In clearing my browser tabs, I ran across a story I’d meant to blog on earlier. The WaPo ran an interesting story on how the children and grandchildren of China’s governing elite study at pricey U.S. colleges:
“There is such a fascination with brand names” in China that “just as they want to wear Hermes or Ermenegildo Zegna, they also want to go to Harvard. They think this puts them at the top of the food chain,” Schell said.
There are a number of problems with the admission of excessive numbers of foreign students, but I think there’s a long-term danger that’s most acute with regard to China. Despite made-up Chinese reports that nearly all of them stay in the U.S., many of these students will return and become the next generation of China’s ruling class. And that’s a problem because their Ivy League experience is giving them a seriously distorted view of the American people.
The article’s premise is summed up by the online headline: “Chinese communist leaders denounce U.S. values but send children to U.S. colleges.” But how different are the values of the CCP and elite American academia? Here’s a paragraph from the beginning of the piece:
But the kin of senior party officials are a special case: They rarely attend state schools but congregate instead at top-tier — and very expensive — private colleges, a stark rejection of the egalitarian ideals that brought the Communist Party to power in 1949. Of the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the supreme decision-making body of a Communist Party steeped in anti-American rhetoric, at least five have children or grandchildren who have studied or are studying in the United States.
So, they’re princelings of “a Communist party steeped in anti-American rhetoric” attending American universities also steeped in anti-American rhetoric. Apart from maybe those in Gaza, our elite universities are probably the most anti-American in the world. Which is a problem in itself, obviously, but in this context it’s likely to teach China’s next generation of leaders to expect very different things from America than is likely to happen.
Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto may have wanted to avoid war with the U.S. because he knew from his time at Harvard that, if attacked, we would respond with “a terrible resolve.” Fast-forward to, say, 2040 and the U.S. and China are in a high-stakes standoff over Taiwan or something, with the possibility of war being discussed. What will these leaders think about the likely responses of the American people based on their four years in Cambridge or Hanover or New Haven? Heck, American liberals educated at elite institutions are constantly surprised at the passions of an American people with which they are almost entirely unfamiliar; how much worse must it be for foreigners? A Harvard degree may be a better fashion accessory, but these young people would be better prepared to direct China’s relations with the U.S. if they went to, if not Hillsdale or Christendom, then at least SMU, say, or Penn State.