On “13 Unwelcome Truths: On Chinese International Students and Asian American Studies”

First of all, why is this article so aggressive HAH. The tone of this author. In an earlier rendition on Angry Asian Man she titled the piece “ON CHINESE INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS (OR, SORRY IF THIS COMES OFF A LITTLE YELLOW PERIL”. Fair, it does come off that way. But it's not if you read more closely and with nuance… 

The author erin Khue Ninh makes the case that American higher education institutions are failing Chinese international students — by treating them like easy money, not providing mental health support, by failing to be stringent on policies around cheating and academic responsibilities. Things that are uncomfy to talk about like cheating and lack of English abilities are real issues, but when administrators chose to ignore this, they are exploiting these students who may ˘— but not always — be paying full tuition. They are treating them as expendable and not worth caring for.

What is also quite sad and tenuous is the fact that many Asian American college students take a slightly xenophobic (?) or just generally discriminatory stance towards international students as well. 

Ninh points to how some graduate students from China have shown they take a perspective of Us/Them — the graduate students see themselves as the ones who have earned their way here on scholarship with little spending money, the international undergraduates being ones who flaunt expensive cars and designer wear. Ninh notes that graduate students have actually been a part of higher education in the US for a while now — this is where the whole model minority conversation had started anyway because the graduate population is carefully vetted by immigration and graduate programs and recruited for skilled labor. And the newcomers undergraduates are not, but perceptions of them will spread onto graduate students. 

Ninh notes that with the Asian American consciousness, Asian Americanness is mostly predicated on the fact that we’ve been here long enough, in America, to be considered American and belonging. Specifically not considered as ‘foreign’ and rejecting the foreignness or FOB tag as almost our core purpose. Also as we see with the narrative of Chinese railroad workers being over mythologized, Asian Americans politically would like to see themselves as part of a working class lineage and ““shy away from” figures “in the form of middle-class students”” (Ninh quoting Cynthia Wu). Even though many scholars of Asian American studies grandparents or parents were those “model minority” grad students anyways. 

Finding common cause isn’t about incorporating neoliberal international students directly into Asian American causes because it’s clear the economic projects are different. But as always, we have the responsibility to one another to push back against exploitative systems. 

At the end, she writes “Canonized memory is selective, sanctifying immigration and romanticizing transnationals. But on the ground, well, this is what it looks like.”



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