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The portrayal of Chinese international students: A critical review

by Dr. Cora Xu, Associate Professor, Durham University, UK


ESEA Lecture Series - November 2023

The portrayal of Chinese international students: A critical review

By Dr. Cora Xu, Associate Professor, Durham University, UK

Based on Dr. Xu's published work: Portraying the ‘Chinese international students’: a review of English-language and Chinese-language literature on Chinese international students (2015–2020)


Abstract: The Chinese international students are often portrayed in a monolithic manner in popular discourse. To offer a more comprehensive and critical representation of the Chinese international students, this paper conducts a thematic narrative review of 128 English-language and 74 Chinese-language peer-reviewed articles published between 2015 and 2020. Drawing on post-colonial theories, this review identifies four subject positions portrayed of the Chinese international students: the (1) neoliberal, (2) political, (3) pedagogic and (4) racialised subjects. This paper celebrates heartening developments in the literature which affirms Chinese international students’ epistemic contributions, legitimate pedagogic needs, notable heterogeneity and wide-ranging political, cultural and pedagogic agencies. It also highlights how aspects of these subject positions have exercised epistemic injustice on the Chinese international students. Meanwhile, it pinpoints the Chinese international students’ acquiescence in exacerbating global education inequalities. Among the first to bring the dominant English-language and ‘local’ perspectives of Chinese-language literature in dialogue, this article notes divergent focuses and indicates unique contributions to historicising research on Chinese international students made by the latter. This article challenges popular perceptions of Chinese international students, questions production of knowledge, and pinpoints future research directions.


Bio: Dr Cora Lingling Xu (PhD Cambridge, FHEA) is Associate Professor in Education at Durham University, UK. Her research interests include sociology of time, educational mobilities, identities and social theories. She has researched cross-border and transnational student and academic migration, ethnic minority and rurality topics within contemporary Chinese societies. She is an Executive Editor of the British Journal of Sociology of Education, Associate Editor of Journal of International Students and is an editorial board member of Cambridge Journal of Education and International Studies in Sociology of Education. She is founder and director of Network for Research into Chinese Education Mobilities. Her research has been featured in the BBC.

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