Internationalization process of China’s educational research: Reflections of foreign (non-ethnic Chinese) scholars


 Presenter (s) Hantian Wu, East China Normal University and Mei Li, East China Normal University
Title Internationalization process of China’s educational research: An exploratory inquiry into reflections of foreign (non-ethnic Chinese) scholars

China’s “Reform and Opening Up” strategy and higher education internationalization process have significantly promoted the internationalization of its educational research. Recently, institutional level incentive policies have led to a rapid increase in the number of English journal articles written by China’s domestic education researchers. Meanwhile, China’s domestic institutions have published several English academic journals in the field of educational research, such as the International Journal of Chinese Education published by Institute of Education of Tsinghua University, the ECNU Review of Education published by the Faculty of Education of East China Normal University, and the Beijing International Review of Education published by Beijing Normal University. Such journals have become new windows for the outside world to understand China’s education system and educational research. However, the quality and the substantive worldwide influence of such efforts are necessary to be further examined. As an exploratory empirical inquiry, this study explores challenges and opportunities of the current internationalization process of China’s educational research through interviewing eight non-ethnic-Chinese foreign scholars in the field of (comparative) education, primary for the sake of exploring potential approaches to enhance the worldwide influence of China’s educational research and thus enhance its status in the world system of knowledge production.

The two major research questions are: (1) What is the current status of China’s educational research in the world knowledge system? (2) How can China promote the status of its educational research in the word knowledge system in the process of internationalization? An three-dimensional analytical framework has been constructed based on Wallerstein’s (2004) Neo-Marxist world system theory, Altbach’s (1993) argument of China as a “gigantic periphery” in the world knowledge system, Wu and Zha’s (2018) typology of “inward- and outward oriented” higher education internationalization based on “diffusion of innovations”, Marginson and Rhoade’s (2002) “Glonacal” framework, and Knight’s (2015) argument about “knowledge diplomacy”. In a word, it analyses roles of institutions and scholars in three dimensions: (1) the geographic dimension of global, national, and local levels, (2) the directions of the diffusion of innovations (i.e. receiving foreign innovations or exporting domestic innovations) during the process of higher education internationalization, and (3) the status in the world system of knowledge production. Moreover, it discusses whether China’s educational research can provide original innovations to the international community “to address worldwide challenges and inequalities” (Knight, 2015, p.9). Research findings reveals that China’s educational research is still on the borderline of the canter and the periphery, and can hardly be regarded as a major provider of innovations within the world system. It still faces challenges such as the low quality of some academic publications and negative impacts of incentive policies towards the academic community.


Altbach, P. G. (1993). Gigantic peripheries: India and China in world knowledge system. Economic and Political Weekly, 1220-1225.
Knight, J. (2015). Moving from soft power to knowledge diplomacy. International Higher Education, (80), 8-9.
Marginson, S., & Rhoades, G. (2002). Beyond national states, markets, and systems of higher education: A glonacal agency heuristic. Higher Education, 43(3), 281-309.
Wallerstein, I. M. (2004). World-systems analysis: An introduction. Duke University Press.
Wu, H., & Zha, Q. (2018). A new typology for analyzing the direction of movement in higher education internationalization. Journal of Studies in International Education, 22(3), 259-277.

1 Response

  1. This poster presents a study on the processes of internationalization of Chinese educational research, which is an interesting and pertinent topic of meta-research. It utilizes a theoretical framework that combines the world-systems theory, including a discussion on peripheries, as well as the notion of ‘knowledge diplomacy’. Eight non-Chinese scholars were interviewed for this study.

    In the scholarly communication field, there are different research trends that criticize the taken for granted conceptions of internationalization, i.e. publication in English language, coauthorship, the publication of certain topics and no others, etc. (See authors like Jean-Claude Guédor, Leslie Chan, Dominique Babini, Juan Pablo Alperin, Sarita Albagli, among others). This criticism points out that, as long as the pressure on peripheral countries to adopt publication practices from the core countries, local needs are left out. This could harm the local/national publishing systems and ultimately lower the potential benefits of research for education stakeholders (schools, students, families, and the like).

    You mention that local journals have helped to disseminate Chinese production allowing non-Chinese scholars to access educational research outputs, which helps internationalization processes. However, some questions might also need to be answered, such as: what are the implications of the adoption of an ‘internationalization’ framework for the (local) information users? Are the internationalization processes serving the interests of local communities? Are there some strategies that reward systems use to balance the local and international impact of educational research?

    Interviewing is a data collection method, however, what’s the methodological design? (ethnography, case study, etc.) I also would like to know how the interviews help answer your research questions because one could analyze Chinese production and impact on the international landscape only using databases and bibliometrics or other metrics traditionally used by information scientists.

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