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Chinese Arts Students into Panic Mode after Failing to Register for Exams Amid Announced Reforms

“The collapse of one app is affecting our entire future.”

Boyu Xiao

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Thousands of Chinese arts students have been unable to register for their upcoming exams this week, leading to great anger on social media. Now that China’s examination system is undergoing changes that will affect students majoring in arts, many fear that this was their last chance of ensuring a place at the higher education system they were aiming for.

This week, thousands of Chinese art undergraduates have gone into full panic mode for not being able to register for their upcoming exams.

The college enrollment procedures for students planning to major in ‘arts’ (covering fields of music, painting, dancing, design, film & TV, etc.) is different from students within other fields; those majoring in arts have to complete a college-level exam along with a provincial-level exam before taking the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE), commonly known as Gaokao.

On January 6th, allegedly around 700,000 students who tried to register for their college-level exam through the Yishisheng (艺术升) registration app found the system unresponsive, making the issue a trending topic on Chinese social media.

The hashtag “700,000 Arts Exam Candidates Lose Registration Qualification” (#70万艺考生丧失报名资格#) received more than 150 million views on Weibo at time of writing, with many students being angered and stressed, saying that “the collapse of one app is affecting our entire future.” At time of writing, it is not sure how the reports have come up with the 700,000 number, although it is probable that this is based on numbers of previous years, or based on the number of people taking the provincial-level exams (this link for reference).

 

What’s the Deal with Chinese Art Students?

 

The Gaokao (高考) or China’s National Higher Education Entrance Examination is well-known for being notoriously tough and super competitive. Every summer, millions of Chinese undergraduates take the exams for two days in a row or longer, depending on the major they are applying for and the provinces they are registered in. The result of this annual exam is set as the common entry criterion reference for university admission.

For students specializing in arts, their journey to the Gaokao examinations already starts earlier in the year. Arts students take the college-level supplementary exam (known as xiaokao 校考 or jiashi 加试), for which they have to register separately. All art students are also required to participate in the provincial exams (liankao 联考 or tongkao 统考), where their understanding of basic art knowledge and relevant art skills will be tested.

Only students who have passed these provincial exams will receive the certification that is needed in order to take the exams in June.

Image via http://news.southcn.com.

The extra challenge also provides extra opportunities for art students. Different from other students, art students’ final score is based on multiple grades, namely that of the aforementioned (1) supplementary university exam (校考), (2) the combined arts exam (联考), and (3) the gaokao (高考). Every art student is required to pass the combined arts exam, but have the benefit that most universities set relatively lower requirements for their gaokao scores once they have passed.

Once these art students are admitted to universities, their department choices, however, are not limited to arts per se. Arts students are thus sometimes labeled as being ‘opportunists,’ who allegedly take an ‘easy route’ to enter top-level universities.

The “Art exam” is not the “Easy Exam” (imagevia Sohu.com)

But the idea that the arts route is the easy route is often debunked in Chinese media and on social media, where it is argued that arts students have to work harder to invest in their field of specialty, and therefore are doing anything but taking the ‘easier’ road into their higher education career.

 

Announced Reforms in the Exam System

 

The controversial ‘shortcut,’ however, may disappear in the nearby future. On December 29, 2018, the Ministry of Education issued an article on art exams, suggesting that the general knowledge gaokao score will become more important and decisive in the future.

After the proposed reform, there will allegedly be a limit on the supplementary arts exams at educational institutions, meaning that art students with a lower gaokao score will no longer be admitted.

On the discussion boards of Chinese Q&A site Zhihu, various pages are discussing the upcoming reforms. Some commenters wrote that they support changes to the system, believing it will filter out ‘the opportunists’ from art education and keep the ‘real art lovers’ in.

Others voice different opinions, arguing that the reform is unfair to talented arts students and that it will lead to art schools being dominated by ‘bookworms.’ One current arts student (named @乔贰乔) questions the importance for art students to have a high general knowledge course score, and quotes a Chinese proverb, saying: “People master different fields” (术业有专攻).

If the reform is implemented, 2019 will be the last year for arts students to enjoy the lower gaokao score advantage. Previously, undergraduates who were not satisfied with their gaokao scores could go back to high school and try again the next year. The reform, however, would ban comprehensive universities from holding individual arts exams after 2019, making this year’s exams a pivotal one for many arts undergraduates who hope to get into their dream university.

 

Registration Chaos at ‘Yishusheng’ App

 

Besides the extra stress caused by the reform, this year’s arts students find themselves facing an unexpected difficulty: not being able to register for their college-level exams (xiaokao 校考).

The exam registration app Yishusheng (艺术升), the only authorized arts exam registration system for the top arts educational institutions, was not capable of handling the large data flow this week and broke down shortly after opening the registration.

The app is also being accused of promoting its 598 yuan (90 USD) VIP membership, with which the registration process would allegedly be accelerated.

By now, thousands of art students have shared their disappointment and anger over not being able to register at such a crucial moment. Some netizens commented that they have tried to register for the Art Academy of Xi’an’s entrance exam for over three hours, but never succeeded. Others say they have been up all night together with their parents, desperately trying to get a spot for their examinations.

The failing app.

Sina News also reported that some students succeeded in registering in Jiangsu province, but then later discovered their examination would allegedly take place in Lanzhou, Gansu province, according to the app.

On January 7, Beijing News reported that, according to the Yishusheng app, part of the problem is that there is a decrease in art institutions across the nation and that examination sites have been reduced, suggesting that simply “too many people” were registering for the exams.

On its official Weibo account, the Yishusheng app briefly apologized for the recent crisis, and thoroughly explained the efforts the app has put into making their system better. They also state that the system is “back to normal,” while in the various comments sections, people still complain that they cannot enter the registration page.

For now, it does not seem that the storm has blown over yet, especially because Weibo netizens are also angered about the fact that this topic, although receiving so many views, did not appear in the ‘hot search’ or ‘top trending’ lists, with many people suspecting the issue is purposely being kept under the radar.

“I am just so disappointed, so incredibly disappointed,” one disgruntled commenter writes.

By Boyu Xiao, with contributions by Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Boyu Xiao is an MPhil graduate in Asian Studies (Leiden University/Peking University) focused on modern China. She has a strong interest in feminist issues and specializes in the construction of memory in contemporary China.

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China Digital

Death of Pinduoduo Employee Sparks Discussions on Overtime Work

Pinduoduo’s ‘996’ culture is the talk of the day after the sudden death of a 22-year-old female employee.

Manya Koetse

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The death of a 22-year-old woman working at Chinese e-commerce company Pinduoduo is dominating discussions on Weibo today.

The female employee named Zhang died in the early morning of December 29. Zhang collapsed while she was on her way home from work with some colleagues at 1:30. She was soon taken to a local Urumqi hospital, where she passed away six hours later. Zhang was cremated on January 3rd.

Zhang started working at Pinduoduo in July 2019. She worked for the community group buying unit Duoduo Maicai (多多买菜) in Xinjiang.

On social media, her sudden death is linked to working overtime hours. Unverified screenshots reveal statements from acquaintances of Zhang and other people allegedly working for Pinduoduo, claiming the company’s overwork culture is putting an enormous strain on its employees.

 

Controversial Post on Zhihu

 

One of the reasons why the news of Zhang’s death has become so big on Chinese social media is a post published on Q&A social platform Zhihu.com on the morning of January 4th.

After news of Zhang’s death made its rounds on social media since January 3rd, one Zhihu user asked netizens about the case and whether or not the Pinduoduo company should be held responsible. The official Pinduoduo account on Zhihu then responded to the original poster:

Look at the people at the bottom [of society]. Who’s not exchanging their life for money? I never thought of it as a problem of capitalism but as a social problem. This is the era of hard work. You can choose to spend your days easy and comfortably. But you have to accept the consequences of ease and comfort. People can control their own efforts – we all can. ”

The comment triggered anger among social media users for being insensitive and suggesting that working around the clock, and the consequences that come with it, is also someone’s own choice. Many people argue that working overtime has become the norm in an employment market where leaving one’s job or turning down long hours is simply not an option for many.

Although the comment was deleted within minutes after it was posted, and Pinduoduo allegedly denied posting such a comment, Zhihu later confirmed that the account writing this comment was a verified account belonging to Pinduoduo.

Zhihu confirms the post was published by the verified Pinduoduo account.

Pinduoduo then apologized for the post, stating it was posted by a person who had worked for Pinduoduo’s marketing department during New Year’s Eve, after which they had not logged out from the official channel on their private smartphone.

The person had replied to the thread on Zhang’s death with their own personal point of view, and had deleted their comment the moment they realized it was sent from the official Pinduoduo account instead of their personal Zhihu account.

 

Young Professionals Working Themselves to Death

 

Despite Pinduoduo’s apologies, discussions about Zhang’s death have not cooled down. In many posts, China’s ‘996’ working culture – a common work schedule where employees work from 9:00 am-9:00 pm, 6 days per week – is blamed for harming the health of young workers.

China’s post-90s, younger (urban and well-educated) workers are at the heart of this discussion since they face stress and pressure when entering the highly competitive employment market to find the top job so many graduates are aiming for.

When they do land that in-demand job, they are often also stressed and pressured to keep it. These jobs might come with relatively high salaries and future possibilities to higher positions, but often also require working long hours and doing unpaid overwork.

Although (illegal) overtime may endanger workers’ health due to the excessive long working hours, it is still commonplace. Over recent years, some stories of young professionals literally working themselves to death – also known by the Japanese term ‘karoshi’ – have made headlines.

In 2011, the story of the 25-year-old PwC auditor Pan Jie went viral on Sina Weibo when doctors concluded that her overwork at the company might have played a crucial role in her death. Likewise, the behind-the-desk death of a 24-year-old Ogilvy employee in Beijing and the 2016 death of Jin Bo, deputy editor-in-chief of one of China’s leading online forums, all prompted calls for increased public awareness on the risks of overwork – especially among young professionals.

In 2019, Alibaba’s Jack Ma came under fire for praising the 996 work practice as a “blessing” (“福报”).

As 996 work schedules have become a big topic on Weibo again today, some are calling it a “tumor” of China’s work culture.

Zhang’s case is currently being investigated by the Shanghai Labor Supervision Department.

We will update on this story if more news comes out, please follow us on Twitter for the latest news.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Featured image: photo by 偉宗 勞

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Food & Drinks

Viral Video Exposes Wuhan Canteen Kitchen Food Malpractices

Boots in the food bowl, meat from the floor: this Wuhan college canteen is making a food safety mess.

Manya Koetse

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A video that exposes the poor food hygiene inside the kitchen of a Wuhan college canteen has been making its rounds on Chinese social media these days.

The video shows how a kitchen staff member picks up meat from the floor to put back in the tray, and how another kitchen worker uses rain boots to ‘wash’ vegetables in a big bowl on the ground, while another person is smoking.

The video was reportedly shot by someone visiting the canteen of the Wuhan Donghu University (武汉东湖学院) and was posted on social media on November 7.

According to various news sources, including Toutiao News, the school has confirmed that the video was filmed in their canteen, stating that those responsible for the improper food handling practices have now been fired.

The Wuhan Donghu University also posted a statement on their Weibo account on November 8, saying it will strengthen the supervision of its canteen food handling practices.

“The students at this school will probably vomit once they see this footage,” some commenters on Weibo wrote.

Wuhan Donghu University is an undergraduate private higher education institution established in 2000. The school has approximately 16,000 full-time undergraduate students.

“I’m afraid that this is just the tip of the iceberg,” one popular comment said, receiving over 25,000 likes.

Students from other universities also expressed concerns over the food handling practices in their own canteens, while some said they felt nauseous for having had lunch at the Wuhan canteen in question.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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