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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.

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Chauncey Jung is a China internet specialist who currently works for an Internet company based out of 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 Digital

Weibo’s Digital Graveyard: Remembering the Dead on Chinese Social Media

‘The Dead’ honors the deceased and tries to break existing taboos on death in China.

Brydon Brancart

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With China’s rapid digitalization and flourishing online media environment, there’s one crucial societal topic that, although taboo, also now finds its place on Chinese social media: this Weibo account collects the stories of the dead and writes their online eulogies. In doing so, they are trying to break longstanding taboos around death in China.

“My grandmother passed away due to illness in 2016. She was 78 years old. My grandmother was a kind soul. She married my grandfather after his divorce. They had never even seen each other before [her] mother and father prepared the marriage, and yet she lovingly cared for him her entire life.” This eulogy was posted on Weibo on February 12th of this year.

Within hours after it was posted, over 100 people had replied with the most popular emoji for these type of posts: the candle.

Since 2011, thousands of these kinds of posts have appeared on Weibo, one of China’s biggest microblogs, thanks to “The Dead” (@逝者如斯夫dead), an account run by a small team dedicated to memorializing the deceased. Through their online memorials, they have encouraged conversation of a taboo topic.

 

HUNTING FOR THE DEAD ON WEIBO

“We wanted to provide a place for people to remember those who had passed away”

 

Starting small, ‘The Dead,’ which borrows its Chinese name from the Confucian phrase “All passes like a river” (逝者如斯夫 Shì zhě rú sī fū), has amassed over half a million followers. “We wanted to provide a place for people to remember those who had passed away,” a team member recently explained to What’s on Weibo.

Weibo users typically contact the account requesting eulogies about their deceased loved one, but such direct requests were rare just a few years ago. Instead, the account started by hunting for the dead among Weibo’s pages. They searched for signs of a user’s passing, like comments about mourning, and then monitoring the account for inactivity.

‘The Dead’ told What’s on Weibo that “while at present most of our information comes from Weibo users,” its team will still “go through the deceased’s page…looking through comments in the discussion section and asking about the user’s current condition” to confirm a death and glean facts for a memorial posting.

Few of its half a million followers personally know the people in the obituaries. But their reaction to its eulogies reveals a deep and often emotional connection to the topic of death.

“Every now and then I go to their page and scroll through the memorials,” one follower writes: “Those people, who were so full of life, passed away just like that. It’s so moving that sometimes I scroll until my eyes fill with tears.”

Another follower comments: “Whenever I’m feeling low I go and scroll through [the page], it always calms me down. I’ve been very inspired by it, thank you.” For many Chinese, such an open discussion of death would have been unthinkable in the past.

 

DEATH AS TABOO

“This taboo has an independent power in shaping human action”

 

Every culture confronts death differently and few do it well. Traditional Chinese culture shunned discussions of death, notes Cheris Shun-Ching Chan, professor of sociology at Hong Kong University.

Chan believes that Confucian silence on questions of death and folk Buddhist references to “a dark world (yinjian) and a cruel hell (diyue)” account for the topic’s avoidance. She also points to fears that a premature death could mark the end of one’s lineage (Chan 2012,37).

Chan’s survey research found that avoidance of any discussion about death was so widespread that it had become taboo. “The taboo manifests as an observable avoidance of the topic,” Chan writes, “particularly unexpected, accidental, or premature death, among not only the elderly but also the generation in their late 20s and 30s” (Chan 2012,36).

While religious belief waned during the tumult of the 20th century, the taboo persisted. “Today, this taboo has an independent power in shaping human action,” Chan argues: “In other words, one does not need to hold beliefs about hell, the dark world, ghosts, evils, and precipitating death in order to observe the taboo” (2012,38-40).

Stifling discussion about death has consequences, big and small. Individuals unwilling to acknowledge death are reluctant to write wills or register as organ donors. Respecting the death taboo, doctors avoid delivering a terminal diagnosis to patients, informing family members instead.

One news story from 1993 exemplifies this taboo on death; when residents near China’s first hospice care center protested the presence of death in their neighborhood, matters turned violent. They started shattering the center’s windows, driving doctors and their patients from the center in the middle of the night. As the health needs of China’s population evolves with its economic growth, the death taboo threatens much more.

In a rapidly aging China, people live longer and deaths cost more than ever before. The World Health Organization reports that eight of the top ten causes of death in China are now due to non-communicable diseases.

As deaths caused by accidents and communicable diseases have dropped, death by stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer have jumped double digits and with that jump, a commensurate increase in the costly treatments of these diseases.

A 2013 study of the cost of non-communicable disease on the Chinese economy predicted that between 2012-2030, China will spend 27.6 trillion dollars remedying non-communicable disease. The death taboo threatens to leave China unprepared to care for a population living longer thanks to better medical care but dying at higher rates of chronic illness.

Health care in China is free, to a point. According to the Economist, China’s national health-insurance system caps reimbursements for treatment of serious chronic illness like heart disease and end of life care. The death taboo poses a risk to families in a country where it is still considered unfilial by many to pursue a course of treatment other than one meant to cure the patient.

Hospice care, which should be cheaper, is rarely considered and seldom available. While hospice care is now part of the standard course of treatment for end of life care in EU and North America, the death taboo undermines demand for the service. This, in turn, removes pressure on medical insurers to provide hospice coverage. Insurance coverage for hospice care is so limited that families are forced to pay out of pocket for most hospice care.

 

ADDRESSING DEATH

“Everyone ought to admit death’s existence and face up to its realities”

 

Addressing these challenges starts with acknowledging death as a part of life. “People have slowly become more willing to discuss death,” the Weibo ‘The Dead’ team observes: “You can see this in Weibo users openly posting about the passing of loved ones.”

Beyond Weibo, the account’s rejection of the death taboo has also found powerful allies elsewhere. In Beijing, Chen Yi and Luo Ruiqing, children of prominent CCP members, launched the Beijing Living Will Promotion Association, advocating for individuals and families to openly discuss and plan for end of life care.

Yi and Ruiqing explain to Caixin that watching the slow and painful death of their parents with few options for palliative care moved them to take action.

Their website provides information to help individuals decide about the kind of end of life care they want and how to ensure their wishes are followed through the use of a living will, a standard feature of Western health care but new to China.

In Shanghai, Wang Ying, a psychologist who now specializes in end-of-life, is taking a different approach to addressing the same problem. Ying founded Hand in Hand, an organization that encourages individuals to openly discuss their deaths as a form of preparation.

Like Yi and Ruiqing, Ying’s determination to challenge the death taboo stemmed from her conviction that repressing a discussion about end of life care and death causes his elder relatives needless suffering at the end of their lives.

Noting the rising interest in their Weibo account, ‘The Dead’ has recently started a Wechat mini app where users can send manage their own memorials and share them with others. The team believes that Weibo and Wechat allow them to reach out to a large audience all over the country.

They admit, however, that problems of economic disparity have limited their reach, and guess that most of their subjects and contributors are urban dwellers. Still, they are hopeful that their work can help change many people’s perspectives.

“Everyone ought to admit death’s existence and face up to its realities,” they say: “Working hard to live with an understanding of death is a lesson every Chinese person must learn.”

By Brydon Brancart

References (other sources in-text through hyperlinks)

Chan, Cheris Shun-Ching. 2012. Marketing Death: Culture and the Making of a Life Insurance Market in China. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Insight

Chinese Netizens Discuss: “Do You Say ‘Thank You’ to the Food Delivery Man?”

To say thank you or not to say thank you, that’s the question.

Gabi Verberg

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Image via http://m.uczzd.cn.

First published

For many people in China’s urban areas, the food delivery people have become part of their day to day lives, but does that mean that you are supposed to thank them, or not?

There are not too many people whose dream job it is to work long shifts, going out in hot summers and cold winters, to make sure people get the food they ordered as fast as possible. Nevertheless, there are a few million Chinese on the road every day, going through congested traffic and bad weather, to deliver customer orders on time. It should be enough to receive a simple ‘thank you,’ but Chinese netizens do not seem to agree on the subject.

Recently, the topic of whether or not to thank the food delivery person for delivering an order became a trending topic on Chinese social media platform Weibo, where the hashtag “Do We Need to Thank the Delivery Man” (#该不该跟外卖员说谢谢#) generated over 430 million views and triggered nearly 110.0000 reactions.

The discussions started because of a post by Weibo-user Lanxi (阑夕), who publicly responded to the 2018 annual courier employment report by Meituan (2018外卖骑手就业报告). Meituan Dianping is a major Chinese food delivery service, that has some 380 million users. On his Weibo account, Lanxi wrote:

At the end of the year, Meituan sent a questionnaire to 120.000 of its couriers, asking them what they would want to say to their customers. The three things that scored highest were: (1) Please answer your phone in time, (2) please provide the accurate delivery address, (3) please say thank you when accepting the delivery.”[1]

The post continued with Lanxi writing that he also had something to say to the food delivery man: (1) Please don’t spill soup in my delivery bag. (2) Please don’t spill soup in my delivery bag. (3) Please don’t spill soup in my delivery bag.”

The “thank you debate” soon blew up on social media, with many commenters arguing that saying ‘thank you’ is just basic manners.

One popular reaction on Weibo read: “We should respect every profession. Thanking somebody won’t kill you, it just shows you have good manners.” Another typical comment on Weibo said: “Saying thank you is not an obligation, saying thank you is the way I was brought up.”

But there were also many commenters who feel that personally thanking the deliverymen is unnecessary, arguing that customers pay for this service and that it is their duty to deliver the food (on time), not a favor they are doing you.

“I am paying the deliveryman, so what do I have to thank him or her for? You don’t thank your boss every time you get your salary, do you?”, one Weibo user responded.

“I’d be willing to say thank you,” another commenter wrote: “But not if you tell me to say thank you.”

“My brother always says ‘thank you’ to them, but I don’t. I feel like they are just completing their job, and I don’t feel like interacting with them.”

Other commenters say it depends on the attitude and service of the delivery person; if the delivered soup has been spilled, or if they are very late in delivering, they feel they do not need to thank them.

Being a delivery person is not an easy job. In the past couple of months, two stories of Chinese deliverymen struggling on the job went viral. In one case, a delivery man was filmed being in tears in a shopping mall after an order was canceled for which he had waited for an hour.

In another story, a young delivery guy was caught crying in the pouring rain for over 20 minutes, until an old men came up to him and offered him an umbrella. The young man had allegedly discovered a package was stolen from his delivery cart.

These stories usually lead to online discussions in which people urge others to treat deliverymen with more respect.

In recent years, the Chinese food delivery market has seen staggering growth, with Meituan Waimai (美团外卖) and Ele.me (饿了么) being market leaders. In 2018, Meituan alone employed over 2.7 million food delivery staff, half a million more than the year before.

“It’s just two characters: xie xie [谢谢],” one commenter says about saying ‘thank you’: “What’s the problem with saying them?!”

By Gabi Verberg

[1] After the discussion blew up on social media, the Meituan research report was further inspected by netizens. In the report, it says that the delivery staff’s wish that customers would say “thank you” actually comes in the 8th place of surveyed wishes, not in the third place.

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

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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