24 April 2019
Bo Guagua, son of Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing boss who is now in jail, is perhaps the best-known 'Second Red Generation' who is studying overseas. Photo:
Bo Guagua, son of Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing boss who is now in jail, is perhaps the best-known 'Second Red Generation' who is studying overseas. Photo:

International schools in China face an unpleasant reality

In recent years it has become a popular trend in China for key Communist Party and government officials to send their kids to study overseas, mostly in prestigious universities in the US and Britain. Such moves were seen as serving two purposes: they can help the officials move money offshore, and also enable them to hedge political risks at home.

Perhaps the best-known “Second Red Generation” who is studying overseas is Bo Guagua, son of Bo Xilai, the former chief of the municipality of Chongqing who is now in jail on graft charges.

Bo Guagua has been studying in prestigious overseas high schools and universities since he was 11, including Oxford University, Harvard University and Columbia University, and has helped his parents move countless assets offshore.

His extravagant lifestyle when studying overseas has received widespread media coverage over the years.

However, the case of Bo Guagua is only the tip of the iceberg, as there are now hundreds of thousands of other “Second Red Generation” of a lower profile who are studying in prestigious universities overseas and helping their corrupt parents hide their dirty money offshore.

Most of these prestigious universities are welcoming these modern-day young aristocrats from China with open arms, because their enrollment might attract tens of millions of dollars in donation from Chinese entrepreneurs who are trying to gain favor with the kids’ powerful parents.

Besides, once these “Second Red Generation” become Chinese leaders in the future, their bond with their alma maters would prove priceless.

Now, as for the Chinese middle-class families which either can’t afford to or don’t want to send their kids to study overseas at an early edge, they are seeking aggressively to send their kids to international schools across China, so as to let them study in a relatively free learning environment while getting ready for overseas universities later.

However, such plans for international schools don’t seem to be working anymore. The reason: since 2014, authorities in major cities like Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Wuhan have stopped issuing permits to overseas education conglomerates that sought to open new international schools in China.

The permits were halted mainly due to concerns about “Western ideological contamination”.

For those international schools which are lucky to remain operational in the mainland, some of them have been ordered by local authorities to incorporate Marxist political lessons into their daily curricula.

Some local authorities even demand that the international schools within their jurisdiction ditch the International Baccalaureate program and adopt standard Chinese high school curriculum and use Chinese textbooks.

If the international schools succumb to pressure and become no different from any other Chinese high school, it will spell the end of such institutions in the mainland. 

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 1

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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