What does Brexit mean for China

Aug 1, 2016


BREXIT (an abbreviation of British Exit) was officially declared on 24 June, 2016 after a 52% majority of the British public voiced their opinion and voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum which has sent shockwaves across the global economy.  

While the news of Brexit has been felt across every corner of the globe, the unease and lack of contingency plans on the government’s behalf regarding Britain’s future has left many foreign nationals living in the UK feeling vulnerable and anxious with what’s to come, particularly regarding foreign students in Britain’s higher education institutions. Before the referendum, it was clear that Britain’s higher education community was pushing for a vote Remain result with the heads of 103 universities issuing a passionate letter expressing their “grave concerns” over the impacts of leaving the European Union on their universities and the international students attending them.  

In 2015, there were over 437,000 international students studying in the UK, with EU students contributing £3.7bn to the UK economy, however, the single largest nationality of students was represented by Chinese students, which made up 90,000 of the international students studying in the UK. Whilst Chinese students should not be too concerned with the results of Brexit, Chinese social media has been following the story closely with many users of WeChat and Weibo paying close attention to the latest news and how Brexit may affect them.  

To help calm nerves and inform Chinese students of their university’s dedication and commitment to them and their futures, many universities posted heartwarming messages on their official WeChat accounts expressing their real concerns for Brexit and their deepening obligation to accommodating both EU and Chinese students in spite of the referendums result. These messages were met with positive feedback and acclaim from their Chinese followers, and were quickly ranked at the top of WeChat’s most read pages in the higher education sector. However, many universities also used the opportunity of Brexit and the Pound’s catastrophic decline against foreign currencies to encourage international students to pay their tuitions fees. Although it may seem like a practical and helpful suggestion for students to take advantage of the UK’s weakened currency, it appears that publishing messages in this tone was not as widely received or as popular as the aforementioned warm-hearted messages.  

Brexit on Wechat

Sensitive topics such as Brexit should be approached with caution, and social media managers for higher education institutes should be culturally sensitive to the messages they are promoting even if they believe they are working in the best interests of their students.  For Chinese social media, PingPong Digital is the number 1 digital marketing agency in the UK for higher education and offers guidance, expertise and knowledge in making sure these small mistakes are avoided, and that content is culturally appropriate before being posted across Chinese social media. With over 25 clients from some of the UK’s most prestigious universities, our team are dedicated to ensuring your Chinese social media marketing campaigns are effective, engaging, and most importantly culturally sensitive.   James Cabezas