Chinese students: More positive perception of China after coming to the US - report
Source: AFP/Mark Ralston

The best way to know a country is to move there.

How then, do Chinese citizens studying at American colleges and universities view the Land of the Free? Have their perceptions become more positive, negative, or was there no change?

According to a report by Purdue University’s Center on Religion and Chinese Society, the outlook isn’t great.

About 42 percent of Chinese students said they have a worse perception of the US since coming to the country, while another 43 percent said their views have not changed. This figure is higher than its 2016 survey which found about 29 percent of respondents had acquired a more negative perception.

Conversely, about 46 percent said their perception of China had become better, while 41 percent said their views have not changed.

“More students developed a more positive perception of China after coming to the US,” the report notes.

Students from Virginia Tech University wait for motorcade of Chinese President Xi Jinping to pass outside his hotel on September 25, 2015, in Washington, DC. Source: AFP/Ivan Couronne

More than 1,000 Chinese students and visiting scholars at a national research university in the Midwest took part in the Chinese online survey, which aimed to look into the social, cultural, and spiritual life of Chinese students and scholars.

The survey also found that the longer students stayed in the US, the warmer their attitudes towards China, though this decreased among those who stayed in the US for longer than six years.

Those who stayed in the US for more than eight years display significantly warmer attitudes towards the the nation, the survey found.

With a response rate of about 23 percent, the sample is representative of the Chinese student and visiting scholar population (which numbered 3,696 and 484 respectively when the survey was conducted in Fall 2017) in terms of colleges and student status, with slightly more respondents in engineering schools and slightly fewer in the business school.

Since 2009, China has been the leading country of origin among international students in US higher education. Institute of International Education data shows there were 350,755 Chinese students in 2016/17, representing 32.5 percent of the entire international student population across the US.

News stories on this particular demographic are usually based on incomprehensive data, like the occasional interviews with a few individuals, aggregated data released by certain institutions or surveys based on convenience samples. Purdue’s survey aims to provide a more scholarly and representative picture of the international Chinese student population in the US.

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