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Ministry of Education Bans the Idolization of China’s Top Gaokao Scorers

Stories of the top achievers of China’s national exams can no longer be propagated by state media; the emphasis should shift to the average, harmonious student.

Chauncey Jung

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The countdown has started for China’s national exams, the gaokao. Although the top scorers of these decisive exams are usually praised as champions, the Ministry of Education now warns against their idolization and orders schools and media to use ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ as their guide.

China’s Ministry of Education has issued an official announcement this week that it is no longer allowed to idolize the top scorers of China’s upcoming National Higher Education Entrance Examinations, usually abbreviated to gaokao (高考, ‘high exams’).

The notice was issued after a top-level conference on May 8, which focused on the enrollment process for China’s national graduation exams.

The gaokao will take place in June and always attract nationwide attention – both offline and online – in the weeks before they start. The exams are the most important moment of the year for those taking part; 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.

 

“It is strictly prohibited to give publicity to gaokao top scorers.”

 

“It is strictly prohibited to give publicity to gaokao top scorers,” the head of the Ministry of Education, Chen Baosheng (陈宝生), was quoted saying by various state media outlets on Weibo, adding that “those who do so anyway will be dealt with accordingly.”

In the Ministry of Education’s announcement, it further said that education departments all over China should use Xi Jinping’s socialist ideology with Chinese characteristics as a guide to their work relating to the college national entrance exams this year.

The exams, that take place during a period of 2 days, are so important because 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. Because the exam results are potentially life-changing, the gaokao period is generally a highly stressful time for students and their parents.

Those who succeed in becoming the number one scorers in their field and area, also known as the gāokǎo zhuàngyuán (高考状元, ‘gaokao champions’), are usually widely praised by Chinese media and educational institutions.

Names and photos of top scorers published in 2009.

Year on year, the scores, names, photos, and stories of those students excelling in the humanities (文理状元) and science (理科状元) are publicized by national, provincial, and local newspapers.

Changing Propaganda: From Top Achievers to Harmonious Students

The announcement by the Chinese Ministry of Education to ban the promotion of the top scorers in the university entrance exams became a much-discussed topic on Chinese social media today.

In their report of the ban, Party newspaper People’s Daily published pictures showing how students and schools are preparing for the upcoming exams.

The photos are full of socialist-style propaganda-like slogans (e.g. “trials and hardships strengthen determination”), encouraging students to work and study hard and to repay their parents for the efforts they put into them.

Various pictures show how, to prepare for the decisive exams next month, students in Hengshui, Hebei, bring in meals for the class and then eat together from the same bowl in order to not waste valuable study time.

Instead of promoting and propagating the stories of China’s top scorers, Chinese state media now seem to shift their focus to students’ hard work and collaborate efforts to prepare for the exam.

In line with Xi Jinping’s socialist thought, which also promotes equality in education and the nurturing of “a new generation of capable young people who (..) are well-prepared to join the socialist cause”, the official focus has now apparently changed from top achievers to the average, harmonious and social student.

China’s higher education is extremely competitive, and so is the battle for the high gaokao scores; although as much as 9.75 million senior high school students are going to take part in the 2018 University Entrance Exams, only less than 100 of them will have the opportunity to become an actual gāokǎo zhuàngyuán or ‘top-score champion.’

Inequality behind the ‘zhuàngyuán’?

The gaokao top-score achievers are not just the minority when it comes to statistics, they are also the ‘elites’ of the supposed socialist society.

After claiming the title of 2017 Beijing University Entrance Exam top scorer, the 2017 zhuàngyuán Xiong Xuan’an was interviewed by Chinese media outlet The Paper and addressed some controversial issues on becoming one of the top scorers.

Xiong, during the interview, said that for students coming from rural areas, it is much harder to get into good universities, saying: “People like me are from middle-class families. We do not have to worry about food or clothes. Our parents are educated.”

He added: “We were born in large cities like Beijing. We simply got better education resources than the rest. Students from other places and rural areas are not able to get these benefits.”

 

“The top scorers nowadays are, generally speaking, coming from prestigious families.”

 

Over the past years, Chinese parents are increasingly spending huge amounts of money towards their children’s education, varying from extravagant summer programs to hiring ‘gaokao nannies‘ to support children taking the exams. Spending money on high-quality private schools and tutoring starts as early as kindergarten.

But not all families can afford top-notch schools for their children. Official statistics show that in 2017, dispensable income per capita in China is approximately 25,974 yuan (±US$4072).

Xiong told reporters that his parents are diplomats, saying: “It made my learning path easier. And the top scorers nowadays are, generally speaking, coming from prestigious families and are good at studying.”

Perhaps the general promotion of top-score achievers used to be an efficient way for state media to promote hard-working attitudes and the ‘Chinese dream‘, but the emergence of the more elite zhuàngyuán now has come to show how differences in educational resources have created inequality in educational opportunities.

Weibo Discussions

The recent ban on stories about the 2018 gaokao top scorers is an indication that the Chinese Ministry of Education now wants to de-emphasize worsening disparities within society, but not all commenters on Weibo agree with this shift.

“Why can’t we give publicity to the top scorers?”, author Tan Yantong (@谭延桐) asks on Weibo: “There is so much rotten entertainment news (..) and bullsh*t news, unbearable news, ruining our value system – why don’t you ban that sort of news?”

 

“What’s the use for me to become a number one scorer now?”

 

“Then you might as well ban the top scorers in sports,” others say: “That’s also highly competitive.”

“Now what’s the use for me to become a number one scorer anyway?” another commenter jokingly says.

But there are also supporters of the new guideline. “This is a good start,” one other Weibo user writes: “Elementary education is general education – not elite education. How to provide efficient and equal education is something the Ministry of Education needs to figure out through new strategies.”

By Chauncey Jung and Manya Koetse

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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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. winona

    May 13, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    honestly, i like this. there’s so much pressure in chinese culture to exceed in studies (resulting in depression, anxiety and even suicide). academia isn’t for everyone. this is de-stigmatising average test scores and opens up the conversation for different careers. im very surprised and quite proud of china’s education department for promoting this campaign. i wish for china to keep moving towards progressive and open minded societal attitudes.

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China Media

“Nearly 40 Robberies in 3 Months Time”: Chinese Embassy in Sweden Issues Another Safety Alert

Nearly 40 reports of Chinese nationals being robbed in Sweden over the past three months, the Chinese Embassy in Stockholm claims: their safety alert for Chinese in Sweden has been extended to March 2019.

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First published .

There have been nearly 40 reports of Chinese nationals being robbed in Sweden over the past three months, the Chinese embassy in Stockholm claims, yet no case has allegedly been handled by Swedish police authorities yet. A safety alert that was issued in September 2018 has now been extended to March 2019.

For the second time within four months, the Chinese embassy in Sweden has issued a safety alert for Chinese nationals visiting the country.

In September of this year, the Chinese embassy in Sweden already issued a safety alert stating that there was an increasing number of cases in which Chinese tourists had become victims of theft and robbery, as well as cases where victims had been treated poorly by Swedish police.

The alert was issued shortly after three Chinese tourists were dragged out of a hostel by the police in Stockholm. Even though it later appeared that the Chinese tourists had arrived long before check-in time and had refused to leave the hotel lobby, the incident sparked a diplomatic row between Sweden and China and became one of the most-discussed topics on Chinese social media of the past year.

The controversial incident involving Chinese tourists and Swedish police.

The incident and safety alert also occurred shortly after the Dalai Lama had visited Sweden on September 12th, something that some netizens at the time thought might have played a role in the media attention for the case of the Chinese tourists.

When a Swedish satirical TV show made fun of the entire ordeal, it only added fuel to the fire, and the Chinese embassy released a statement denouncing the programme and its insults to China.

The Swedish satirical show that sparked outrage in China.

Meanwhile, the case of Gui Minhai (桂民海), a Chinese-born Swedish scholar and prolific book publisher who has been in custody or under close surveillance in mainland China for the past two years, also continues to be an important point of disagreement between China and Sweden. Although domestic reasons were used as an explanation, the Swedish King recently canceled an upcoming trip to China.

 

“It is difficult to effectively safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of our citizens [in Sweden].”

 

This week, on December 23rd, the Chinese embassy extended the original safety alert (which was officially valid until December 22) to March 22, 2019, as security incidents involving Chinese tourists in Sweden are allegedly still a frequent occurrence.

In the past three months, the Chinese embassy claims, the Chinese consulate in Sweden has received nearly 40 reports of Chinese tourists being robbed, and yet, the Swedish police has failed to handle any of these cases. Hence, the Chinese embassy states “it is difficult to effectively safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of our citizens [in Sweden].”

The statement further stresses that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy and Consulate in Switzerland once again remind Chinese citizens in Sweden to be on guard and to be extra alert about which tourist spots and residential areas they visit.

 

“I won’t go to Sweden, I’d rather go to Switzerland.”

 

On Weibo, the recent announcement has sparked some scattered discussions but did not receive a lot of attention despite the fact that the notice by the Chinese embassy has been widely shared by Chinese state media websites, including the Global Times, People’s Daily, and CCTV.

Noteworthy enough, the hashtag “Travel to Sweden” (#瑞典旅行#) was set at 0 views and 0 discussions at time of writing (the hashtag page itself shows over 34 million views).

One Weibo user commented that it is “extremely rare” to find safety alerts for Chinese citizens visiting European countries unless there are some areas with social or political unrest.

On December 21st, two days before the safety alert for Sweden was issued, the Chinese embassy in France also issued a safety alert for Chinese nationals in that country, in light of the recent demonstrations by the ‘Yellow Vests’ (黄马甲).

Recently, the idea that Europe, in general, is not very safe, has often popped up in discussions on Chinese social media, such as when news of the Strasbourg shooting came out earlier this month.

“If you want to be robbed, just go to Sweden,” multiple commenters said about the Sweden issue.

“I won’t go to Sweden, I’d rather go to Switzerland,” one commenter said, with a few other netizens also commenting that they would not want to visit Sweden anymore: “They despise Chinese people, there is no need to go.”

By Manya Koetse

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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China Media

China’s Top Ten Buzz Words & Phrases of 2018

According to Chinese (state) media, these are the top buzzwords of the year.

Crystal Fan

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Earlier this month, chief editor Huang Anjing of the magazine Yǎowén Jiáozì (咬文嚼字) announced the “top ten buzzwords” in China of the past year. Yǎowén Jiáozì, which literally means “to pay excessive attention to wording,” is a monthly publication focused on Chinese language and common language mistakes made by authors or people in the media.

Chinese (state) media have been widely propagating the magazine’s selection of the top words and terms of the past year in newspapers and on Chinese social media.

The ten terms have also become a topic of discussion on Weibo this month. We’ve listed them for you here:

 

1. “Community with a Shared Future” 命运共同体 (Mìngyùn Gòngtóngtǐ)

“Community with a Shared Future” (命运共同体) is a political term which is widely used in the domains of foreign relations and national security, and which has often been used by President Xi Jinping since the 18th National Congress. The concept stresses the idea of China’s peaceful development and its role in the international community. It’s been used both in national as in international contexts.

 

2. “Koi fish” 锦鲤 (Jǐnlǐ)

Koi fish, which come in a variety of colors such as red, yellow, or orange, are a common symbol in Chinese culture. Chinese netizens like to forward the images of Koi fish to bring luck to themselves or their friends and family members.

This year’s ‘koi fish’ hype started with a lucky draw activity initiated by Alipay during China’s National Day. The winner, who was named ‘China’s Koi Fish’ (中国锦鲤), was drawn from millions of netizens who forwarded this post. Afterward, Chinese netizens continued to use the colorful fish to wish others “good luck,” and the term also started to be used for those people who win without really trying, thanks to sheer luck.

 

3. “Waiter” 店小二 (Diànxiǎo’èr)

The original meaning of “Diànxiǎo’èr” is “waiter” or the staff working in hotels, restaurants or shops. The term was commonly used in the past before the term “Fúwùyuán” (服务员) became more common.

According to the news outlet The Paper, a government official from Zhejiang added a new meaning to “Diànxiǎo’èr” in 2013. The official interpretation emphasized that all Chinese government officials and leaders basically need to ‘serve.’ Following this trend, more and more local governments allegedly started to re-think their role in society and their working relations with the public. According to The Paper, the term since started to appear in government reports and papers, to send off the signal that government bodies are willing to show their ‘service-focused’ attitude. Nowadays, a wide range of service people, such as employees of Taobao (Alibaba) also call themselves diànxiǎo’èr.

 

4. “Textbook style” or “Textbook case” 教科书式 (Jiàokēshū shì)

In May of this year, one online video got particularly popular on Chinese social media. In this video, a police officer is handling a suspect completely according to working procedure, clearly giving all orders and informing the suspect why he is being handled the way he is. According to many media sources and netizens, the officer was a ‘textbook example’ of handling criminals, which is why this became known as “textbook-style law enforcement” (教科书式执法). Now, you can find all kinds of ‘textbook styles,’ such as ‘textbook style performance,’ ‘textbook style design,’ etc. It can also be used in a negative way, talking about ‘textbook style scam,’ ‘textbook style debt collector,’ etc.

 

5. “Official announcement” 官宣 (Guānxuān)

Actress Zhao Liying and actor Feng Shaofeng posted the happy news of their marriage on October 16th of this year, only writing “official announcement” on their post. Thousands of fans then forwarded their announcement, leading to the term “official announcement” becoming a buzzword within a few days. The term uses the character ‘official’ as in ‘official website’ (官网), ‘official Weibo’ (官微). Usually, this full term is only used for formal official government announcements – the fact that it was used for a personal announcement made it special. Now, more and more people have started to announce personal or unofficial news by using the words “official announcement.”

 

6. “Confirmed by one’s eyes” 确认过眼神 (Quèrènguò yǎnshén)

This term comes from a Chinese pop song of which the lyrics say “My eyes have confirmed, you are the right person for me” (“确认过眼神,我遇上对的人”). According to Sohu, this phrase first appeared in a netizen’s Weibo post around Chinese New Year. The person posted a photo of a red envelope with just one yuan in it, saying: “My eyes have confirmed, you are from Guangdong.” This netizen used the phrase to make fun of people from Guangdong, who are often mocked for their stinginess. The running joke is now used in all kinds of ways, as explained by Inkstone, to confirm that something is ‘definitely true’: “I confirmed with my eyes that you are a jerk.”

 

7. “Leaving a group” 退群 (Tuì qún)

‘Tuì’ (退) means to leave, retreat, or withdraw. ‘Qún’ (群) here means group or organization. Apps such as WeChat often have groups of people communicating and exchanging information within a specific interest or work field. At some point, some people will inevitably exit such groups. Nowadays, netizens have extended its meaning to leaving an organization or workgroup in ‘real life’ too. After Trump became president, America withdrew from a few international organizations and agreements. In China, these actions are also informally addressed as ‘Tuì qún’ (退群) now.

 

8. “Buddha-like” 佛系 (Fúxì)

This word comes from Japanese. In 2014, a Japanese magazine described a certain type of men as ‘Buddha-like’; they prefer to be alone and focus on their own interests and generally dislike spending time on dating women. The term also started being used in popular media in China some years later to describe young people who are searching for peaceful lives and do not want to compete. Now, you can find many different kinds of ‘Buddha styles,’ for example ‘Buddha-style parents,’ ‘Buddha-like shopping,’ ‘Buddha-style relationship,’ etc. to describe the kinds of people who prefer to take things slow and calm. It also signals some negativity, describing a passive life attitude of people who are not very interested to improve their current status.

 

9. “Grown-up baby” 巨婴 (Jùyīng)

‘Big baby’ in English conveys the meaning of this word, literally describing abnormally large babies, but now meaning adults who act like a baby, are quick to lose their temper, and behave irrationally in certain situations. Over the past year, some incidents receiving massive public attention, such as the infamous ‘Train Tyrants‘ misbehaving on public transport, were labeled as being part of the ‘Grown-up baby phenomenon.’

 

10. “Internet trolls” 杠精 (Gāngjīng)

The Chinese character “杠” literally means “thick stick” and is used in the word “抬杠” (táigàng), which means ‘to argue for the sake of arguing.’ The second character of this buzzword “精” also has the meaning of ‘spirit’ or ‘goblin.’ The combination of the two characters is used to describe ‘trolls’ who enjoy arguing with people for the sake of it, not really caring about the truth or outcome, very much in the same way the term ‘internet troll’ is used in English.

Although the list with these ten terms has been making its rounds on Chinese social media, and has been shared many times by state media, not all Weibo users agree that these are the words that were actually ‘hottest’ in 2018. “They have a strong ‘official’ flavor,” some said: “we actually use different terms in everyday life.”

“We’ll forget about them soon, and new words will come,” others said.

One popular new term that became popular among netizens in late 2018 was the newly invented character ‘qiou,’ meaning “dirt-poor and ugly” – a term many Weibo users seemingly identify with more than the buzzwords selected by Chinese state media.

By Crystal Fan

edited for clarity by Manya Koetse

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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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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