According to Statista, in the pandemic breakout period 2020-2021, China remained the most prominent country for international students enrolled in U.S. programs. The total of 317,299 made up 35% of the total number of international students studying in the U.S.
According to Six Tones, over the past two decades, the number of women from China’s one-child generation studying in the West has surpassed the number of male peers.
In 2014, females accounted for 51% of Chinese students in the U.S., 55% in Canada, and outnumbered males in the UK with 63%.
There has been a rising movement in China recently—”New Women.”
Suyin, a Chinese international student studying in Melbourne, Australia, shared, “My father once asked me if I want to live in Chengdu forever or have a dream of my own. If I decide to stay in Chengdu after graduating, I will always work here, get a husband and be a married woman. However, if you have another dream, you are allowed to pursue it.”
Before her father opened the topic, Suyin had not thought about her future. Suyin then realized she did not want the monotonous life of a married woman. Instead, she wants a colorful life and to see the big world.
Suyin’s story is covered in a new study by Australian researcher Fran Martin. It represents this emerging trend in China.
In 2015 Martin conducted the “New Times II” analysis project. The subjects of the study were female Chinese international students studying in Australia. Her book, completed in February 2022, is titled “Dreams of Flight: The Lives of Chinese Women Students in the West.”
China used to have a “Modernise Woman” movement in the first half of the twentieth century. Therefore, this trend is named New Times II. The main character of New Times II is a Generation (Gen) Z woman born between 1997 and 2012. These people grow up in an educational environment that encourages equality with men, are encouraged to dream, and are supported to pursue their dreams.
Studying abroad is one of the closest paths to realizing their dreams.
China’s former one-child policy is one of the reasons leading up to this movement. As an only child in the family, most Gen Z women are surrounded and provided with maximum material; most of all, they receive a lot of expectations from their parents.
Martin concluded that this trend could be quantified as aspirational orientation, determination to study abroad, efforts to obtain a master’s or doctoral degree, establishing a career, and traveling around the world. In short, New Times II is synonymous with “freedom to go around the world.”
Through observation, Martin found that female students studying abroad are more open in all aspects than women of the same age in their home country. However, after graduating from an overseas school, most still have to return to China and face three significant challenges.
The first is job seeking. Facing the wave of domestic bachelor’s unemployment, they find their foreign degrees do not live up to expectations.
The age of graduated women studying abroad is always around or over 30. Mainland employers are not very interested in recruiting female employees in this age group. The reason is because of the “maternity policy.”
The second challenge is getting married. Chinese society dislikes “girls over 25 years old,” and “highly educated girls.” Women who want to have a family face difficulty finding partners.
The third is deciding how to live. The more independent and self-reliant these women are, the more they contradict the “traditional women” trend. It goes against parental and social expectations, gives rise to conflict, and has the potential to end badly.