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Chinese University Students: Compulsory Military Education Cause for Complaint

While compulsory military training has always been a source for complaint amongst Chinese students, dissatisfied voices grew louder this year. A wave of complaints from university students in Beijing about the conditions of their training camp has sparked online discussion about military education at Chinese universities.

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While compulsory military training has always been a source of complaint amongst Chinese students, dissatisfied voices grew louder this year. A wave of complaints from university students in Beijing about the conditions of their training camp has sparked online discussion about military education at Chinese universities.

Summer is the time when a majority of Chinese universities organize compulsory military education for their new or first-year students. This year, students from Beijing’s Communication University of China (中国传媒大学, CUA) stirred online discussion by their wave of complaints about the unsatisfactory condition of their training camp.

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Undergoing military training in the high temperatures of Beijing’s hot summer could hardly be deemed a pleasant experience for any university student, but if issues of gender discrimination and poor living conditions are added to this, things get much more unpleasant. For a group of students from the Communication University of China, this was reason to publish a public letter of complaint on Sina Weibo earlier this month.

The letter, that mentioned disrespect, gender discrimination and poor living conditions in the training camp, soon went viral amongst CUA students and became trending on Weibo. The topic #CUA military education (#中国传媒大学军训) was viewed 7.3 million times within a few days after its publication.

Military education is compulsory for all university students in China. China does not have a long-term mandatory military service as that of countries like South Korea; instead, military education is implemented in the form of short-term physical training and theory studies at universities. Most universities organise this education during two weeks of the summer – either at the start of the new semester begins or after the completion of the first year.

Some universities, like that in Beijing, have isolated training camps in rural areas for this purpose, creating an army-like environment. Students follow strict schedules and train long hours in high temperatures. They often have to share their rooms with around 12 people.

Living quarter of Huairou Military Training Camp

Living quarter of Huairou Military Training Camp

The tough training and the poor living conditions are two of the things CUA students are complaining about in their letter. In an earlier post, one student stated that it was unreasonable to schedule a 15-day training in July and urged the university to adjust their schedule to the local weather conditions. About the living conditions, it said that the canteen is not clean and filled with flies. The only shop at the camp allegedly sells “bad-quality products at high prices”.

Canteen food as posted on Weibo.

Canteen food as posted on Weibo.

There are also reports that the training officers disrespect students and discriminate against girls. Students posted quotes from officers, who reportedly called female students “down-right ugly”.

Many netizens support the CUA students and point out the contradictory objectives of universities and the army; while universities generally aim to promote individual development and critical thinking, military training focuses on uniformity and obedience. “For twelve years, this country educates me so that I am able to think for myself and be independent, but then it gives me half a month of training where I am told the only right thing is absolute obedience”, writes one netizen.

But there are also many who argue that university’s military training is a positive aspect of student’s education. They especially stress the benefit of physical training. Since the training is often only two weeks in time, they believe it is an invaluable opportunity for young people to realize how tough life can be, saying that the training can make young people more aware of “how tough life can be”, and that “experiencing some discomfort will benefit their attitude later on in life”.

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They also point out that the tough training schedules promote the sense of solidarity among students. Some netizens call it an “unforgettable moment of their college life”. “Back then in the camp, we could only shower every four or five days; food was green pepper with red pepper… we were tanned black… But we has the best officer; we sang under the starred night sky. There was never such a care-free time in my life”, one netizen writes.

A recurring question in the issues raised by the CUA students is that of whether or not the liberal ideal of university clashes with the conformance culture of the army. Although it is unlikely that the recent discussions will change anything about China’s military training system in the near future, it has at least started a conversation on the training arrangements and its objectives. For now, the students have no option but to keep their chin up and march on.

-By Diandian Guo 

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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China and Covid19

Announced Changes in Nucleic Acid Testing and Further Easing of Covid Measures Across China

Bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate.

Manya Koetse

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On Monday, directly after that noteworthy unrest-filled weekend, the hashtag “Multiple Locations Announce Nucleic Acid Testing Changes” (#多地核酸检测通知发生变化#) went trending on Chinese social media, receiving over 660 million clicks by Monday evening.

Immediately following demonstrations in Beijing and a second night of protests in Shanghai and elsewhere, various Chinese media reported how different areas across the country are introducing changes to their current Covid19 testing measures.

On Wednesday, November 30, China’s vice-premier Sun Chunlan made remarks at a meeting on epidemic prevention, underlining the importance of “constantly optimizing” China’s Covid-19 response and talking about a “new stage and mission” – without ever mentioning “zero Covid.”

This is what we know about easing Covid measures thus far:

▶ Strict lockdowns have been lifted in Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, and Chongqing.

▶ On November 28, Guangzhou announced that people who do not actively participate in social life will no longer need to participate in continuous nucleic acid screening. This includes elderly people who stay indoors for long periods of time, students who take online classes, and those who work from home. The change will apply to residents in seven districts, including Haizhu, Panyu, Tianhe, and Baiyun (#广州7区无社会面活动者可不参加全员核酸#).

▶ Guangzhou, according to Reuters, also scrapped a rule that only people with a negative COVID test can buy fever medication over the counter.

Harbin will follow the example of Guangzhou, and will also allow people who are mostly based at home to skip nucleic acid test screenings.

▶ Same goes for Shenyang, and Taiyuan.

▶ In Chongqing, various districts have done widespread Covid testing campaigns, but the local authorities announced that those communities that have not had a positive Covid case over the past five days do not need to participate in nucleic acid screening anymore. This means an end to district-wide testing.

▶ On November 30, Beijing also announced that it will start exempting some people from frequent Covid testing, including those elderly residents who are bound to home and other people who do not go out and have social interactions. This also includes younger students who are following classes online.

▶ Starting from December 5, bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate (announced on December 2nd).

▶ Although not officially announced, there have been various social media posts and reports about Covid-positive people in Beijing being allowed to quarantine at home if they meet conditions.

Chengdu Metro announced on December 2nd that it will no longer check passengers’ nucleic acid test reports. Passengers still need to scan their travel code and those with a green code can enter. Other public places will reportedly also start to accept the ‘green code’ only without a time limit on nucleic acid testing.

Tianjin metro announced that the 72-hour nucleic acid certificate check will be also be canceled for passengers on the Tianjin metro lines. As in other places, people will still need to wear proper face masks and undergo temperature checks.

▶ In Hangzhou, except for at special places such as nursing homes, orphanages, primary and secondary schools, people’s nucleic acid tests will no longer be checked in public transportation and other public places. They will also stop checking people’s Venue Codes (场所码).

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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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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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.

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

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