these schools and projects to incorporate badly needed curricula and textbooks of advanced world levels and assimilate the strong points and successful governance expertise of foreign education institutions in light of China's actual conditions. Only in this way can China's institutions of education gain a better position in international competition. The criterion for judging the quality of education resources brought in is whether they are conducive to all-round character education and cultivation of students' innovative spirit and whether they can help improve higher education and vocational education, heighten the home education system's global competitiveness, produce professionals needed at all levels and in all fields of the modernization drive, and cultivate a new generation of people who are morally, intellectually, and physically developed in an all-round way.

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International Cooperation and Exchange

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International Cooperation and Exchange