- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

An increasing number of Taiwanese students are now studying in mainland China, but Beijing and Taipei differ on what to make of this trend.
China regards the rise as a sign that the island's younger generation has a growing desire for unification. However, Taiwan chooses not to assign any meaning to the phenomenon and instead attributes the trend to individual interests.
"Young people in Taiwan have confidence in the economic future of China," said Xie Feng, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy.
Mr. Xie said Taiwan's economic troubles were pushing the island's youth to look toward the mainland for their future and predicted that such sentiments will ultimately pressure Taiwan to join China.
"Young people [of Taiwan] understand that unification is inevitable [and are] preparing for future business," Mr. Xie said. "The trend [toward unification] cannot be stopped."
There are approximately 4,000 Taiwanese students studying in 140 mainland universities today, according to the Chinese Education Ministry.
Increasing numbers of Taiwanese students are now leaving their homes to study in China. Two years ago, 65 students applied for postgraduate programs, including doctoral studies, according to Beijing-Hong Kong Academic Exchange Center. By last year, the number had increased to 296.
Postgraduate courses popular among Taiwanese students in the mainland include business administration, law, Chinese medicine and philosophy.
"Taiwan students go to the mainland to study primarily for individual career reasons," said Eric Chiang, a spokesman for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States.
Ralph N. Clough, a Taiwan scholar at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, attributed the increase to quotas and other incentives that China offers Taiwanese students.
It is an exaggeration to suggest that more Taiwanese students are applying for mainland degrees because they feel unification is inevitable, Mr. Clough said.
Taiwan also allows Chinese students to study in the island's universities. Between 1999 and 2001, 134 research grants were awarded by Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council to Chinese students to study in Taiwan, and 124 accepted the scholarships.
"Taiwan is an open society, and when students from mainland China come to Taiwan they have the opportunity to better understand democracy and Taiwan's social development," Mr. Chiang said.
Despite disagreements on what to make of the growing number of Taiwanese students in the mainland, all sides regard the phenomenon as positive.
"[It is] another indication of people on both sides [willing] to cooperate," Mr. Clough said.


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