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Education Highlights from China’s 2024 Two Sessions

  • China’s government said it will (1) continue to develop private education and vocational education and (2) reform higher education to focus on strengthening applied undergraduate education.

  • China said it will take actions to attract foreign investment, including lifting restrictions on foreign market access in certain industries and facilitating procedures for foreign individuals to work, study, and travel in China.


China’s 2024 Two Sessions—the term for the Chinese government’s annual plenary sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference—kicked off on March 4 and closed on March 11. One of the most important documents, the 2024 Government Work Report (“Report”) was approved on the last day. The Report comprises three parts: the summary of the government’s work in 2023, economic targets and policy stimulus in 2024, and government tasks planned for 2024. This article focuses on the highlights related to education:

 

The Report states that China will develop a high-quality education system by taking the following measures:


  • Launching an initiative to upgrade basic education (with a particular focus on improving compulsory education in rural and urban areas), improving conditions in boarding schools in rural areas, and continuing efforts to relieve students from excessive burdens of homework and off-campus tutoring;

  • Improving special needs education and continuing education, guiding and regulating the development of private education, and improving vocational education;

  • Comprehensively implementing the pilot reforms in higher education, optimizing the composition of disciplines and majors and the layout of resources, accelerating efforts to develop world-class universities and academic disciplines with “Chinese features,” strengthening applied science undergraduate education and improving the operational capacity of higher education institutions in the central and western regions of China; and

  • Developing the use of digital tools and technology in education.

Implications for U.S. Higher Education Institutions

With the exception of China’s nine-year compulsory education program and specialized education (e.g., military, police, Chinese Communist Party education, etc.) programs, U.S. institutions are allowed to invest in China’s education industry, from preschool to higher education and vocational education. U.S. institutions can also invest in China’s private education industry, which spans all education levels and types (e.g., academic, vocational, adult continuing education, etc.). The emphasis given to private education in the Report suggests that the government might implement policy measures to promote the growth of private education. In addition, China’s promotion of vocational education will benefit U.S. institutions who are interested in educational partnerships in that area. It is also worth noting that non-degree vocational education programs are among those listed by the Chinese government as priorities for foreign investment.

 

As noted above, the Report also mentioned strengthening applied science undergraduate education and improving the operational capacity of higher education institutions in the central and western regions of China. U.S. institutions intending to establish cooperative educational programs with Chinese universities might therefore consider focusing on applied science programs, particularly at the undergraduate level, as it may be easier to obtain the requisite approvals from Chinese authorities. The Ministry of Education might also be more inclined to support collaborative programs with Chinese universities located in the central and western regions.

 

Additionally, the Report outlines several initiatives to attract foreign investment, including: reducing the number of areas that are restricted or prohibited from foreign investment; expanding the Catalog of Encouraged Industries for Foreign Investment and encouraging foreign-invested enterprises in China to reinvest in China; ensuring equal participation of foreign-invested enterprises in government procurement, bidding, and standard-setting processes; facilitating procedures for foreign individuals to work, study, and travel in China and optimizing payment services for foreign individuals. These initiatives increase investment opportunities for U.S. higher education institutions in addition to making it easier for U.S. institutions to send faculty, staff, and students to China.

 

The Report also stated that China would ease restrictions related to cross-border data transfer. Soon after the 2024 Two Sessions ended, the Cyberspace Administration of China accordingly issued the Measures on Facilitating and Regulating Cross-Border Data Flows (“Measures”) to provide guidelines for cross-border transfer mechanisms. The Measures contain exemptions for the following cross-border data transfers: 1) transfer of data that doesn’t involve personal information (“PI”) or important data; 2) transfer of PI that is collected and generated outside China, provided that no PI or important data collected and generated within China is incorporated during the handling activities; 3) transfer of PI (excluding important data) based on contractual necessity (e.g., cross-border shopping, cross-border mailing and deliveries, cross-border remittances, cross-border payments, cross-border account openings, flight and hotel reservations, visa processing and examination services, etc.), cross-border human resources management, or protection of life, health or property; and 4) data handlers’ (other than critical information infrastructure operators) transfer of PI (excluding sensitive PI) involving under 100,000 individuals per year. These exceptions will likely make it easier for U.S. higher education institutions to conduct cross-border transfers of PI in compliance with China’s Personal Information Protection Law. [Note: XL Law & Consulting will explore the details of the Measures, and the implications for U.S. colleges and universities, in a future article.]



Education Highlights from China’s 2024 Two Sessions
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