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Does International Mobility Change Chinese Students’ Political Attitudes? A Longitudinal Approach


Many thousands of Chinese students come to ‘Western’ countries to study every year, and they probably include many of the country’s future leaders. We need to know how this might affect their social and political attitudes, and how it may influence China’s relationship with other major powers. There is good evidence that students who have returned from abroad (haiguipai) differ from students who remained in China, but this does not prove that going abroad changed their attitudes. This study tracks the attitudes of some Chinese students while they are abroad, and finds little evidence of change. We should be cautious about assuming that studying abroad substantially reshapes Chinese students’ political attitudes without further longitudinal evidence.

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    These figures exclude Hong Kong and Macao; UNESCO does not present data for Taiwan.

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    To simplify the explanation, throughout this discussion I am assuming that the threshold for Type I error is fixed at p = .05

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    I mean this in the economic sense of ‘marginal utility’, not ‘unimportant’.


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I would like to thank Robert and Biddy Guy and the Universities’ China Committee in London, Thomas Jansen at the University of Wales, Lampeter (now Trinity St David’s), the International Office at the University of Aberdeen, the Centre for International Foundation Programmes at St Andrews, three anonymous reviewers and panelists at the 2014 Canadian Political Science Association Convention. All errors are, of course, my own.

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Correspondence to Iain Wilson.

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Wilson, I. Does International Mobility Change Chinese Students’ Political Attitudes? A Longitudinal Approach. J OF CHIN POLIT SCI 21, 321–337 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11366-015-9387-6

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  • Haiguipai
  • Political Attitudes
  • Chinese Students
  • Overseas
  • Scotland