A Test for One Chinese Province: How to Educate an Influx of US-Born Children

Violet Law, Christian Science Monitor, January 20, 2014

A gray marble monument stands at the village’s entrance to document the latest fundraising feat: half a million dollars collected in 2011 to bring the villagers tap water. Donations overwhelmingly are made in dollars, remitted by local sons and daughters who work in America.

Elsewhere, plaques and other privately funded community projects—from streetlights to sewer lines—dot the landscape. And villa-style mansions with marble pillars now tower over mustard-colored brick shacks.

The mansions’ inhabitants are mostly the elderly and their grandchildren. While China’s countryside is teeming with such families as working-age adults migrate to cities in search of higher wages, the difference here is that many of the children are Americans by birth. They are known as yang liu shou er tong, or “left-behind foreign kids.”

The children are sent back to China because their parents, mostly illegal immigrants in restaurant and shopkeeping jobs in the United States, work long hours and can’t afford day care. The children often don’t see their parents until they’re old enough to return to the country of their birth in order to start grade school. 

In a single district that encompasses Houyu and 200 other villages, there are 5,000 such children. In the provincial capital of Fuzhou, they number between 10,000 and 20,000, according to estimates made by officials in 2012.

For this village and others like it in southern Fujian Province, the “left-behind foreign kids” represent a challenge and an opportunity for educators. Because China does not allow dual citizenship, the US-born children are not eligible for local public schools. Instead, they attend private schools set up by villagers especially for them.

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A 2012 report from Fuzhou city and district officials says many of the kindergartens run by villagers for the left-behind foreign children are not up to the standards widely followed by government schools. For instance, village-run schools often do not require teachers to be licensed.

Teachers also struggle with educating children whose parents aren’t always vested in readying their children for the transition to a foreign land.

“What the parents care about the most is livelihood,” says Lu Fabin, a principal at Houyu Primary School and Kindergarten. “There is very little they can do about their children’s education. And some don’t care that much anyways.”

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Among the Chinese, the coastal Fujianese are famous for their wanderlust. Many prominent ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia trace their roots here. Beginning in the 1970s, boatloads of Fujianese were smuggled across the Pacific to toil in Chinatowns in the US, mostly on the Eastern seaboard. Even after China’s socialist economy was transformed by private capital, Fujianese still looked overseas for opportunities.

The tradition of emigration runs so deep that many Fujianese villages have set up friendship clubs in the US to pool money for the benefit of fellow villagers. The club’s name is emblazoned on many of the marble plaques in Houyu, which has at least 3,000 locals in the US, three times the size of the village’s current population.

Jiang Huizhen, who has 20 years’ experience in preschool teaching, expanded her kindergarten two years ago in a refurbished school building on donated land in the nearby Guantou township.

Now, out of her 200 students, nearly 4 in 5 are born overseas, mostly in the US. She has worked hard to engage the absentee parents in school life. They can see their child through a live feed from the school’s playground and can chat with the teachers on microblog sites.

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  • Spartacus

    So some of them are moving back ? That’s great !

    • Pro_Whitey

      I wish! Funny, the Chinese government values Chinese citizenship much more than the U.S. values U.S. citizenship. Actually, not so funny. And for once I won’t bore everyone about how any child of illegal aliens should not be considered U.S. citizens by birth.

      • Charles W.

        The federal government is actively trying to destroy the country. Blatantly obvious from the actions they’re engaged in.

      • Tim_in_Indiana

        Actually, that a child of illegal aliens should not be considered U.S. citizens by birth is so blindingly obvious it’s a sad statement on our sick society that it even needs to be pointed out.

    • Max Krakah

      China has always been a very insular culture. The idea of chinese colonizing africa is absolutely contrary to all of chinese history. Population pressure usually creates tremendous conflict within china. They tend to favor killing each other to stay in china rather than live in a foreign land. Only when the boundaries of China proper have expanded do the Chnese move to the new, contiguous territory.
      They did after all, discover the new world before Europe did, but they were not interested in colonizing it. Recently a restaurant near me, that had been open for 25 to 30 years closed. The owner went back to China for his retirement. Some of the staff probably did so as well.

      • BaronBaal

        “They did after all, discover the new world before Europe did, but they were not interested in colonizing it.”
        There is no solid proof of that, actually. Contrarily, there is proof that the Vikings were in North America over a 1000 years ago.

        • wildfirexx

          Also new evidence would suggest the Europeans arrived here thousands of years before the Asian migrated to the new world.

    • NeanderthalDNA

      From what I understand orientals use the USA as a way to schlep their kids through a substandard taxpayer funded American degree mill where they don’t have to work very hard to get inflated grades.

      While poor Chinese kids are being mercilessly tortured by being forced to recite multiplication tables and crazy old fashioned stuff in those cold, cinderblock facilities…

      Our kids learn about diversity and sing songs.

  • IstvanIN

    Because China does not allow dual citizenship, the US-born children are not eligible for local public schools.
    Maybe the Chinese are smarter than us.

    • Jesse James

      It makes me wonder though if they are eligible and drawing on WIC and similar child welfare programs while the kids aren’t even in the country.

      • AndrewInterrupted

        I’m sure they know the answer better than the average politician or American.

    • Peter Connor

      No maybe there.

    • AndrewInterrupted

      The enjoy the Diversity of the one-way kind.

    • Lewis33

      For the first time ever we will get crickets from Engleman.

    • dukem1

      Maybe, indeed, in this regard.

    • wildfirexx

      Yes, they are smarter than us because they are not stupid like us to allow this BS dual citizenship scam!

    • Ed

      They are definitely a lot smarter than us and in due time that will be made perfectly clear.

  • dd121

    In China citizenship is of the blood, not the soil.

  • bigone4u

    Chinese illegals working in Chinese restaurants in the USA? OK, that’s another reason to eat at home. At least in my house, we feed the dogs, we don’t eat them.

  • David Ashton

    What do Obama Democrat Nordic Episcopalians who love Israel and Mexican food think about these news items?

  • Charles W.

    A Chinese coworker today explained to me how all social life in China is determined by “status” and how much money one has.

    Just confirmed my understanding of Chinese people as robots only concerned with money and showing off to other Chinese people.

    • Max Krakah

      Very concerned with money, especially the women. I am an artist, Asian some will always ask me how I can make a living, how I can live on a freelance salary. Something inside them rejects the whole idea of such a thing. They can not conceive of a business without a storefront.

      • Charles W.

        Or else their holy grail, a job at a large western bank or law firm.

        I can’t help but find it hilarious that Chinese and Koreans are hugely overrepresented in the lower levels of large western banks and law firms, but almost nonexistent at the higher management levels. ‘Certain people’ among us would claim that it’s because of racism. I tend to think it’s because they are robots who appear as brilliant overachievers until the time comes for them to start making their own decisions.

        • Fighting_Northern_Spirit

          Probably that, and also another tribe at the top of those banks and law firms that will not share power with anyone else.

    • Triarius

      Yep. The son of a farmer has no chance whatsover of being a politician. In fact, almost all colleges are off limits if you are not born in one of the major cities and to a respectable family. You can’t climb the social ladder.

    • Tarczan

      Sounds like the darkies I know.

  • pcmustgo

    Many Chinese immigrants to USA do go and retire in China.

    • It costs less to live there, so if you’re retired, a co-ethnic and speak the language, that would obviously be attractive.

  • Massif1

    The Chinese government controls everything citizens do. Ever wonder why so many old Chinese are caught stealing classified information? The Chinese government brainwashes their population from early age. Native Chinese might seem like they’ve embraced their new homelands, but they are still part of the Chinese culture and ideology.