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Internationalization, Regionalization, and Soft Power: China’s Relations with ASEAN Member Countries in Higher Education

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image of Frontiers of Education in China

Since the late 1980s, there has been a resurgence of regionalism in world politics. Prospects for new alliances are opened up often on a regional basis. In East and Southeast Asia, regionalization is becoming evident in higher education, with both awareness and signs of a rising ASEAN+3 higher education community. The quest for regional influence in Southeast Asia, however, has not been immune from controversies. One fact has been China’s growing soft power. As a systematically planned soft power policy, China is projecting soft power actively through higher education in the region. Yet, China-ASEAN relations in higher education have been little documented. Unlike the mainstay of the practices of internationalization in higher education that focuses overwhelmingly on educational exchange and collaboration with affluent Western countries, China’s interactions with ASEAN member countries in higher education are fulfilled by “quiet achievers,” mainly seen at the regional institutions in relatively less developed provinces such as Guangxi and Yunnan. This article selects regional higher education institutions in China’s much disadvantaged provinces to depict a different picture to argue that regionalization could contribute substantially to internationalization, if a variety of factors are combined properly.


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