China’s government is offering more university scholarships to African students than the leading western governments combined, in a sign of Beijing’s use of “soft power” alongside economic investment, reported the Financial Times.
The annual Global Education Monitoring Report produced by Unesco showed China was set to offer 12,000 scholarships to African students in the coming academic year, largely to support study at Chinese universities.
Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at Oxford University, said the trend reflected China’s efforts at soft diplomacy linked to its Belt and Road development strategy that has led it to pump billions of dollars into infrastructure projects around the world, including in Africa.
“China’s aid is regionally specific and tends to be defined by Belt and Road,” he said. “One feature of Chinese policy, compared with the UK, is long-term continuity.” In the UK, he said there was a tendency to “shift policy from budget to budget and more so if there is a change of government. But China can be expected to keep increasing scholarships for African students for many years to come.”