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I am a resident of Asia and I have done my master's in mathematics last year(2021) from a university ranked 400 in mathematics in the world. and I am applying for PhD positions in Europe. I didn't applied to USA because instead of preparing for GRE and TOEFL , I wanted to spent that time self-studying more specialized courses in mathematics.

But, as I applied to UK, I came to know that unlike USA, UK has very less funding for international students. I had also planned to apply to Germany, France, Sweden, Australia but quite a number of professors whose interests align with mine are not taking PhD students for the next year.

Now, I thought that maybe I should write to professors in China as in QS ranking there are about 10-15 universities in top 100 universities in math. I am thinking of applying if I can get admission in top 50-100 universities and will only apply to universities in the range 50-100.

I don't have any knowledge of Chinese( spoken or written) but I am good in English. I don't want to do a PhD in India because research and teaching quality is not good in my country. I did my masters in India from a prestigious university of the country and was involved in a couple of internships in India at other prestigious institutes. It seemed that instead of even guiding and spending time teaching their courses with quality a lot of Prof. were interested in their own research and flattering with bosses, not even keeping with what they promised while agreeing to supervise for a project/ internship. Some of the profs were bullies.

My question: I know China is communist and authoritarian but that certainly doesn't matter to me because I am an introvert person who was never interested in politics and making new friends or co-curricular activities. I don't speak Chinese or can write in it but if selected I can learn it as much as I can, before joining the course.

What matter to me the most is that the research quality of Chinese Universities and is the environment good enough to for a foreign students to thrive? and what is the commitment of the Prof's to students? Although, a lot of Chinese universities excel in QS ranking but not so much information is available regarding above of my question on Internet. So, can you please let me know about it, if you are aware of it?

Before applying I thought to ask here as although I have searched on Internet a lot regarding it, but still I don't have enough information and I will spent my 4-5 very important years in PhD. So, I don't want to be at a place where I can't thrive in research as I already know how it feels due to some experiences in my country.

Certainly, one of my prof. suggested me to apply to Europe and he doesn't knows anything about china as looking at his CV I can see he never collaborated with anyone in China or gave any talk in china.

Thank you very much!

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    @cag51 Looked at it and also at 2 posts of the user Scientist.
    – user135061
    Feb 14 at 13:14
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    Very busy lately, will try to answer later. But in short: there is a lot of opportunity in China, yet there are numerous pitfalls. Taking a PhD there will teach you a lot and pave your way into local openings... if you can take it. I recommend the experience if you're brave and hardheaded, but it will be surely hard in unexpected ways. Perhaps a good local girlfriend/wife would help, which is a challenge in itself.
    – Scientist
    Feb 15 at 16:59
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    This is only losely related, but it might still be relevant since you wrote that "[in] Germany [among other European countries] [...] quite a number of professors are not taking PhD students for the next year". In Germany, the limiting factor for taking PhD students is often the funding. There are not many structured PhD programs, and thus, PhD students are typically funded by professors either from their budget or from grants - or the PhD students have somekind of scholarship. [...] Feb 17 at 9:50
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    [...] For students from various countries, a number of PhD scholarships in Germany are funded by DAAD ("Deutscher Adakemischer Austauschdienst", which is German for "German academic exchange service"). So that might be an option for you. [...] Feb 17 at 9:50

2 Answers 2

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I have worked in China as a postdoc some years ago. I am not very familiar with the field of Mathematics.

Mainly, my advice is that you should consider going to China, but know it will be a life-changing experience, in several ways. China is thriving, and they have a tradition at students being good with crunching numbers. It is fairly easy to find jobs and opportunity in China, if you know how to play their games. Learning their language and culture is bound to help you in the future.

Now, it will not be easy. Chinese culture is complex and very unique. I understand Indian culture is also profound. I think there may be many incompatibilities you will have to bridge. Also, not many Indians around in China, though I think Pakistani are more common and fairly familiar. There are some growing political disputes. Nobody knows how academia could be affected in the advent of war, hot or cold.

Personal advices if you take the leap of faith. Arrange beforehand how you can transfer money between countries. Get along with the Chinese, invest in relationships. Find who you can trust, and always show respect. Appreciate the food, find a hobby, don't let them get to you.

Good luck, be brave.

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I will give a positive answer as to if it is possible for you to thrive in a Chinese university studying PhD level pure maths -- China's graduate-level mathematics education, while often considered to be inferior to that of Japan, is "good enough", and certainly people learn to become good maths researchers at the likes of USTC or Zhejiang University. Some people will even argue that you get an excellent mathematical education at Peking University (the hiring bar for new faculty is on par with UCSB last time I heard). You can encounter bad advisors, but I am sure that with strategic choosing they are avoidable. For the quality of education, I do not think you have that much to worry about, but of course I do not know the academic culture of India, and your baseline of bad advisors.

Now, I vaguely fear that you have much more to worry about than what you wrote on cultural differences. I don't know how much experience you have studying abroad, but learning a new language is hard, and you might just find that time for learning Chinese more worthwhile in actually padding your research experience and reapply next year to Europe. Living in a new country is also hard -- cultural differences show much before political differences. You might have no interest in blending in with the society or making any friends, and that might be entirely fine for your PhD years, but it might also end up being very damaging to your mental health. This is more so for China than for Europe in my opinion. American college kids that are on short exchange programs who have to be "rescued" back to the states due to mental health are not rare occurrences, just to really exaggerate the point. I personally do not know how difficult the logistics of applying are, but you might want to also factor that in.

Finally, while your advisor might not have any experiences with China, there might be someone relatively close to you from India who actually went to China for their graduate education. I really think that you will benefit from an exchange with them who had experienced both sides.

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