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Peking University Professor Calls for University Graduates to Go “Down to the Countryside”

The unemployment problem among Chinese graduates can be solved by sending them to the countryside, one professor proposes.

Chauncey Jung

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To solve employment issues among college students, educated urban youth should be sent to the countryside for re-education, according to Peking University professor Yu Hongjun. During the cultural revolution, millions of Chinese youth were sent to work in rural areas.

The controversial suggestions of a Peking University professor recently ignited debate on Chinese social media.

Yu Hongjun (于鸿君), a professor of finance and microeconomics, proposed a solution to the unemployment issues that Chinese university graduates currently deal with: let them go down to the countryside.

Using the phrase “go up to the mountains and down to the countryside movement in the new era” (“新时代时期上山下乡运动”), Yu suggests that the employment struggles that many Chinese university graduates face will be solved under this grand scheme.

“There are very limited job opportunities in the city areas. The unemployed 2 million university graduates are solid proof of this,” Yu said in an opinion piece covered in Chinese media: “We are facing some very challenging issues in employment.”

 

“We could select two million university graduates to go to the countryside.”

 

With its supposed many employment opportunities, Yu deems the Chinese countryside the best place for graduates, especially because educated individuals are needed there: “To be more specific, we could select two million university graduates to go to the countryside to take on jobs as nurses, teachers, public servants, or agricultural technicians.”

According to Yu, there are many benefits to sending university graduates to Chinese rural areas; not only does it help university graduates find jobs, it also helps them to better understand the country and to build China’s rural areas. In addition, the movement will allegedly solve existing problems in rural areas and ensure equal opportunities for people coming from the rural areas.

The ‘countryside movement’ Yu refers to has a notorious historical context. During the Cultural Revolution period, the “Down to the Countryside Movement” movement was a program initiated by Mao Zedong to relocate urban youths into rural areas in China.

Like in the cultural revolution era, Yu uses the same expression for his programme: “Up to the mountains, down to the villages” (shangshan xiaxiang 上山下乡).

During the Cultural Revolution, which caused severe harm to Chinese economy and society, more than 17 million urban youths were forced to relocate into Chinese rural areas.

On Weibo, many netizens deem Yu’s words outrageous and irresponsible, mocking the hypocrisy of the professor by questioning his own intentions to go to the countryside.

 

“Why don’t you send your own children there?”

 

“He should go to the countryside himself. Talents like him are needed there,” one Weibo user suggests.

“Why doesn’t he settle in the countryside and never come back,” another user added, cursing the professor.

“We more than welcome seeing the professor’s own children settle in the great Northwestern regions in China,” one popular Weibo comment said, receiving more than 500 likes.

“How bad! It’s been reported that while he appeals for young people to go into the countryside, while his own son is in Melbourne and his daughter is in Boston,” another person comments.

The online controversy over the professor’s statements was soon met with censorship, as many comments and reposts were taken offline.

Besides a professor in Peking University, Yu is also the deputy Chinese Communist Party secretary at Peking University, according to the University’s official website.

 

“Times have changed – some people haven’t.”

 

It is not the first time Yu advocates his vision of starting a new rural settling movement. Search results show that these suggestions started as early as 2009, after Yu was assigned as the deputy party secretary of Baotou, a city in Inner Mongolia, from 2002 to 2004.

Propaganda poster from the cultural revolution era promoted the countryside movement.

Yu is not the only one advocating another countryside movement. A China Daily article from 2015 propagates similar ideas, advising students to move to the western provinces and less-developed areas to start working there.

Other media, however, have also highlighted the lack of economic opportunities in these regions, which puts off graduates from actually “going west.”

On Weibo, former journalist Zhu Dazhi argues that Yu’s words may be a sign to attempt to please ‘superiors.’

“Times have changed,” some commenters say: “But some people haven’t.”

By Chauncey Jung

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.

Chauncey Jung is a China internet specialist who who previously worked for various Chinese internet companies in Beijing. Jung completed his BA and MA education in Canada (Univ. of Toronto & Queen's), and has a strong interest in Chinese trends, technology, economic developments and social issues.

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China Insight

“Chinese Spy Balloon” Versus “Chinese Civilian Airship” – The Chinese Words That Matter in the Balloon Incident

On Chinese social media, the Chinese balloon is seen as a weather device that ended up measuring the temperature of China-US relations.

Manya Koetse

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A day after the U.S. military shot down a Chinese balloon off the Carolina coast, the ‘balloon incident’ is a hot topic on Chinese social media, as official media are publishing about the incident and social media users are discussing it.

At 8:17 in the morning on Feb. 5, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs published its response to the shooting down of the Chinese balloon on Weibo.

They expressed “strong discontent and protest” over the American use of force to attack the “civilian unmanned airship” (民用无人飞艇) after Chinese officials recurringly informed the U.S. side that the balloon – described as a weather device, – had accidentally entered the U.S. and did not pose any threat to the U.S. whatsoever (#外交部就美方宣称击落中国无人飞艇发表声明#).

On Chinese social media, as also described in our earlier article on the incident, the balloon has come to be referred to as the “Wandering Balloon” (流浪气球) in the context of the box-office hit The Wandering Earth II.

At the same time, China celebrated the Lantern Festival (元宵节) which marks the first full moon of the Chinese New Year. It is tradition to eat glutinous rice balls and enjoy lanterns floating in the sky.

The balloon incident set the Chinese social media meme machine in motion, in which the balloon, The Wandering Earth II, and the Lantern Festival all came together in various images that circulated on Weibo and beyond.

The balloon, featured in ‘The Wandering Balloon’ movie produced by ‘US Government’, wishes everyone a happy Lanern Festival.

Another meme titled “Wandering Balloon” drawing comparisons between the ballloon and rice balls traditionally eaten during Lantern Festival.

The Weibo hashtags used to discuss the incident were mainly initiated by Chinese (state) media outlets, such as “The U.S. Side Claims to Have Shot Down Chinese Unmanned Airship” (#美方宣称击落中国无人飞艇#); “America Uses Military Force to Attack Civilian Unmanned Airship” (#美方宣称击落中国无人飞艇#); “The U.S. Side’s Insistence on Using Force Is Clearly an Overreaction” (#美方执意动用武力明显反应过度#).

“Is it a balloon or an airship? The American official and media side all claim it is a spying balloon; the Chinese side claims it is an civilian unmanned airship,” one blogger wrote, showing the different media contexts in which the incident is being discussed and emphasizing the importance of the vocabulary used.

Words matter, and at a time when there is a lot of speculation about the incident, the seemingly humorous way in which Chinese netizens have responded to the international dispute also relates to the language that is being used to describe the event.

On Chinese social media, the majority of commenters see the balloon as a weather device that went wandering and, unexpectedly, ended up measuring the temperature of Sino-American relations – which turned out to be icy cold.

Some examples of the kind of phrasing that matters in the Chinese media context:

Civilian Unmanned Airship
民用无人飞艇 Mínyòng Wúrén Fēitǐng

The balloon in question is described as a “civilian unmanned airship” in Chinese official and state media texts. The word ‘civilian’ (民用) is included in the clarification about the balloon being a civilian meteorological balloon, and thus not serving any military purposes (民用 ‘civilian’ versus 军用 ‘military’).

Attack [on] Civilian Unmanned Airship
袭击民用无人飞艇 Xíjí Mínyòng Wúrén Fēitǐng

The U.S. military shooting down the Chinese balloon is also phrased as an “attack” (袭击) in many Chinese media reports as well as in the official Foreign Ministry post.

Completely by Accident
完全是意外 Wánquán Shì Yìwài

The expressions “completely by accident” (完全是意外), “unexpected circumstances” (意外情况), and “force majeure” (不可抗力) are used in official Chinese media texts describing the balloon incident to underline that the circumstances in which the device floated into American skies was not only unrelated to military / government purposes, but that it was also unintentional.

Stay tuned for more updates.

By Manya Koetse 

 

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China Insight

Hot Air: Chinese Social Media Reactions to the Chinese Balloon Incident

The Chinese balloon incident is also referred to as the “Wandering Balloon” on social media at a time when ‘Wandering Earth II’ is trending.

Manya Koetse

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The 2023 “China balloon incident” has gotten so big over the past few days that it already has its very own Wikipedia page now.

On Feb. 2, 2023, it was announced that a Chinese “surveillance balloon” was traveling over the northern United States. Later, it was reported that a second Chinese balloon floated over Latin America.

As a consequence, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called off a scheduled visit to Beijing, calling the presence of the Chinese balloon “an irresponsible act.” The balloon has also been dubbed the “Chinese spy balloon.”

On Sunday morning after 4 AM China local time, news came out that the U.S. military had shot down the Chinese balloon off the Carolina coast after the coastal area of North and South Carolina had been closed for the national security operation.

In an earlier statement on Friday, Chinese officials referred to the balloon as a civilian “airship” (“飞艇”) used for weather monitoring and meteorological research that deviated from its original route due to the wind. The incident, therefore, is also described as the “Chinese Airship Incident” (“中国飞艇事件”) by Chinese media outlets.

On Chinese social media, the issue is referred to as “the balloon incident” (“气球事件”) or the “balloon problem” (“气球问题”), and many netizens think it is all about “making a big issue over nothing” (“小题大做”).

The balloon is also nicknamed “the wandering balloon” (流浪气球) in light of the current Chinese box office hit The Wandering Earth II. One of the hashtags used to discuss the events was “The Wandering Balloon II” (#流浪气球2#).

Chinese political commentator Hu Xijin, who frequently posts on social media, suggested earlier that the U.S. side allegedly is very well aware that the Chinese balloon – which accidentally went “wandering” – actually “poses no threat” and that ongoing reports about the balloon were purposely being used to create an anti-Chinese narrative.

Hu’s reasoning is similar to that of Chinese International Relations Professor Li Haidong (李海东), who claims that the balloon story is framed as a threat in order for the U.S. to gain an advantage in bilateral negotiations (#专家称美炒作气球事件对华施压#).

Following news reports about the Chinese balloon getting shot down, some Weibo commenters jokingly lamented that the “poor baby balloon” had been ruthlessly shot down without even getting the time to float around.

“Such a pity,” some wrote, with others suggesting it’s “just a stray balloon.”

One of the hastags used for online discussions of the balloon getting shot down was “The Wandering Balloon Is Shot Down” (#流浪气球被击落#) and “The ‘Wandering Balloon’ Gets Shot Down by American Military” (#流浪气球被击落#).

There are many online jokes about the incident, such as those saying that the Chinese people thought the sci-fi blockbuster Wandering Earth II was the current film hit and that they had not expected the ‘Wandering Balloon’ to be the actual hit of the moment.

The fact that the current Chinese balloon developments trigger so many online comparisons and memes related to the sci-fi film Wandering Earth II perhaps doesn’t come as a surprise, since the movie has been among the hottest trending topics of the past week, and considering its narrative is all about catastrophic events and the future of international society.

Others comment that since this is the time of the Chinese Lantern Festival (元宵节), celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month of the Chinese New Year, the incident is just another way of wishing everyone a happy new year.

All jokes aside, there are also bloggers who see the incident as a more serious occurrence at a time of worsening Sino-American relations, suggesting the significance of this matter “can’t be underestimated.”

For more updates on this story, see this article.

By Manya Koetse 

 

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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.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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