As China's influence grows in Africa and South, Central and Southeast Asia, more students from these regions are studying in the country, according to a blue book of global talent compiled by the Center for China and Globalization, a think tank in Beijing.
Studying in China is becoming a popular choice for students from a number of Central Asia countries such as Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, which lie along the routes of the proposed Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, the blue book said.
The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road - collectively known as the Belt and Road Initiative - are transport infrastructure projects designed to link Asia and Europe that were proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013.
Kazakhstan is a good example: The number of students from Kazakhstan in China has risen 14 times during the past decade. Statistics from the Ministry of Education show that in 2005, 781 students from the country studied in China. By 2014, the number had soared to 11,764.
Statistics provided by the Department of Education in Shaanxi province show that in 2013, at least one in every 10 foreign students in the province's universities were from Central Asian countries.
According to Liu Jianqing, an official with the Education Ministry's Department of International Cooperation and Exchange, 170,000 students from countries along the proposed trade routes studied in China in 2014, accounting for 45 percent of all the international students in the country that year. Of those, 150,000 studied at their own expense, while the others were supported by scholarships.
In response to the growing enthusiasm, the Chinese government has established a scholarship program to support 10,000 students from countries along the proposed routes every year, according to documents jointly released in March by the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce.
Liu said the measures to attract and support students from Belt and Road countries would help China to achieve the goal of attracting 500,000 international students to its universities in 2020.