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Why Chinese Parents Spend Huge Amounts of Money on Children’s Summer Programs

An essay titled “A Monthly Salary of 30,000 RMB [±4490$] Is Not Enough for a Child’s Summer Holiday” has recently gone viral on Chinese social media, triggering hot debates on how more and more Chinese parents spend huge amounts of money to educate their children during school holidays. Are they simply showing off their money, or is there more behind this trend?

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An essay titled “A Monthly Salary of 30,000 RMB Is Not Enough for a Child’s Summer Holiday” has recently gone viral on Chinese social media, triggering hot debates on how more and more Chinese parents spend huge amounts of money to educate their children during school holidays. Are they simply concerned about their child’s education, or is there more behind this trend?

An article titled “A Monthly Salary of 30,000 RMB [±4490$] Is Not Enough for a Child’s Summer Vacation” (“月薪三万,还是撑不起孩子的一个暑假”), which recently went viral on WeChat, describes how a woman with a well-paid job hardly earns enough money to pay for her daughter’s summer schedule during her school vacation.

The mother, who works as a senior executive in Guangzhou, earns nearly $4500 per month. Although this is 13 times higher than the minimum monthly wage in China, the woman still said she was afraid to buy new clothes due to the costs of the busy summer program of her daughter, a 5th grader at a well-known Guangzhou school.

 

“If you spend this money, it makes you feel bad. But if you don’t spend this money, it makes you feel bad for your child.”

 

The extravagant summer program highlighted in the article includes a ten-day study tour through the USA, a daytime nanny, piano lessons, swimming classes, and summer classes in English language, Olympic maths, and Writing. In total, the mother spent at least 35,000 RMB (±5240$) on her daughter’s summer ‘vacation.’

“The most torturous is that if you spend this money, it makes you feel bad. But if you don’t spend this money, it makes you feel bad for your child,” the mother said.

It’s not uncommon to see competition between Chinese parents over who are investing the most in their child’s education. The idea of never letting children “lose at the starting line” has become a common belief.

During school holidays, China’s wealthy families often send their children abroad for high-profile education. Middle-class parents struggle to compete with them, filling up their children’s holidays with English classes and overseas summer camps. Also at the lower-class levels, parents aim to educate their children during summer to become the next top scorers at the Gaokao (the national college entrance examination).

In the online essay, the daughter’s study trip to America is the most expensive activity of her summer program. Besides special classes and language training, the popularity of these types of expensive overseas summer camps is growing. According to a survey conducted by China Daily on these summer camps abroad, its participants are mainly middle-school and high-school students.

The most popular destinations are mainly English-speaking countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia or the UK, but Germany and Japan also have a high ranking. Although the prices vary, these trips never come cheap. Most of these programs cost around 20,000 to 30,000 RMB (3000$-4500$).

 

“They compare it like they compare luxury clothes or cars.”

 

Through overseas summer programs, parents hope that their children will practice their English, learn to be more independent, and experience “Western education” – and they are more than willing to pay for it, even if it costs them thousands of dollars.

But there is more to this than the mere hope that busy summer programs will contribute to a child’s personal development. As recently reported by Chinese newspaper Global Times, Chinese parents in the urban middle class are increasingly suffering from peer pressure when it comes to investing in their child’s education.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, told Global Times: “(..) if a monthly salary of 30,000 yuan could not support a holiday, there must be irrational comparisons going on,” adding: “They compare it [overseas study trips] like they compare luxury clothes or cars.”

 

“If a monthly salary of 30,000 RMB is not enough for a kid’s summer holiday, parents should do some self-reflection.”

 

Meanwhile, many educational companies and institutions smell the business opportunities and are out to make a quick buck. Some of them charge huge amounts of money for low-quality accommodations or cheap food – sometimes even causing a safety hazard for children. This trendy summer activity has become a lucrative but under-regulated phenomenon, forming a potential risk to children.

After the aforementioned article went viral, several state-run Chinese media such as the People’s Daily and Beijing Youth Daily immediately posted articles denouncing parents’ decisions to enroll their children in overseas study trips. They mentioned another reason for the extravagant study trips, saying it is a way for parents to “show off their money” through their children’s education.

The Beijing Youth Daily wrote: “If a monthly salary of 30,000 RMB is not enough for a kid’s summer holiday, parents should do some self-reflection to ask themselves if this is reasonable.”

The People’s Daily also criticized the current pressure on children in their education, appealing to “lighten the burden on children” and to “diminish the tendency of comparison among parents.”

 

“Only ridiculous people will object to this mother’s decisions. She merely wants to create better education opportunities for her daughter.”

 

The debate on children’s expensive summer program also unfolded among Chinese Weibo users, who are mainly divided into three groups.

One group firmly supports the mother’s decision on investing in her child’s education. They think it’s important and worthwhile. As one commenter wrote:

“Only ridiculous people will object to this mother’s decisions. She merely wants to create better education opportunities for her daughter to expand her horizons and make her more knowledge. Is this called ‘showing off money'(..)? Now that we have these bettered conditions for our younger generations, there’s nothing wrong with using them to help them become all-round individuals. Do you want them to be like you in the future, so poor and useless?”

The second group of people firmly rejects how parents are overspending on education: “What do you want me to say if you earn 30,000 RMB per month but live the life of someone who makes 50,000 RMB?” They also condemn how the mother burdens her child with a busy schedule, ruining her holiday.

The third group of commenters blames China’s education system for the extravagant summer study trips. The Chinese school system heavily relies on comparing children through their grades.

“No amount of money is when it comes to comparison and vanity. It is this comparison that makes children and parents feel inferior and unsatisfied. What if we cancel the system of Gaokao and encourage a system that celebrates diversity?”

Besides all this critique on children’s summer trips, there are also people who bring the discussion to a next level and question China’s class division and unbalanced education resources.

As reported by China Daily, Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou are the top three cities where students participate in overseas summer programs.

Uncoincidentally, these are also cities that are top-ranking when it comes to the highest salaries in China. For parents from less developed cities with less income, the chances of being able to afford a proper education for their children are much smaller. For them, it is simply impossible to send their children on extravagant study trips to America or Europe.

– By Yue Xin
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Additional editing by Manya Koetse
©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Yue Xin is a bilingual freelance journalist currently based in the Netherlands with a focus on gender issues and literature in China. As a long-time frequent Weibo user, she is specialized in the buzzwords and hot topics on Chinese social media.

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China History

Mourning Jiang Zemin, Weibo Turns Black and White

Since the rise of Chinese social media, Jiang Zemin became a recurring part of Chinese memes.

Manya Koetse

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Following the announcement that Jiang Zemin (江泽民), the former president of the PRC, has passed away, various Chinese online platforms have turned into ‘grey’ mode as a sign of mourning. Jiang Zemin died due to leukemia and organ failure. He was 96 years old.

Besides Weibo, the home page of major Chinese websites such as Baidu, Sogou, Taobao, Alipay, Xinhua, People’s Daily, The Paper, and many others all turned into black-and-white mourning mode on Wednesday.

Bilibili turns into grey mode on November 30.

Search engine Sogou also in black and white mode.

On Weibo, one post about Jiang Zemin’s passing received a staggering one million reposts and over two million ‘likes.’ The hashtag “Comrade Jiang Zemin Passed Away at the Age of 96 in Shanghai” (#江泽民同志在上海逝世享年96岁#) had received over 2,5 billion clicks by Wednesday night.

Jiang Zemin was appointed as President of the People’s Republic of China in 1993. In the years before, the former Shanghai Party chief already held official positions as the chairman of the Central Military Affairs Commission and general secretary of the Party. In 2003, Jiang Zemin retired and was replaced by Hu Jintao (Sullivan 2012).

Since the rise of Chinese social media, Jiang became a recurring part of Chinese memes. Jiang had created a wide group of online fans, who are commonly referred to as ‘toad worshippers’ as the online phenomenon of ‘worshipping’ Jiang Zemin is called mo ha (膜蛤), ‘toad worship’ (Fang 2020, 38). The entire phenomenon has become its own subculture that is called ‘mo ha culture’ (móhá wénhuà, 膜蛤文化).

What started as a joke – nicknaming Jiang a ‘toad’ due to his big glasses, signature pants, and wide smile, – became an actual online movement of people who were appreciative of Jiang Zemin.

They loved him, not only because the former leader spoke many languages and other talents, and because of his unique appearance, but mainly because he was not scared to show his emotions, was very expressive, and good at telling stories.

One famous example of this, is when Jiang Zemin got upset with a Hong Kong journalist in 2000 and told them off using three languages (link to video, also here). The much-repeated quote “too young, too simple, sometimes naive” comes from this noteworthy moment as Jiang told journalists that they still had a lot to learn, whereas he had gone through “hundred of battles,” saying “I’ve seen it all.” This also led to Jiang later being called ‘the Elder’ (长者) by netizens.

Another popular Jiang Zemin video is when he met with American journalist Mike Wallace in August of 2000 in Beidaihe. During the interview, the two discussed sensitive topics including the Falun Gong and Tiananmen protests. The interview reportedly was one of the longest ever between an American journalist and a Chinese head of state (watch here).

A study by Kecheng Fang (2020) about ‘China’s toad worship culture’ suggests that for many online fans of Jiang, the cult around him is apolitical, playful, and part of a shared digital cultural tradition.

For some, however, it does hold some political meaning to ‘worship’ Jiang, who only became a popular online meme around 2014, after Xi Jinping took power as a conservative strongman who is not as emotionally expressive. Fang describes how one meme creator said: “We couldn’t express our criticism through normal channels, so we turned to other indrect ways, including lauding Jiang’s personality and characteristics in various ways” (2020, 45).

Although Jiang became popular among younger Chinese on online platforms over the past decade, he was not necessarily that popular at the time of his leadership, and opinions vary on the legacy he leaves behind. Jiang continuously pushed for reform and opening-up after Deng Xiaoping’s rule.

As summarized by Foreign Policy, Jiang oversaw two crucial transitions that shaped and improved the lives of the people of China: “First, he peacefully guided his country out of the shadow of China’s founding revolutionaries, who had spent decades purging one another and at times caused great pain and sorrow for everyone else. Second, although hesitant at first, Jiang came to embrace the market economy.”

As various places across China have seen unrest and protests over the past few days, the announcement of Jiang’s death comes at a sensitive time.

Many on Chinese social media are burning virtual candles in memory of Jiang Zemin today. “I will fondly recall your style and manners,” some say.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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References:

Fang, Kecheng. 2020. “Turning a communist party leader into an internet meme: the political and apolitical aspects of China’s toad worship culture.” Information, Communication & Society, 23 (1): 38-58.

Sullivan, Lawrence R. 2012. Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Communist Party. Lanham: The Scarecrow Press. See page: 3-43, 208.

 

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China and Covid19

“Why Is It Always the BBC That Has Problems?” – Chinese Response to Arrest of Foreign Reporter

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs blamed the BBC for distorting facts and painting China in a bad light.

Manya Koetse

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Chinese media reports about the official response to the arrest of a UK reporter during protests in Shanghai has gone viral on Chinese social media, without explicitly mentioning the circumstances in which the incident occurred. Chinese netizens are now demanding videos to ‘expose’ how the situation unfolded.

News about the arrest of BBC journalist Edward Lawrence while covering the second night of protests in Shanghai on November 27 has not only made headlines in English-language media, it also became a trending topic on Chinese social media.

On Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian (赵立坚) responded to the incident in a regular press conference. A day earlier, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak denounced the arrest of the BBC journalist as “shocking and unacceptable.”

But according to Zhao, the incident has been distorted by Western media to paint China in a bad light. The Chinese side claims that Lawrence refused to cooperate with the police and failed to show his credentials. “There are many foreign media in China, why is it always the BBC that has problems at the scene? This is a question that must be seriously considered.”

Zhao’s comments went viral on Weibo in two hashtags, namely “Zhao Lijian Presents the Truth about the BBC Reporter Who Was Taken Away” (#赵立坚介绍BBC记者被带离真相#), and “Why Is It Always BBC That Has Problems at the Scene?”(#为什么每次都是BBC在现场出问题#).

Zhao Lijian on Tuesday.

A translation of the full statement by Zhao was also posted on the official website of the Chinese Embassy in the UK. Part of the statement said:

“On the night of November 27, to maintain public order, local police in Shanghai asked people who had gathered at a crossroads to leave. One of  those at the scene is a resident journalist from the BBC. Though the  police made it clear to the journalist and others that they needed to leave, the journalist refused to go and in the entire time did not identify himself as a journalist. The police then took him away from the scene. After verifying his identity and informing him of pertinent laws  and regulations, the police let him leave. Everything was conducted within legal procedures. This BBC journalist refused to cooperate with the police’s law enforcement efforts and then acted as if he were a victim. The BBC immediately twisted the story and massively propagated  the narrative that its journalist had been “arrested” and “beaten” by police while he was working, simply to try to paint China as the guilty party. This deliberate distortion of truth is all too familiar as part of the BBC’s distasteful playbook.”

On Weibo, the statement by Zhao, including video, was published by state media outlet Global Times (环球时报), which did not explicitly report that the incident happened during demonstrations in Shanghai. Instead, they reported about ‘the scene’ and that it allegedly happened “in the course of his work” “记者在工作中”).

One top comment on Weibo said: “The BBC is always making up rumors, there are engaged in an anti-Chinese campaign. They should be punished.” That comment received over 6700 likes.

“Are BBC reporters really reporting on the news, or are they making the news up?” another popular reply said.

The idea that Western mainstream media outlets are ‘creative’ in their reporting has been a long-standing one on Chinese social media. In a well-known example from 2017, social media users accused American broadcaster CNN of staging an anti-ISIS protest in London after a Twitter user uploaded a video that showed how police and TV producers directed a group of Muslim women to stand in line with their protest signs behind the TV anchor. The BBC was also widely criticized for using the allegedly “staged” CNN footage.

Although many netizens gave their thumbs up for Zhao’s remarks about the arrest of Lawrence, there were also some who wanted to know more about the incident.

One popular comment said: “Was there just one BBC reporter at the scene? Why would take away a hard-working journalist? What was the BBC reporter recording? Were there also Chinese reporters? If so, can you give us the real recordings of what was happening at the scene?”

“Domestic reporters wouldn’t dare to post it,” someone replied: “The scene was too electrifying.”

There were also those who made sarcastic comments relating to the ‘outside force’ narrative that became ubiquitous in China’s online media sphere in response to the (censored) protests that have been taking place across China.

“Give us the irrefutable evidence to expose these ‘outside forces,'” some said.

The idea that “outside forces” or “external forces” (外部势力) had something to do with the protests first started increasingly popping up in social media discussions on late Sunday night, and it was also raised in an online column by the political commentator Hu Xijin (read here).

Zhao Lijian also reiterated this idea in Monday’s press conference in by talking about “forces with ulterior motives” who had connected the Urumqi fire, which initially triggered the unrest, with the local response to Covid-19.

“Thousands of people are protesting, they must all be foreigners. CNN and BBC are fully responsible. Except for us and North Korea, the whole world is watching these news channels. The entire world – except for us – is wrong,” one commenter wrote.

Many commenters kept asking for video proof of the incident: “I demand you make the video public so we can all denounce them, we will resolutely denounce them” one person wrote, adding a melon-eating emoji (吃瓜 ‘eating melon’ is frequently used as a humorous reference to standing by and watching the scene unfold).

“We firmly denounce disturbing editing, give us the original video!”

Despite the banter, there were also some more serious comments. One Weibo user wrote: “Foreign reporters often do not have good intentions, they are often distorting the facts, and I hate that. But domestic reporters do not dare to face the epidemic situation and only report on the good news.”

“So who can actually give us the truth?” others wondered.

Read more about the “11.24” unrest or “white blank paper protests” in China here.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

If you appreciate what we do, please subscribe here or support us by donating.

Featured image via Zhejiang Daily.

 

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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