China has been at the very centre of learning for thousands of years, contributing great works by strategists, poets, and philosophers to the international pantheon.
In 2014—the year of the Horse— the world continues to witness (and benefit) from the conveyor belt of young postgrad minds produced at its rising universities in the realms of economics, business, and a great host of other subjects. In fact, China’s emerging intellectual arena is not only a worthy comparison to its western counterparts—it threatens to eclipse them.
By 1450, China had closed itself off from the world. Yet, despite this, the technologies and innovations concocted behind the Great Wall rippled far beyond it, revolutionizing empires and kingdoms thousands of miles away: gunpowder (9th century) fired great shots from enormous cannons that obliterated the never-breached falls of Constantinople (1453), while the printing press (11th century) carried the message of God and science across Europe, leading to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.
Over the last four decades, China has become an economic juggernaut that has been voraciously gobbling-up raw materials and spouting out finished goods for the markets of the world. It is a Communist country with a thirst for capitalism that is insatiable—and remains unquenched today. The tentacles of Chinese business emanate from the centuries-old booming mega cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, and effortlessly infiltrate the west, the east, and everywhere in between; its cheaply produced wares within the steel bellies of cargo ships sailing out in great armadas are destined for every foreign port.
The Chinese are an industrious people—a wall that can be seen from space by China’s own missions illustrates that—and this helps to explain much of their growth under the Communist era as Mao led them from the clutches of imperialism and nationalism. It is also why international students should consider continuing their education in this part of the world.
Through blood and sweat; iron and steel; university and postgraduate, China has manoeuvred itself into a superpower that has returned to trading with Africa and other continents, turning back the policy of the fifteenth century. Yet, Confucianism remains at the core of a neon-nucleated, skyscraper soaring, economically egregious nation, and with it, the principles of teaching and learning. China is once again open to foreigners - foreigners who are now benefiting from the same institutions as the Chinese themselves.
Old Communist China used to cast a wary eye on education, but an outward-looking state sees the deep interconnectivity between education, enterprise, and economy. The QS World University Rankings of 2014 include seven rapidly ascending universities in the top 200, including, Tsinghua University (47), Peking and Fudan Universities (57 and 71 respectively), as well as an additional five in Hong Kong. For some, China’s determination induces uneasiness and suspicion, but no one can doubt the integrity of its academic institutions.
A postgrad course at one of China’s universities is more than continuing a tradition of education and learning older than the Roman Empire. It’s a chance to play psychologist and examine the mind of the globe’s second strongest economy and only genuine rival to the US. China offers the international student so much; it is a living museum, a gallery, a showcase and a window into the past and the future: it shows what can be achieved. The academic prospector from the suburbs of Stockholm, or the boroughs of London, or even the townships of Johannesburg may see the target of liberal criticism, but the power of industry and, more importantly, the application of teaching is all around.
China is at the forefront of education—and everything else— but also offers a wealth of recreation activities to provide welcome distraction. History erupts from the ancient cobbled streets of Beijing’s Old City, while the Terracotta Warriors are just a culturally rewarding train journey to the west. It’s a land that is rich with temple-dangling artistry and ornately carved spirits that watch over the profiteering hawker stands. It is a modern country built on the sites of its ancestors in environments that range from the paddy fields of Yuanyang, desert wilderness in Muslim Urumqi, and long clouds that hang around the sacred peaks of Tibet. China is not a country: it is an adventure.
A long time ago, Confucius wrote: “He that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools”. A postgraduate degree in China will certainly sharpen all of your academic and transferable tools that will unquestionably be inspired by the monuments, ideas, and businesses already constructed.
China has already reached the stars; it will help you to.
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