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4 Understanding the Statistics: Problems and Issues As mentioned in the Preface, ever since the exchanges started in 1978, the figure for the total number of Chinese students and scholars in the United States has eluded officials on both sides of the Pacific. Because, on the face of it, this basic figure should not be so difficult to determine, its absence inevitably draws first surprise, then disbelief. Surely either the United States with its advanced computers or China with her presumed controls over people should have the answer. It is just this incredulity that prompts the inclusion in the body of this report, rather than in an appendix, a detailed discussion of the problems and issues associated with statistics on Chinese students in the United States. Many readers will undoubtedly want to understand some of the methodological and institutional problems that have been responsible for this void; others, who are not interested in the bows and whys of the data, can skip directly to the statistical tables and the analysis in the sections that follow. . CHINESE STATISTICS ON SENDING STUDENTS ABROAD Although China's notoriously poor statistics (in all fields) have improved dramatically in the 1980s, there are still many deficiencies to overcome. Among them are a shortage of personnel trained in statistics and a traditional casualness with regard to numbers- a 77
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78 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA cha-bu-duo attitude which, despite the purported accuracy of the 1982 national census, has been especially evident when it comes to "people numbers." 1 The problems associated with keeping track of the movement of students and scholars in and out of China are magnified by the number of institutions, scattered throughout the country, involved in the process. Not only are student exit permits issued by various ministries, bureaus, universities, and institutes, but even passports are obtained in scattered administrative jurisdictions, with officially sponsored scholars getting them from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and privately sponsored students getting their passports from the Public Security Bureaus. As is so often the case in China, a partic- ular locality or administrative entity may have reasonably accurate figures, but the system breaks down in the process of transmission and aggregation, which, for the most part, is still done manually. Beijing has not published either an integrated series of year-by-year figures for students and scholars sent abroad or a breakdown by country of study. Most of the highly rounded figures reported by the Chinese refer to cumulative totals between 1978 and a given year, occasionally indicate distributions by country of study, sporadically show figures on returnees, and never include a total of students in any country in any particular year (see Table 4-1~. How accurate are the available figures? In 1986 (apparently for the first time) China published a set of figures under the heading Number of students sent abroad." Al- though no expl~ation was provided, the figures are obviously too low to include either scholars or privately supported students, and since they were released by the State Education Commission, the numbers must refer only to the officially sponsored students. From this assumption we can then derive the distribution of government- sponsored students between the United States and other countries (see Table 2. Although combining Chinese and U.S. statistics in one calcula- tion is somewhat risky, since the Chinese rarely publish any break- down of students and scholars by country of study, even an approx- imate distribution between the United States and the other Surplus countries is of special interest. Although the results seem to con- tradict Chinese reports that two-thirds of all students and scholars iSee, for example, Leo A. Orleans, "China's Statistics: The Impossible Dream." The Amertea" Statutician, May 1974, pp. 47-52.
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UNDERSTANDING THE STATISTICS TABLE 4-1 PRO Students and Scholars Abroad (all countries) Number Total Between Jan. 1979 and TotalOfficialPrivate Returned Nov. 1979a b (2,230)2,230n.a. - End of 1979c (2,700)2,700n.a. - End of 1980 5,192n.a.n.a. - Mid-1982d e (12,000)12,000n.a. __ End of 1983 25,50018,5007,000 (7,000) June 1984f 33,00026,0007,000 14,000 Mid-1985g h 36,80029,0007,800 15,000 End of 1985 38,00030,0008,000 16,500 Mid-1987 50,00040,00010,000 20,000 NOTE: Although figures for a number of years are missing, the totals that are reported appear in many sources. In most cases the starting date of January 1979 is clearly indicated; when the source indicates the end month, it is shown in the table; the more general time periods in the table were surmised from the date of the earliest publication in which the figure appeared. The totals in parentheses do not include the privately sponsored students. SOURCES: bBeiiin~ Review (BR), p. 5, No. 47, 1979. Xinhua, Dec. 22, 1979; Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), Jan. 7, 1980, p. L6 CXinhua, Nov. 7, 1980; FBIS, Nov. 7, 1980, p. L32. This total includes 3,963 visiting scholars, 562 postgraduate students, and 667 undergraduates. dXinhua, Aug. 22, 1982; FBIS, Aug. 23, 1982, p. K15. fBR, No. 3, Jan. 16, 1984, p. 11. Xinhua, Nov. 29, 1984; Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS)-CST-85, Jan. 3, 1985, p. 5. gBanvuetan (Semi-MonthlY Talks), Aug. 25, 1985; JPRS-CST-85-037, Act. 29, 1985, p. 4. . Xinhua, July 8, 1986; FBIS, July 9, 1986, p. K12. Xinhua, June 10, 1987; FBIS, June 15, 1987, p. K7. 79 come to the United States, the discrepancy can be explained by the fact that the figures in Table 4-2 apply only to officially sponsored students. If scholars and privately supported students were included, the proportion in the United States would undoubtedly come closer to two-thirds of the total numbers sent abroad. As for figures in Table 12, in the early postnormaTization years, the majority of Chi- nese students were indeed sent to Europe and Japan, but in just three years the balance shifted, so that by 1983 most were coming to the United States. Since this country is the overwhelming choice of
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80 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA TABLE 4-2 Estimated Percentage of Officially Sponsored Students Sent to the United States Number of Number of Number of Students J-1 Visas Students Sent Percentage of Sent Issued by to Other Students d Abroada the U.S. b Countries Sent to U.S. 1980 2,124336 1,758 17 1981 2,922680 2,242 23 1982 2,326950 1,376 41 1983 2,6331,572 1,061 60 1984 3,0731,783 1,290 58 1985 4,8882,507 2,381 51 1986 6,3803,069 3,311 48 l SOURCES: aAchievement of Education in China. 1980-1985, State Education Commission, Beijing, 1986, p. 50. The 1986 figure was reported in PRO Yearbook 1987, p. 465. bFrom Table 5-8. CSubtracting column 2 from column 1. dPercentage in column 2 of column 1. Chinese students, the downturn in the proportion (not in absolute numbers) coming to the United States in the last three years may also seem somewhat surprising. One reason for this is that it is much easier to obtain a visa for Canada and some of the European coun- tries, where stricter immigration policies and stringent enforcement also make their return much more certain than if they came to the United States. Until recently, Chinese diplomatic officials in the United States readily admitted that they did not have an accurate count of the numbers of scholars and students in this country, and such a number rarely appeared in Chinese sources.2 ~ 1986, however, with the help of a newly acquired computer, the Chinese Embassy in Washington began inputting data on all students and scholars with J-1 visas in the United States, their locations, their majors, and probably 2 When released, the number was likely to be picked up by numerous publications. For example, the 1984 release stating that as of April 1984, 8,900 officially sponsored and 4,000 privately sponsored students had come to the United States and 3,600 had already returned to China appeared in many sources (see, for example, CD, April 28, 1984~.
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UNDERSTANDING THE STATISTICS 81 other pertinent information. This has obviously greatly improved the statistical base available to the Chinese officials, but they continue to lack one important set of figures. Although the information on those entering the United States is said to be reasonably accurate, the Embassy is not always informed when individuals return to China. What this means, of course, is that although China's capability of estimating the number of persons in the United States under official Chinese auspices is rapidly improving, it still must be viewed as an approximation. And, of course, Chinese figures on the number of returnees must be even more problematic. Moreover, since there is no attempt to keep track of the privately funded students, a formula for determining the total number of Chinese scholars and students in the United States remains unattainable. In any case, according to statistics obtained from the Chinese Embassy, in November 1986 there were 4,987 scholars (46 percent), 5,716 graduate students (53 percent), and 116 undergraduate stu- dents (1 percent) in the United States, for a total of 10,819 scholars and students with J-1 visas. This total, as noted below, is several thousand lower than that derived from the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) data. While it is true that a discrepancy between U.S. and Chinese figures is inevitable, in this case, most of the difference can be explained by the fact that Chinese statistics exclude all visiting scholars who spend less than six months in the United States, a distinction which this country does not make but which has some merit. Despite China's problems with statistics, after considering the difficulties on the U.S. side, it may not be too risky to suggest that in years to come, we may be looking to Chinese officials for the most accurate data on scholars and students in the United States. Tangentially, it is interesting to consider the significant growth of foreign students in Chinese universities. According to the State Education Commission, their number has grown from 1,270 in 1979 to more than 6,000 In 1987 and is expected to reach almost 10,000 by the end of 1990. Just over half of all foreign students in China are said to come from 77 countries in the third worId.3 3 CD, Dec. IS, 1987, P ~
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82 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA U.S. EMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE DATA ON CHINESE STUDENTS As already mentioned, many people may find it especially diffi- cult to understand how a country that is as statistically and techno- logically sophisticated as the United States can also only guess about the number of Chinese in U.S. institutions of higher education. It is important to understand why. Two U.S. agencies control the entry of foreign students and scholars and theoretically should be able to provide statistics on their numbers: the Immigration and Natural- ization Service (INS) and the Visa Office of the U.S. Department of State. The problem with U.S. immigration statistics produced by the INS was carefully analyzed in a National Academy of Sciences 1985 report. Aptly subtitled "A Story of Neglect, it referred to immi- gration as "the Cinderella of the federal statistical system." 4 Indeed, despite recent efforts to improve the management of immigration statistics by introducing more advanced computer technology, the INS is still unable to produce much of the data sought by gov- ernment policymal~ers, as well as demographers and other scholars specializing in the study of migration and immigration. Data on the 20 nonimmigrant categories entering the country are said to be especially difficult to collect and, according to one anonymous INS spokesman, the figures on Chinese students are virtually useless. Let us consider some of the specific reasons. Anyone who consults the statistical yearbooks, published annu- ally by the INS, is immediately taken aback by the figures in the table entitled "Nonimmigrants Admitted by Country of Citizenship." The 1985 INS yearbook reports a total of 202,447 nonimmigrants admit- ted to the United States from China. This is obviously an impossible figure, but there is fortunately a footnote (which, incidentally, did not appear in previous years). The footnote reveals that the figures under the "China" entry include both the People's Republic of China and Taiwan! It also provides a breakdown between the two entities, but not by analyzing INS data. It relies on Formation provided by the Visa Office of the U.S. Department of State: PA total of ap- prox~mately 143,000 visas were issued to these two countries in fiscal year 1985: 93,000 to Taiwan and 50,000 to the Peoples' Republic 4Daniel B. Levine et al., eds., Immigration Statistics (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 19853.
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UNDERSTANDING THE STATISTICS 83 of China. There is no clarification of the discrepancy between the 202,447 in the table and the 143,000 in the footnote, no distribu- tion of the totals by specific categories of nonimmigrants, and no explanation for the need to rely on Department of State figures.5 Unquestionably, the INS has legitimate problems that are not easily overcome. At the time of entry, every nonimrnigrant fills out Form I-94 in which the reason for entering the United States must be shown. In theory, therefore, the INS should have in its data base the number of PRC students (F-1 visas) and PRC "exchange visi- tors" (visiting scholars with J-1 visas, in our terminology) entering the country each year, and its Statistical Analysis Branch did, in fact, provide some figures. However, to anyone familiar with the flow of Chinese students and scholars to the United States it would be immediately evident that these figures were grossly inflated, espe- cially for the F-i category. Although some part of the excess could be the double-counting of multiple entries, in the case of students and scholars from China multiple trips between the two countries are relatively infrequent. In response to a request for a better expla- nation for the much lower figures reported by the Visa Office, the INS came up with a rather distressing response. It is not uncommon for visitors from Taiwan many of whom may need assistance with an English language form to enter simply "China as their country of citizenship and country of residence. (Incidentally, the Form I-94 encourages such an abridgment by allowing only 15 block letters for these entries not quite enough to print "Republic of China. By way of verification, the number of F-1 visas issued to students from Taiwan is much lower than it should be. The discrepancy is not nearly as great for the J-1 visas (albeit in the same direction) not only because official visitors would be much more careful in identi- fying their country of citizenship and residence but also because the number of J-1 visas issued to residents of Taiwan is much smaller. To complete the INS story, it should be noted that even if the forms were filled out properly, the INS would not be able to provide the number of Chinese students In the country in any one year. Such an estimate would require not only statistics on the number of arrivals, but also on the number who returned to China. But with departure controls much more lax, it is virtually impossible for INS to estimate the number of annual departures or the number 51985 Statistical Yearbook of the Imrrugration and Naturalization Service (Wash- ington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, 1986), pp. 113 and 120.
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84 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA who have overstayed their visas. For a clearer understanding of the problem we must return to the two-part I-94 form. The top part, the "arrival record," ~ relinquished to INS on entry; the bottom part, the Departure record, is retained by the individual until departure, when it must be Reunited with the arrival record. However, this does not always happen. All too often the departure forms are not returned-curiously the responsibility of the carrier or not turned in to the appropriate INS office; and even when they are properly collected and turned in to INS, the prescribed process of matching the departure and arrival sections of the I-94 forms is of low priority. As a result, students of all nationalities tend to overstay their visas, and so long as they do not break any laws, no one is likely to search them out. What this means, of course, is that even if specifically tasked, the INS could not readily produce internally reliable data from which a figure for the number of Chinese currently in the United States could be derived. And, of course, the grapevine works; it does not take long for arriving foreign students to Recover the impotence of American immigration laws. To end on a more positive note, the INS has become keenly aware of the special and varied problems associated with the heavy flow of Chinese students and scholars to this country, and the corrective measures now being taken should eventually unprove statistics on visitors from China. STATISTICS PROM VISA APPLICATIONS AND USIA DATA TAPES Now let us consider the data from visa applications and the USIA's IAP-66 forms the two sources of the statistics used in this study. Visa applications submitted to the U.S. Embassy and the four Consulates in China constitute the most accurate and useful statistics on Chinese students and scholars in the United States. To review the process, a Chinese scholar or student wishing to come to the United States must first get approval from the work unit. The written ap- proval is used to obtain a Chmese passport, which must be presented at the U.S. Embassy or Consulates when application is made for a nonimmigrant visa. The F-1 visas are generally issued to students who develop their own program of study and get financial assistance for travel and tuition from relatives or friends. Most of the J-1 visas
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UNDERSTANDING THE STATISTICS 85 are issued to scholars (many of international standing), selected and supported by the Chinese government or one of its subordinate en- tities, and are therefore considered to be "officially sponsored," even when not funded by Beijing. All visa applications contain consider- able detail about the intended program of study in the United States, as well as personal characteristics of the applicants. One reason for so much detail ~ to prove to the consular officer that the applicant has sufficient ties to China (professional and/or family) to assure his or her return and therefore increase hm or her eligibility for a · · - non~mm~grant visa. There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the number of visas issued by the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in China and, while some of the responses on the applications may be subject to ~adjustments" that a prospective student might deem necessary or desirable, the completed forms are rich in information not otherwise obtainable. The problem ~ that while we have accurate totals of the number of visas issued, the Department of State does not keep track of the returnees (an INS task), making it impossible to estimate the actual number of Chinese students and scholars in the United States. Moreover, neither the Department of State's Visa Office in Washington, nor any other government office has the responsibility or the wherewithal to analyze the information available in the visa applications. In other words, this rich source of information went untapped prior to CSCPRC's first effort to process and analyze these data.6 The second source of statistical data for J-1 scholars and students is the lAP-66 form issued by the USTA. Using information obtainer] from the student's application form, universities or other institutions in the United States fill out Form lAP-66 to document the applicant's qualifications under one of the programs designated by the USIA. They also show the amount and source of financial support and are submitted with the student's passport to the U.S. visa offices at the embassy or consulates. Form LAP-66 ~ also filled out by any exchange visitor requesting an extension of the ongoing program, wishing to transfer to a different program, or requesting a permit to allow a visit by a member of his or her immediate faintly. 6David M. Lampton et al., A Relationship Restored licade in U.S.-China Educational E~changc~ 1978-1981 (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1986~).
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~6 CHINESE STUDENTS IN AMERICA As shown in the next chapter, the statistics on those entering new programs and those extending their stay is of considerable value in estunating the net number of students and scholars in this country. Since F-1 students are privately sponsored, they do not have to fill out Form lAP-66, although they must present an affidavit of financial support to assure the authorities that they will not become public charges or be forced to work.
Representative terms from entire chapter: