Tuesday, January 12, 2010

PRC students: a blessing in disguise

The decision by the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration to allow Chinese to study in Taiwan has understandably given rise to apprehensions about the impact this will have on the country. Some, including the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), have argued that an influx of Chinese students could have a negative effect on Taiwanese youth’s chances of finding a job, while others caution, if perhaps speculatively, that this could increase the threat of espionage by so-called “professional students.” The policy also raises questions about recognizing Chinese diplomas, the credibility of which is often disputed.

Though these fears are not without basis, the presence of Chinese students on Taiwanese campuses could also bear fruit — in unexpected ways. As only about 2,000 Chinese students, or 1 percent of the total number of applicants, will initially be allowed to enroll in Taiwanese colleges and universities, the benefits will not be financial, nor will the impact on the quality of students admitted into university be substantial.

Rather, the real upswing will lie in the opportunities for contact between young Taiwanese and Chinese — in many ways a first in Taiwan. As I argued previously in “The risks of opening to Chinese students” (Taipei Times, Nov. 24, page 8), the fact that the first wave of Chinese students will come from 41 top Chinese universities, added to the rigorous screening process that Chinese students will have to undergo before they are allowed to come to Taiwan, means that the majority of them will be toeing the Beijing line on the Taiwan question (students who are easily influenced by “thought pollution,” or who are not from families associated with the Chinese Communist Party, are unlikely to make it to Taiwan, lest their minds be warped by democratic and liberal ideas).

My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

5 comments:

Carlos said...

That's how I feel about it too. Good editorial.

And if things go more smoothly than that, maybe the Chinese students will return to China with a different understanding of Taiwan than that which was drilled into them. At the very least they'll notice the wide degree of separation that they pretend doesn't exist.

Ben Goren said...

An excellent op-ed. Another problem is that many of the public refuse to believe that some form of authoritarian regime ala Singapore could easily return.

Anonymous said...

look like some of your comments on China are right on:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/world/asia/13beijing.html

when will other businesses wake up?

FOARP said...

Or how about just "a blessing"? Seriously, does every cultural or economic exchange with the mainland have to be interpreted first in a negative light? Are Chinese students studying in other countries an overall negative to those countries? 2,000 Chinese students in Taiwan's current student population is a drop in the ocean, even if it does grow into the hundreds of thousands, many of these will not stay - and many of those who will stay will do so through the connections they will have made through living in the place rather than some special desire to be an evil influence on the island.

Concerns about espionage seem a bit foolish given how obviously open Taiwan has been to this for some years now. Likewise, no army will creep into Taiwan using student visas as cover. At worst Chinese students will go back to the mainland having refused to change their minds, but at best they will learn that Taiwan is not the 'indivisible part of the motherland yearning to return' that some imagine it to be.

FOARP said...

I guess I should also add that none of the students who have gone to other countries have been screened for political correctitude, nor is the ability to pass a test on Communist theory actually a sign of conviction in China any more - all students must take these awful tests in university whether they believe it or not. In fact, I will go so far as to say that you are more likely to find convinced communists outside the party than in it in modern China.