Here, The Spectator calls an English public school education our “greatest single industry” which is why, when you visit Eton, you will be joined by busloads of education-obsessed Chinese tourists preoccupied by polish and privilege snapping away at boys as they walk to class.
China’s Eton envy – why they love our posh boys
Our new elite is taking over the world, and we’re modelling them on you
September 28, 2016
Gerard Manley Hopkins said that if the English had done nothing but ‘left the world the notion of a gentleman, they would have done a great service to mankind’. He was right. Yet in Britain today, you’re so very embarrassed by what we regard as your greatest single industry — turning out polished young people.
Here in China, we look at the education statistics you view with horror — the ones that show how independent schools teach just 7 per cent of the population and yet their alumni account for 51 per cent of solicitors, 61 per cent of senior doctors, 67 per cent of Oscar winners and 74 per cent of judges — and we think: yes please. That’s why we are so keen to send our children to Britain to learn. A fifth of new pupils at your leading boarding schools now come from abroad, and we Chinese represent the greatest influx.
In Chinese, the word that best translates as ‘gentleman’ is shenshi, which specifically refers to the idealised British male who strides around in Jane Austen novels. Most of us are aware that Britain no longer contains many men riding around on horseback in Georgian finery — but we are nevertheless fascinated by the idea. Laden with aristocratic connotations, shenshi is also used as an adjective, to describe a refined character or noble air; I’m often asked if I’ve had experiences of shenshi British men, having studied at one of the top universities in the UK.