As an important component of international exchanges and cooperation, international students education has been given great importance by the Chinese government. Due to half-century's painstaking efforts, an international students administration system, with distinct Chinese characteristics, has been constructed. This system has helped to produce a number of talents in the fields of science, technology, education, diplomacy, management, etc. for many countries, especially developing countries, and played an active role in enhancing the political, diplomatic and economic ties between China and those countries as well as promoting the exchange of culture, education and personnel.
In 1950, China received the first group of 33 students from the East European countries. By the end of 2000, the total number of international students in China has increased to 407,000. They are from more than 160 different countries. Among them, Chinese Government Scholarship students numbered 88,000, whereas self-financed students reached 317,000. Since 1997, the Chinese Scholarships Council (CSC) has been entrusted by the Ministry of Education with the enrollment and administration of daily operations concerning international students in China sponsored by Chinese Government Scholarships.
Since 1978 when China initiated her reform and opening-up policy, international students education has entered into a new stage. From 1979 to 1999, the total number of international students studying in China reached 342,000 person-times. China has been successful in maintaining social and political stability and the rapid growth of economy, and this in return gives rise to the international students. In 1996, the total of international students reached 41,000, an increase by 30 % over 1992. Furthermore, the enrollment of self-financed students made such a big stride that it has surpassed that of scholarship students, and became the main stream of the international students.
The outbreak of SARS in 2003 had brought great difficulties. In order to implement the 2003-2007 Action Plan for Rejuvenating Education, the Ministry of Education had worked creatively on the policy of "expand the size, raise the level, guarantee the quality and regulate the management". The difficulties that SARS had caused were surmounted and the number of the students was basically stabilized. Totally 77,715 students of different types from 175 countries were accepted by 353 Chinese higher education institutions.
International students from Asia still top the list of all, totaled 63,672, accounting for 81.93% (see Graphic 1). While 6,462 students are from Europe, accounting for 8.31%; 4,703 from America, accounting for 6.05%; 1,793 from Africa, accounting for 2.31%, and 1085 from Oceania, accounting for 1.04%.
South Korea, Japan, the United States, Vietnam and Indonesia are the top five countries that have the largest numbers of international students in China, numbered 35,353, 12,765, 3,693, 3,478, and 2,563 respectively. Other countries, which have over 1,000 students in China, are Thailand (1,554), Germany (1,280), Russia (1,224), Nepal (1,199) and Mongolia (1,060).
According to the agreements or programs signed by Chinese government and the governments of other countries as well as international organizations, China's Ministry of Education offered to 163 countries Chinese Government Scholarships in 2003.With the 1,879 new numbers, actually 6,153 foreign students were admitted, making up 7% of total number, of which Asia students amounted to 3,076,covered 50% of the total, European students 1,442, 23%, Africa 1,244, 20%, America 305, 5%, Oceania 86, 1.4%. With the principle of raising the level of scholarship students, Ph.D students increased to 609,Master Degree students added up to 1,350,and undergraduate students 1,754 .In addition, 123 students were benefited from the other scholarship provided by Chinese Government, including the Great Wall Scholarship, the Excellent Student Scholarship, the HSK Winner Scholarship, the short-term program for foreign teachers of Chinese and the Chinese culture research program. As for the self-financed students, the enrolment has expanded to 71,562, among them, short-term students (who studied for less than 6 months) numbered 13,202, whereas long-term students who studied in China for over 6 months (including 6 months) numbered 58,360.
In accordance with the relevant regulations on the management of Chinese Government Scholarship formulated by the Ministry of Education, to reinforce the management of Chinese Government Scholarship and to bring its benefits and effects into full play, the Ministry of Education of China entrusts China Scholarship Council (CSC) to take charge of the organization and implementation of Annual Review of the Chinese Government Scholarship students. And the institutions are entitled to give Annual Review to their own scholarship students.
To convenience international students, along with some consulting booklets, the China Scholarship Council (CSC) and Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE), directly under the Ministry of Education, also provide on-line enrollment and information consulting.
On February 16, 1998, the Conference on Study by Foreign Students in China was convened, which, coming up with the policy of "deepening reform, improving management and guaranteeing educational quality to achieve vigorous and steady development", the former State Education Commission, analyzed the new circumstances faced by the international students education and consequently laid down tasks to be fulfilled in recent years. This is a milestone in Chinese international students education.