Chinese students have shown an insatiable appetite for attending US colleges - last year alone, more than 235,000 were enrolled at American institutions of higher education. But now, China is grousing that the Scholastic Aptitude Test may impose American values on its best and brightest, who in preparation for the exam might be studying the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights instead of The Selected Works of Mao Zedong.
"Including content from America's founding documents in a revised US college entry exam has drawn attention in China, with worries the materials may impose the American values system on students," Xinhua said last week.
The US College Board in March announced plans to redesign the SAT to include US founding documents in one portion of the test, known as the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, by spring 2016.
"The vital issues central to these documents - freedom, justice, and human dignity among them - have motivated numerous people in the United States and around the globe," the College Board said.
But those are the exact values that the Chinese Communist Party has deemed as threatening to its rule; Chinese activists who have tried to promote such values have been silenced or even sentenced to prison. Human rights advocate Xu Zhiyong, who helped initiate the New Citizens Movement to promote such values, was sentenced in January to four years in prison.
Xinhua's report cited a commentary published last month in the South China Morning Post about the SAT changes. Columnist Kelly Yang argued the new focus on civil liberties may "change the mindset and world view of an entire generation of Chinese youth".
"If the new SAT succeeds, it will be the first time America is able to systematically shape the views, beliefs and ideologies of hundreds of thousands of Chinese students every year, not through a popular television show or a politician's speaking tour, but through what the Chinese care about most - exams," she wrote.
Yang is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard Law School.
Her remarks and Xinhua's report didn't sit well with some Chinese intellectuals, who called on the government to ease its ideological control on students rather than make accusations against a foreign exam.
"I don't think they have grounds to question what's in the SAT before they cancel all the 'political classes' in Chinese schools," said Zhang Ming, a political science professor at Renmin University.
Inculcating China's youth with Communist Party ideology has always been a key focus of the party, though the task has required greater mental gymnastics in recent years as the nation has adopted a capitalist economic system.
Many wealthy parents look to a Western education for their children because they regard China's system as stagnant and uninspiring.
To improve their chances of being admitted to undergraduate programmes at prestigious American universities, many Chinese high school students take the SAT, which is not administered in the mainland.