ASEAN student ranks swell

Updated: 2013-10-16 00:52

By Li Yang in Pingxiang, Guangxi (China Daily)

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ASEAN student ranks swell

 Keosakoun Sounaly, a student from Laos, studies Chinese at Guangxi University. Keosakoun is one of a large number of students from ASEAN member countries who study in China for the chance of a better career after graduation. China Daily / Lan Lin

The number of students in China from member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has increased in tandem with bilateral trade.

Trade between China and ASEAN rose from $100 billion in 2004 to $400 billion last year.

The number of ASEAN students has increased by more than tenfold to about 40,000 over the same period, according to an estimate from the China-ASEAN Expo Secretariat in Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

"The fact that more and more ASEAN students come to study in China, thanks to the Chinese government's support, will provide reliable human foundations for the sustainable development of bilateral trade", said Zheng Junjian, the secretariat's head.

The 10th China-ASEAN Expo ended on Sept 4 in Nanning, marking the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the China-ASEAN strategic partnership.

The expo saw 167 project contracts in various fields worth $15.87 billion signed in four days. Some 80 percent of the 1,294 exhibition booths of ASEAN countries hired students from member countries studying in Nanning.

Sandro Topan Se, an Indonesian businessman dealing in art, said, "I am happy to see some Indonesian students coming to help us as interpreters and volunteers. It's like doing business at home."

Zhang Ruyi, a rice dealer from Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, runs her business in Nanning and employs two Cambodian students.

She said: "The two students are very important for my business. They are fluent in Chinese and know how to market the rice to Chinese consumers."

Wtechai, a student from the Thai capital Bangkok who is studying tourism at Guangxi Normal University in Guilin, said: "The Chinese language is the most important foreign language in my country. I regard Chinese as my second mother tongue.

"Chinese culture and that of Southeast Asia share something in common. This is the advantage for businessmen from both sides to work with each other."

Guangxi University and Guangxi University for Nationalities in Nanning, along with Guangxi Normal University in Guilin are the three biggest universities in Guangxi receiving students from ASEAN countries.

He Longqun, president of Guangxi University for Nationalities, said: "The ASEAN students make the campus more international. The university pays special attention to create a campus rich in Chinese culture to help ASEAN students adapt to their life in China."

The ASEAN student population at the three universities has risen from about 300 in 2003 to nearly 5,000 and is expected to reach about 10,000 in three years.

They study Chinese language for the first year to pass the HSK test, China's official test of standard Chinese-language proficiency for non-native speakers.

They then start to study their majors for degrees, with Chinese language and literature, business, management and tourism being the most popular.

Rattaporn Panmanee, a 22-year-old from Thailand studying for her master's degree in Chinese language and literature at Guangxi University, said she would like to return to Thailand and work as a Chinese-language teacher.

"Chinese is the most popular foreign language in Thailand now. I have more advantages than Chinese teachers from the Confucius School in Thailand, because I am fluent in some local languages."

His classmate, Vo Thi Kim Oanh, a 20-year-old from Nghe An in Vietnam, comes from a business family.

"Chinese is the most popular foreign language in my hometown. I would like to sell Chinese clothes to Vietnam and sell shoes made in Vietnam to China," she said.

Lyu Xia, a 35-year-old teacher of business Chinese with the International Education School of Guangxi University, came to Guangxi in 2003 and is impressed with these students.

"The ASEAN students are becoming increasingly hardworking. Most of them have a clear target for doing business in bilateral trade, with some of them coming from business families," she said.

Wang Cheng, director of the international student section at Guangxi University, said the students' education in China gives them a big advantage.

"Most students from ASEAN countries go back to their own countries and play active roles in promoting mutual understanding and bilateral trade. They learn Chinese language, culture and business and make Chinese friends in China, which gives them a great advantage in doing business with China at home."