The Chinese government scholarship program: An effective form of foreign assistance?

Lili Dong, David W. Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This study investigates the effectiveness of Chinese international education assistance through an examination of student experience in the Chinese Government Scholarship Program, an important mechanism of Chinese foreign aid. Grounded in Pascarella's (1985) model of the impact of college on students, the study investigates participants' level of satisfaction with their higher education experience in China and their perception of the role of the scholarship program in promoting positive relationships between China and the scholarship students' home countries. Findings indicate that participants are generally satisfied with their experiences in China and are positive about the impact of the program in building friendships with their home countries. The authors discuss the implications of these findings in terms of China's emerging prominence as a provider of international development assistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-173
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Review of Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
On 1st January 1997, the Chinese government made important modifications to the administration of the Chinese Government Scholarships. The China Scholarship Council (CSC) was established as a non-profit institution affiliated with the Ministry of Education (as opposed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and charged with the administration of the scholarship programs. While the central government is still responsible for determining the number of scholarships to be awarded, the China Scholarship Council is responsible for overseeing the student admissions process and ongoing administration of the program (Foreign Students Studying in China n.d.). Since 2000, the China Scholarship Council has also been responsible for the organization and implementation of an annual review of scholarship recipients (Ministry of Education 2000).

Funding Information:
According to the China Scholarship Council (n.d.), the stated objectives of the scholarship program are to ‘‘strengthen mutual understanding and friendship between the Chinese people and people from other countries and to develop cooperation and exchange in the fields of education, science, culture, economy and trade between China and other countries.’’ Another, but unspoken, rationale for the scholarship program is to contribute to China®s ‘‘soft-power diplomacy’’ (Shambaugh 2005a, b). ‘‘Soft power’’ is the ability to get ‘‘others to want the outcomes that you want’’ through co-optation instead of coercion (Nye 2004). Students from other countries get to know China through educational exchange programs (Johnson 2005). More to the point, the scholarships provide a mechanism for training future leaders from other countries who might serve as opinion leaders once back in their home countries. In this respect, these educational exchange activities are the continuation and supplement of national foreign policy (Tian et al. 2004). Among other things, the Chinese government hopes that the goodwill created through these scholarships will play a subtle role in winning support within recipient countries for the ‘‘One China’’ policy and for China®s position in international affairs (Bezlova 2005).

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