There are several large groups in the liuxueshung (foreign student) dormitory. There is a big group from Holland, and another big group from France. Both are here for one term, on exchange with their home universities (the Dutch from Rotterdam, I believe). But the other big group is from Africa. For the most part, these are students here to study civil engineering, and then return to from whence they came. My friend Davis comes from Zambia. Peterson, who lives downstairs, comes from the Congo. He has not been home for over a year, and it will be at least another before he can return. But he's coming back to Beijing to get his Master's.
Though they are not all from one National group, the Africans are an equally tight-knit social clique. They speak Chinese or English with each other, when they do not know each others' languages. And they will build the future infrastructure of Africa.
The Chinese government provides a significant amount of scholarship money for foreign students. So much so that I wish I had applied for one to bring down the cost of this already-incredibly-cheap education (RMB8300/term, $1200, EUR970). Indeed, I met a Brent, who it turns out grew up in Flatbush. He did two terms at John Jay before deciding to come study engineering in China.
I suppose the point to all of this is the sudden realization that a future, developed Africa will be populated by a middle, technical class with a fond, familiar notion of China, and only a remote, mediated notion of the United States.
In other news, China blocked youtube today, significantly impacting my ability to watch Limbaugh CPAC rants.