Why China’s Top Schools become U.S. Doctoral Training Base?

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How sweet is the air in America? It is the dream place for tens of thousands of Tsinghua and Peking University students.

Some data show that up to 80% of Chinese students who went to the U.S. to study and earn their PhD in 2018 eventually chose to settle in the U.S. In fact, as early as 2008, some American media compared Tsinghua and Peking University to “the most fertile training base for American PhDs”.

Thinking back to 1981, the first batch of nine international students from Tsinghua University went to the United States, all of whom eventually returned to China after completing their studies. A group of academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering were born, leading China’s development with their knowledge.

first batch of international students from Tsinghua University in 1981

However, only forty years later, the sentiment of serving one’s country has gradually disappeared from the hearts of contemporary international students. Faced with such a huge change, Shi Yigong, the former vice president of Tsinghua University, summarized it in four words: resting on one’s laurels and enjoying oneself. The point from Qian Liqun, a senior professor at Peking University, he believes that Chinese universities are now training a group of sophisticated egoists.

“They are highly intelligent, good at acting, know how to cooperate, and are even better at using the system for their own purposes. They are more harmful than the average corrupt official, once such people get hold of power. The gene of selfishness then spreads like a cancer to the whole society.

However, a Tsinghua graduate who works for Apple in the United States has a very different view.

He denies that he is a “refined egoist”. He attributed his reasons for not returning to China to the lack of a mature and independent research environment in China, and the various bureaucratic systems, interpersonal relationships, and filing processes that affect academic research, which forced him to choose to pursue his studies in the United States.

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