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CQ's finest

A few days ago I got a chance to visit a local high school class (actually called middle schools here). Of course, it turned out it wasn't just any high school - it was the best school in the greater Chongqing area - a school district that contains 8 million students and 10,000 schools according to the regional education superintendant.

And of course, being an official visit, it wasn't an ordinary class of students either. These were the brightest 16 and 17 year-olds I've ever met. They all spoke very good English - several had already gone to the US for exchange programs and every single one planned to study abroad (mostly to the US) after university in China.

We had a wide-ranging Q&A period and I found out a lot about them. The first girl I talked to wanted to be a female CEO for "just a multinational." Others wanted to be lawyers, engineers and environmentalists. In many ways, their dreams and ambitions were no different from a group of middle and upper-middle class kids in the States. And in some ways, they were better informed than their American peers. They could tell me the significance of China's membership in the World Trade Organization.

They're also the first generation of Chinese kids to grow up in an economically strong China. And it showed. Halfway through the session, another girl stood up and told me she wanted to study abroad so that she could tell the rest of the world that she was proud to be Chinese and that she comes from a country that's strong - and no longer weak. When she finished, the class burst into applause.

Another student told me that she had spent three weeks in Oregon on an exchange program. She said that Americans confused China and Taiwan and why did we focus so much attention on Taiwan?

It was a fascinating encounter. And I wonder what will happen when this generation of Chinese students travels abroad. They all said that they planned to return to China to "help China's economic development." But their nationalism may be tamed with a few years abroad. And they may be tempted with offers from multinationals who will surely consider them to be attractive recruits.

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As an English teacher in China I was able to see what your talking about not only in middle school kids but also kindergartners. They are taught from a very young age that China is powerful, big, rich and the world's prize when it comes to culture and history. It will be most amazing to see what will the generations to come bring.

Oh yeah. There is a whole new generation of extremely well educated Chinese kids coming onto the stage.

It's interesting you should mention that "they may be tempted with offers from multinationals", or especially American companies. But I wonder, as China become more and more open with more and more opportunities, and at the same time with the growing hostile attitudes towards foreigners working in the US especially Chinese nationals, and the ridiculous difficulties the US government is putting on them, if this country will still be able to recruit and retain those talents.

Just as an example, a Chinese H1B worker with usually at least Master's lever degree, if needs to travel outside US, will have to go through a face-to-face interview at a "US consulate OUTSIDE the US", at the cost of $105.00 interview fee plus travel and hotel expenditures, plus days of preparation, plus days of worrying of the Visa application being rejected or checked even they have already been working in the US for years. And even if approved, it's only valid for 3-month and 2-entries!! This alone makes most of them not even dare to simply to go home to see their family!!

As a US engineer in manufacturing who's seen job prospects dry up in the Northeast as a result of outsourcing, I had mixed feelings about seeing companies like IBM, Honeywell, etc., recruiting at the Marriott Chongqing, while I was there in April for the adoption of our first child (a baby girl, of course).

However, having accepted this reality, I feel the future for American companies and engineers alike is in cooperation in areas like industrial pollution controls, where the US still has a strong technological advantage. US firms could help the Chinese come up to western standards, a win-win for both countries.

Also, many thanks to the entire Marketplace team for your excellent China-week reporting.

I know what you mean by having the distinction of being married to one of those high end CQ middle school graduates from an earlier era (Class of 1989).

My wife has degrees in physics, finance as well as an MBA, & she loves to show me the up & coming university cities that are emerging in the major cities in China.

Half of the staff in my 7 person Shanghai office hold masters degrees & politely like to poke fun at rough grasp of fundamental business calculus.

Granted, we Americans are far better at innovation & thinking "outside the box", but when it comes to a solid & focused educational system churning out a highly educated population, we pale in comparison to the Chinese.

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