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But name-brand universities have a cult-like allure.
If she changed her mind – or, worse, failed to make the transition – she could not resume her studies within the Chinese system.
And if that happened, she would miss the chance of going to an elite university and, therefore, of getting a top job within the system.
s the daughter of a senior colonel in China’s People’s Liberation Army, Ren Futong has lived all 17 years of her life in a high-walled military compound in northern Beijing.
No foreigners are allowed inside the gates; the vast encampment, with its own bank, grocery store and laundromat, is patrolled by armed guards and goose-stepping soldiers.
They now account for nearly a third of all foreign students in America, contributing $9.8 billion a year to the United States’ economy.
In Britain, too, Chinese students top the international lists.The agony and monotony of studying for that test made her dread the prospect of three more years cramming for the , the pressure-packed national exam whose result – a single number – is the sole criterion for admissions into Chinese universities.One spring evening two years ago, Monica, then 15, came home to the compound and made what, for an acquiescent military daughter, was a startling pronouncement.Many of these students are the sons and daughters of China’s rising elite, establishment families who can afford tuition fees of ,000 a year for America’s top universities – and the tens of thousands of dollars needed to prepare for the transition.Even the daughter of Xi Jinping, China’s president and the man driving the campaign against foreign ideas, recently studied – under a pseudonym – at Harvard University.Among Western educators, the Chinese system is famous for producing an elite corps of high-school students who regularly finish at the top of global test rankings, far ahead of their American and British counterparts.Yet so many Chinese families are now opting out of this system that selling education to Chinese students has become a profitable business for the West.And the outflow shows no sign of subsiding: according to a recent , an annual survey of China’s elite, 80% of the country’s wealthy families plan to send their children abroad for education.Not every Chinese student is driven, as Monica is, by the desire to escape the grind of the and get a more liberal education.“I told my parents that I was tired of preparing for tests like a machine,” she recalls.“I wanted to go to university in America.” She had hinted at this desire before, talking once over dinner about the freedom offered by an American liberal-arts education, but her parents had dismissed it as idle chatter.