China in the Global reproduction migration order: Through the lens of international student mobility

Reproduction migration (RM) is defined as mobilities that serve to reproduce, maintain, and enhance human life. International student mobility (ISM) is an important type of RM because overseas higher education is not only a strategy commonly pursued by individuals and families to reproduce class advantage/status, but is also often used by nations and institutions to reproduce human capital. Drawing on the author’s ethnographic research on two cases of student mobility involving China – (1) Chinese youth recruited as “foreign talent scholars” by Singapore government, and (2) self-funded Indian students pursuing English-medium medical degrees in second/third-tier Chinese universities – this paper offers heuristic considerations of China’s positioning in the global education mobility landscape. The paper posits that, as the world’s largest sending country of international students, China sees an exodus of value not only in monetary terms but also through the emigration of people/talent. On the other hand, as a destination for international students, China’s role seems twofold: as a cultural attraction for educational tourists mostly from the West, and as a quasi-advanced country for less privileged youths from countries less developed than China to imitate the quest for social mobility through international education.