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China Youth & Education

Discussions on Weibo over 10-Year-Old Girl Attending School Event with Fever and IV Drip

Is this father doing the best or the worst for his daughter? Views are divided on Weibo.

Manya Koetse

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On May 4th, Chinese reporters captured how a sick 10-year-old girl attended a Hengshui High School Open Day event while hooked to an IV. The video report went viral on Chinese social media, triggering discussions on the parental pressure faced by children to succeed in school.

A 10-year-old girl from Hengshui, Hebei, has attracted the attention on Chinese social media after reporters interviewed her while visiting an Open Day of a local school. The girl was ill and hooked up to an intravenous drip.

On May 4th, the Hengshui High School had its annual Open Day and information event when reporters captured the girl walking together with her father, who was holding her IV drip.

The father told Pear Video that his daughter had a fever of 38 to 39 degrees for four consecutive days, for which she had an IV, but that they still wanted to visit the Open Day to “take in the atmosphere,” saying it is the girl’s “dream” to get admitted to the school.

The man further said that he himself is “uncultured,” but that he hopes his daughter would be an educated person, and that she will “definitely pass” the school’s entrance exams.

With over 14 million views, the hashtag “Girl with IV Drip Visits Hengshui Middle School” (#女童边输液边参观衡水中学#) became one of the top trending topics of the day on Weibo.

Many commenters condemn the father for pressuring his daughter to succeed in school and for not prioritizing her health. “At the age of ten, there’s still some years before middle school – it’s not something to be concerned over at this point,” some say, with others calling the father’s attitude “scary” and “horrible.”

There are those netizens who blame the father for letting his child make up for his own “uncultured” status.

Hengshui High School is a prestigious high school in Hebei Province that was established in 1951, and that is known for its strict regulations and harsh study schemes.

Academic Stress Starts Early

China’s educational system has nine years of compulsory education, starting at the age of six. After elementary school and junior high, the majority of children continue studying at a vocational school or (senior) high school, for which they will have to take an entrance exam during their last year in junior high.

The gaokao (literally: ‘higher exams’) are generally regarded the most important moment in a student’s life. They are a prerequisite for entering China’s higher education institutions and are usually taken by students in their last year of senior high school. Scoring high grades for this exam can give high school students access to a better college, which enlarges their chances of obtaining a good job after graduation, and are therefore seen as life-changing.

All the schools leading up to the gaokao, from elementary to high school, could potentially give children an academic advantage. Attending the best schools from an early age is a strategic move on the road to educational success. This also means that children as young as ten could already face much pressure to succeed.

In 2017, the suicide of a 10-year-old girl from Jiangsu province made headlines in China. The young girl stated in her farewell message that she wanted to go to heaven because she was “not doing well in school.”

In November of 2014, the suicide of a 10-year-old boy from Guangzhou after his mid-term exams also shocked netizens. The boy, who received just 39 points for an English exam, hung himself after writing about his low grade in his diary. A year prior, in 2013, another 10-year-old committed suicide by jumping from a building after being scolded by a teacher after failing to complete an assignment.

Rising out of Poverty through Education?

Despite all the commenters on Weibo who condemn the 10-year-old’s father for taking his sick daughter to an Open Day, there also many who jump to his defense.

“What other way to change your poor lower class status than by studying hard?” one person writes: “Our college entrance examination system is really fair (..) As a poor child, you can continue to work hard, and one day, you will stand out from the crowd for it.”

“Every time I see news like this it makes me feel bad, but I can also understand,” others say.

It is not known if the girl and her parents indeed come from a poor family, nor have their names been disclosed.

“I sympathize with this dad,” another Weibo user writes: “He doesn’t know what it is to study, but he’d do anything to make his kid [study]. I went through the same thing as a kid. Due to chronic tonsillitis, I’d run a fever three times a month (..) but you can’t make your illness stop you from studying. I can only say that our generation will rise and make sure the next generation will grow up happier.”

Many commenters contradict those who condemn the father, saying he is just doing what he thinks is best for his child: “It is clear that he really loves her.”

But the polarized views on this issue still stand, with some writing: “What scares me the most is all these people who think the father is right.”

By Manya Koetse

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

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Insight

Less Education, More Babies? Discussions Surrounding China’s Falling Birth Rate

Another year, another drop in birth rates: according to the latest statistics, China’s 2022 saw more deaths than births.

Manya Koetse

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China’s falling birth rates have been a topic of discussion for years. With the latest statistics marking another record low in birth rates, Chinese experts look for ways to motivate couples to have (more) children at an earlier age.

Official yearbook data, released by China’s National Bureau of Statistics (国家统计局) on Jan. 17, 2023, shows that the total Chinese mainland population was 1.4118 billion by late 2022. Last year, 9.56 million people were born, while 10.41 million people died. The population in 2022 fell by 850,000 from 2021.

As reported by The New York Times, according to the latest data, 2022 was not just the first time deaths outnumbered births in China since the Great Leap Forward in 1960s, it was also one of the worst performance years for the Chinese economy since 1976.

China’s dropping birth rates have been a topic of discussion for years. The annual statistics that were published three years ago, in January 2020, showed that China’s birth rate in 2019 had fallen to its lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. In that year, the birth rate was 10.48 per thousand, and 14.65 million babies were born in mainland China.

The data from later years showed that just 12 million babies were born in 2020 (8.5 births per thousand) and that only 10.6 million babies were born in 2021 – a rate of 7.52 births per thousand. The latest number is another record low.

Over recent years, various trends in Chinese (online) media have highlighted the social issues behind China’s dropping marriage and birth rates. The rising costs of living and the fact that Chinese younger generations “prefer to marry late,” are often mentioned as an explanation for China’s decline in marriage rates and the interrelated lowering birth rates.

But China’s so-called ‘leftover’ single men have also been pointed out as a “crisis,” with China having millions of more men than women of marriageable age – partly a consequence of the one-child policy combined with a traditional preference for baby boys.

For years, China’s ‘leftover women’ were also mentioned as a reason for the country’s declining marriage rates; China’s well-educated, career-oriented, urban single women were singled out for making it harder for China’s unmarried men to find a wife because of their ‘choice’ to postpone marriage and family life. This increased the pressure on China’s single women to get married, including facing an associated social stigma, which has become a recurring topic of debate on Chinese social media.

Chinese couples are allowed to have two children since 2015, three children since 2021, and it was later widely reported that parents with more than three children would also no longer receive fines according to a draft law amendment.

Celebrating the ‘three child policy’ (image via Weibo.com).

But the new regulations have not had the desired effect, with many couples simply not wanting a second child or being unable to afford it. The pandemic and zero Covid policy also haven’t exactly helped to boost China’s birth rates.

On social media, official media put out the two hashtags “9.56 Million People born in China in 2022” and “In 2022, China’s Population Decreased by 850,000 people” (#2022中国全年出生人口956万人#, #2022年中国人口减少85万人#). Among commenters, the latest data have led to various discussions.

Some are about the costs of living:

  • There’s so much to consider if you want to have a child, the costs are just too high, and I wouldn’t be able to support it.”

Others are about increasing social pressure:

  • These days there’s too much pressure on men to get married, they’re not confident and at ease anymore.”

And then there are those who see no problem in a population drop:

  • It’s only natural for the population to decline, how can you expect it to be like the old days when people would have five or six kids; the people like my grandma in my hometown all come from families with at least four kids.”
  • This country of 1,5 billion people is constantly worried about going extinct, people are crazy!
  • The Information Age doesn’t need so many people anyway.”

 

HOW TO BOOST BIRTH RATES?

 

But while netizens’ opinions on the matter vary, experts, politicians, and media outlets focus on the topic of how China’s birth rates can be boosted.

Various places across China have already announced policies to encourage families to raise more than one child, including prolonged maternity leave, increased maternity allowances, and support for home purchases.

One hashtag that was popular on Weibo this week was about a statement made by the billionaire businessman Zong Qinghou (宗庆后), CEO of leading beverage company Wahaha Group (哇哈哈).

Zong is a proponent of offering affordable housing to young people. In a video that has since gone viral – and which was a segment from a CCTV interview, – Zong talks about his low-cost housing project and also called on China’s young people to find a partner, get married earlier and have children sooner to “contribute” to the country’s birth rates (#宗庆后希望年轻人早点结婚生娃#).

The hashtag triggered many replies. Most of them criticized Zong’s remarks, and many commenters expressed that they did not like being told to marry and have kids. Some also remarked how Zong’s own forty-something daughter allegedly is not married herself.

It is not the first time for an opinion leader or expert to frame marriage and childbirth as a “contribution” to the country.  In 2015, the Chinese scholar Yang Zao (杨早) wrote an essay in which he explained China’s falling birth rates as “a clash between individualist and collectivist values.” At the time, he wrote: “For the country, for society, for parents, can’t you let go a bit of personal happiness? After all, isn’t marriage key to solving China’s present-day problems?”

Another hashtag that went viral this week is “Could Shortening Education Time Increase Birth Rates?” (#缩短教育时间能提高生育率吗#).

The topic relates to an article published by Zhejiang News on Jan. 16, 2023, about China’s Education and Population Report (中国教育和人口报告). In this report, James Jianzhang Liang (梁建章, a demographer who is better known as the Ctrip CEO) and other authors suggest that shortening the duration of education might help boost the country’s birth rates. The authors suggest that the middle and elementary education time could be cut down by two years by eliminating the Senior High School Entrance Examination (Zhongkao 中考).

There are two ways in which this idea might benefit China’s birth rates. On the one hand, the authors argue, China’s highly competitive education system puts a lot of pressure on children and financial strain on their parents, who struggle to invest as much time and money into their children’s education as they can. The pressure is real: the exam results during the last year of junior high school are of crucial importance regarding admission to the preferred senior high school, which also profoundly influences education after high school and students’ future careers. So the reasoning is that couples are more likely to have children if the financial burdens on parents are alleviated.

Should we have kids or not? Cartoon posted on Weibo.com.

On the other hand, the authors argue that when people finish school two years earlier, this will give them more time to start their life after graduation, making it more likely for women to have children at an earlier age.

One post about this topic, in which netizens were asked how they felt about the idea, received over 225,000 likes and nearly 13,000 comments.

A typical reply suggested that all these ‘experts’ should have more children themselves, reiterating a widespread criticism of opinion makers and experts who often do not practice what they preach.

Others expressed that they did not think that China’s lower birth rates were related to education, while others felt that a shortened education time would be a step back for China.

Some also criticized Zhejiang News. The media outlet itself indicated that the idea of shortening school years to boost fertility rates was like treating people as “tools.” But some commenters said: “The sad thing is not that people are treated as tools, the sad thing is that it took you this long to realize it.”

There are more Weibo bloggers and commenters suggesting that people paid a heavy price for the One Child policy that was implemented between 1980-2015, and that its effects will have a significant impact on society for a long time to come. After decades of only allowing couples to have one child, the shift to now introducing policies to encourage people to have more children is a strange reality.

One popular blogger (@峰哥亡命天涯) posted a photo that showed an old One Child Policy slogan on a building [少生优生,幸福一生 ‘Have fewer but healthier babies and a happier life‘], and he wrote: “The effects of family planning have contributed to contemporary times and bring benefits for future centuries!”

Another poster said they felt bad for the one-child generation born in the 1980s:

I really feel sorry for those born in the 1980s. They’ve always dealt with problems in attending school from young to old, then when they were all grown up faced problems with the job [market], then the issue of marrying and the bride price, and most importantly the high price of housing and caring for the elderly – the 1980s generation is carrying the burden. Those born in the 1970s can no longer have children, and those born after ’95 or 2000 are not giving birth. So we can only squeeze the post-1980s (..) Let them finally take a breather.”

By Manya Koetse 
with contributions by Zilan Qian

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China and Covid19

Chinese Students Are Making Their Voices Heard, from Nanjing to Xi’an

“Tonight is the night when students are flooding the internet,” some on Weibo said during a dark night filled with students’ bright lights.

Manya Koetse

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The Communication University of China in Nanjing (南京传媒学院, abbr. CUCN) is trending on Weibo on Saturday night, with one hashtag receiving over 180 million views on Weibo before 23:00 local time.

Students at the university gathered on Saturday evening, chanting slogans such as “long live the people” and turning on the lights on their phone as a tribute to victims of the fire in Urumqi.

Over the past few days, there has been ongoing unrest in various parts of China. The fire that occurred in Urumqi on November 24 triggered waves of anger online (read here), and at the same time there have also been other incidents that further intensified the anger, which some also took to the street.

Another incident that attracted a lot of online attention this week happened in the Shunde District of Foshan, Guangdong, on November 24. Online, the incident was referred to as a “stampede,” but the hashtag “Foshan Stampede” (#佛山踩踏#) was soon taken offline. According to China Daily, the incident happened when a crowd of people gathered at a Covid testing place in the Xincheng community of Leliu subdistrict at about 8:30 am. The situation became chaotic when people fell down due to the slippery ground, but nobody reportedly was injured.

Nevertheless, the incident surely did not help to calm the growing tensions, especially this week when we also saw protests and unrest at Foxconn in Zhengzhou and the third consecutive daily record for new Covid cases in mainland China following by local (semi-) lockdowns across the country.

Meanwhile, on Saturday night, Weibo flooded with comments in support of the students who stood up to make their voices be heard.

“I’m not there with you, but I’m there with you,” one commenter wrote, with others posting: “Brave young people. This society is no longer giving them a way to live. History is repeating itself. If we don’t do this now, it’s our children who will have to struggle.”

“CUCN come on!” some cheered, while others wrote: “We’re proud of you.”

Some screenshots claiming to come from people at the scene said that it was the students’ intention to show solidarity with the people who passed away in the Urumqi fire and those in Xinjiang who were treated unfairly in light of the ongoing lockdowns the region saw since August of this year.

An anonymous poster warned people not to believe rumors regarding the protest being a conflict between the school leadership and the students: “The school is protecting its students, although some on the internet would like you to believe otherwise.”

Lights at the CUCN scene were allegedly turned off to prevent students from being identifiable on videos and photos.

As soon as the live commenting section on the CUCN protests was shut down by Weibo, another topic came up before midnight.

Students at the Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts (西安美术学院) were also taking their anger to the campus streets, where they allegedly demanded for freedom amid Covid lockdowns.

One commenter wrote: “Tonight is the night when students are flooding the internet, their fire [torch] will burn forever, what a magnificent night!”

“The students are very brave, they are the first to stand up. I hope the workers will stand up, and finally, all people will stand up.”

Many people on Chinese social media posted references to La Jeunesse (New Youth), a Chinese literary magazine that was founded in 1915 by Chen Duxiu and also influenced China’s May Fourth Movement (sometimes referred to as the Chinese Enlightenment), which was all about the Chinese youth being the catalyst for transformation.

“You are the heroes of the awakening,’ others wrote.

Read more about the “11.24” unrest in China here.

For more articles on the Covid situation in China, check here. If you appreciate what we do, please support us by subscribing for just a small annual fee.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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