American students are getting cold feet about studying Chinese in China, with many study abroad programs in the country seeing a substantial drop in enrolment over the last few years.
At the University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP), student enrolment in programs in China is expected to be less than half the level it was only four years ago. Washington-based CET, another leading study abroad group, says interest in China has been falling since 2013.
The apparent waning of interest worries some China watchers. Given the importance of the U.S.-China relationship, having a group of Americans across different industries who speak Chinese and understand the culture is “a matter of national interest”, says Robert Daly, director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Center in Washington.
“We can’t respond coherently, effectively and fully to China unless we understand China on its own terms,” he said.