By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

Seeing China's future leaders

Every few months, I meet with a group of university students from China who are visiting as part of a two-week trip to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and San Francisco through an organization called "China Future Leaders." I speak with them about my family, about Harvard, and about US-Chinese relations, and usually get a chance to hear what's on their minds. A group of 100 or so students came around a few days ago.

Of this recent group, about 80 percent were visiting the US for the first time, a considerably higher proportion than usual. About 70 percent grew up in one of China's prosperous coastal provinces, 30 percent in one of the less-prosperous inland provinces. Compared with Chinese even 10 or 15 years older, they speak fantastic English.

I asked the students who were graduating which of them were looking for jobs. About half of those graduating were on the job market, the other half planned to continue studying. Of the ones on the job market, it was interesting to learn that more than half had job offers already, several of them multiple offers! Only one of the students said she was anxious about finding a job.

I suspect not too many American college seniors are thinking that way.

Of the group, by the way, about 80 percent said they were on Facebook, a big increase from previous groups. Since these are students visiting the US, they aren't necessarily typical of all Chinese university students. But this astounding number was an important statement about American "soft power" -- the power of our language, culture, and ideas. By joining Facebook, they are entering a (predominantly) English-language social network, learning more about American culture, and often making friends outside China. Good for China, good for the US, good for the world.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Feb 05, 2009 at 12:08 PM


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