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When infrastructures collide: transnational higher education and Chinese international students' (im)mobility in the pandemic era

Xiaoyuan Li (City University of Macau, Macau, China)
Weile Zhou (Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

Asian Education and Development Studies

ISSN: 2046-3162

Article publication date: 12 March 2024




This study aims to unravel the tensions and convergences between market-oriented neoliberal education and state-serving transnational higher education (TNHE) practices through an infrastructural lens within the broad context of post-pandemic geopolitics.


The study utilizes a case study approach, with a diverse array of data collection methods, including observations, interviews and review of material/online documents issued by the TNHE-related institutions and the Chinese Ministry of Education.


The study identifies three findings: (1) Re-articulation of transnational infrastructures, valuing ‘glocal' education and casting immobility as advantageous yet quasi-mobile; (2) Infrastructural tensions arising from stakeholder contests over program control and (3) Infrastructural dialectics, illustrating how promised (im)mobility becomes a tightly regulated academic journey due to institutional constraints and conflicts.

Research limitations/implications

The findings elucidate the dynamic interplay between international education and TNHE amidst neoliberal pedagogical trends and pandemic-driven geopolitical shifts in China. While the interplay showcased a notable effect on Chinese students' (im)mobility during the pandemic, more empirical research is needed to understand international student (im)mobility issues in the post-pandemic era.


This study explores the infrastructural intersections between international and transnational education during the unprecedented Covid-19. Findings may provide a reference for policymakers and practitioners to strategize the “glocal” approach to international/transnational education in China after the pandemic.



Li, X. and Zhou, W. (2024), "When infrastructures collide: transnational higher education and Chinese international students' (im)mobility in the pandemic era", Asian Education and Development Studies, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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