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“One Country, Two Dorms”: Short Movie Exposes Dorm Disparities Between Chinese and Foreign Students

Are foreign students privileged in China? Most netizens think they are.

Chauncey Jung

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A short movie that has gone viral on Chinese social media exposes the big differences between the dorm conditions of Chinese students and of foreigners studying in China. The dorm disparities have caused controversy online.

A short movie made by foreign student Futura Costaglione went viral on Sina Weibo this week. The film, titled “One Country, Two Dorms”, features the ‘two different worlds’ within Chinese university dormitories.

In the short movie project made for a class assignment, Costaglione interviewed 12 students (six Chinese and six foreign) from two colleges in Lanzhou and Beijing, and compared their dorm conditions.

The movie shows that Chinese students have very different living conditions from their foreign counterparts; while the foreign students enjoy spacious 2-person dorm rooms, the local Chinese students have crowded 6 to 8-people rooms to live in.

Chinese students are also subject to restrictions that foreign students do not have, such as limited electricity and hot water supplies, or time curfews. The full movie can be watched here.

By now, the original video has been viewed over 340,000 times. However, after numerous reposts, the video went completely viral and received more than 10,000 reposts and thousands of comments.

“It is not fair that Chinese students should live like this,” Costaglione states in her movie: “As a foreigner, I feel guilty for my living standards if I think about how my Chinese counterparts live.”

 

“Investing into international standards – but at what price?”

 

“Thanks to some initiatives like the ‘One Belt, One Road,’ launched in these recent years, the number of foreign students studying in China has constantly increased, arriving to 450,000 in 2016,” Costaglione explains: “The Chinese government is, therefore, investing millions of yuan to make their living conditions respectable for international standards. But at what price?”

According to a report from the Chinese Ministry of Education in 2016, there are more than 442,000 foreign students studying in 829 different Chinese universities. Comparing to statistics in 2015, the number of foreign students increased by 11.35% in just one year.

For the Chinese government, the increasing number of foreign students is not just a sign of the country’s own economic prosperity, but also an opportunity to show a good image of China to the world. The use of foreign students in Chinese propaganda campaigns is something that has been highlighted in foreign media before.

It is not the first time that foreign students’ alleged privilege has become a trending topic in China. In 2011, online discussions were fueled after Beijing News reported that Peking University had renovated the dorms for its foreign students, but not for the Chinese local students, who were living in rooms without air conditioning.

In 2018, the issue became a topic of discussion again when the Ministry of Education allocated twice the budget to foreign students than to local elementary schools and middle schools. Although the Ministry of Education denied the allegations, it still triggered anger among netizens, who suggested that foreign students in China were wasting government money.

 

“Second-class citizens”

 

Costaglione’s movie has also received many angry comments on Weibo, where users are not upset by the movie itself, but with the university administrations responsible for the existing inequalities.

“Many stupid schools are doing this! It seems like more foreigners on campus would be a pride for them, LOL,” one commenter points out. Another Weibo user writes: “My university is like, foreign students have air conditioners, while we only have fans. There are eight people in one room.”

Some time ago, Weibo users collectively shared pictures of their dorm conditions online. While some showed how a girl’s dorm at Sichuan Agricultural University is equipped with TV, air-conditioning, elevator, and mattresses, others showed how one dormitory in Guangzhou is among the worst in the country; its main point of interest being its bathroom with two squat toilets right next to each other. “Ideal for lovebirds,” netizens mockingly said (Read more at: “A peek inside China’s (worst) dormitories“).

“We are always second-class citizens,” one Weibo user posted, sarcastically adding: “Why don’t we just kneel down all the time already? Stop peeking at the noble foreigners.”

“The Party has these foreigners living in these nice places, so let’s just shut up,” another commenter says, hinting at the major role politics play in creating these kinds of privilege and disparity.

While most of the commenters express their concerns about the unfair policies Chinese university administrations make, there are also those who express blatant hate towards foreigners: “Chinese universities want to show that they are globalized. They pay a lot of money to import rubbish foreign students. These students are scammers, rapists, and bring AIDS into our country.”

Another person writes: “China is the only country that treats its own citizens worse than foreigners.”

 

“One country, two systems”

 

There are also many people, however, who do not seem to understand what the fuss is about and mention the price difference between the dorms. In Costaglione’s movie, one Chinese student mentions the yearly fee of her dorm is 1500 yuan (±US$230), while the foreign students, with a daily fee of 40 yuan, pay 13,440 yuan (±US$2045) per year.

“I won’t say anything,” one Weibo user says: “They pay way more for their dorms.” Another commenter adds: “Don’t you all know that foreigners also pay so much for their dorm daily that it costs them ten-thousands of yuan yearly? Chinese students only pay about 1000 yuan per year. There’s nothing to be sour about.”

“I study in Beijing and we pay 600-800 yuan (±US$90-122) for our dorms per semester,” another person writes: “The foreigners pay a daily fee. Different prices will give you different conditions.”

Yet many people do not think the comparison is fair, with some saying: “The thing is, they generally receive a scholarship and don’t even need to pay.”

Depending on the university, Chinese students often do not have the option to live in foreign dorms, while foreigners often also do not have the option to live in Chinese dorms. In some universities, however, students live together.

One commenter on Q & A platform Quora, where the issue was previously also discussed, writes: “The university I went to has a program where domestic students can apply for international dorms, as long as they agree to host parties for foreign students during some Chinese festivals – but not vice versa.”

“It’s just a matter of ‘one country, two systems,'” one Weibo commenter writes: “That’s not too hard to understand, or is it?”

By Chauncey Jung

This article has been edited and altered 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.

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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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    LaoWaiAIDSspreader

    June 27, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    They pay a lot of money to import rubbish foreign students. These students are scammers, rapists, and bring AIDS into our country.

    the most stupid thing of all is that these foreigners are required to learn mandarin. what do you think the male sexpats are going to do with their newly acquired mandarin? that’s how they spread aids. at least if you dont teach then mandarin, they will only have a tiny English speaking market to spread their aids to. if they learn mandarin they will have the entire mainland population to spread their aids to. dumb ass communist govt looking for international foreigner validation.

  2. Avatar

    victor

    July 25, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    Terrible conditions but the cost is also $180 per year. My room at the Tsinghua University dorm (https://chinaexperienceweb.wordpress.com/2018/07/25/tsinghua-dorm/) was over $4,000 per year. While it is true that everyone is free to live off campus should they want to, Chinese students as well, the fact that students from a poor background have the opportunity to study and live on the campus for as little as $10 a month is actually something that the Chinese government is providing that you wouldn’t be able to do in the US or in EU. But with rents as low as $10 a month, perhaps it’s difficult to provide better facilities?

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About Lipstick King’s Comeback and His ‘Mysterious’ Disappearance

After Li Jiaqi’s return to livestreaming, the ‘tank cake incident’ has become the elephant in the room on social media.

Manya Koetse

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Earlier this week, the return of China’s famous livestreamer Li Jiaqi, also known as the ‘Lipstick King’, became a hot topic on Chinese social media where his three-month ‘disappearance’ from the social commerce scene triggered online discussions.

He is known as Austin Li, Lipstick King, or Lipstick Brother, but most of all he is known as one of China’s most successful e-commerce livestreaming hosts.

After being offline for over 100 days, Li Jiaqi (李佳琦) finally came back and did a livestreaming session on September 20th, attracting over 60 million viewers and selling over $17 million in products.

The 30-year-old beauty influencer, a former L’Oreal beauty consultant, rose to fame in 2017 after he became a successful livestreamer focusing on lipstick and other beauty products.

Li broke several records during his live streaming career. In 2018, he broke the Guinness World Record for “the most lipstick applications in 30 seconds.” He once sold 15000 lipsticks in 5 minutes, and also managed to apply 380 different lipsticks in another seven-hour live stream session. Li made international headlines in 2021 when he sold $1.9 billion in goods during a 12-hour-long promotion livestream for Alibaba’s shopping festival.

But during a Taobao livestream on June 3rd of this year, something peculiar happened. After Li Jiaqi and his co-host introduced an interestingly shaped chocolate cake – which seemed to resemble a tank, – a male assistant in the back mentioned something about the sound of shooting coming from a tank (“坦克突突”).

Although Li Jiaqi and the others laughed about the comment, Li also seemed a bit unsure and the woman next to him then said: “Stay tuned for 23:00 to see if Li Jiaqi and I will still be in this position.”

The session then suddenly stopped, and at 23:38 that night Li wrote on Weibo that the channel was experiencing some “technical problems.”

But those “technical problems” lasted, and Li did not come back. His June 3rd post about the technical problems would be the last one on his Weibo account for the months to come.

The ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件) occurred on the night before June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the violent crackdown of the Tiananmen student demonstrations. The iconic image of the so-called ‘tank man‘ blocking the tanks at Tiananmen has become world famous and is censored on China’s internet. The control of information flows is especially strict before and on June 4, making Li’s ‘tank cake incident’ all the more controversial.

But no official media nor the official Li Jiaqi accounts acknowledged the tank cake incident, and his absence remained unexplained. Meanwhile, there was a silent acknowledgment among netizens that the reason Li was not coming online anymore was related to the ‘tank cake incident.’

During Li’s long hiatus, fans flocked to his Weibo page where they left thousands of messages.

“I’m afraid people have been plotting against you,” many commenters wrote, suggesting that the cake was deliberately introduced by someone else during the livestream as a way to commemorate June 4.

Many fans also expressed their appreciation of Li, saying how watching his streams helped them cope with depression or cheered them up during hard times. “What would we do without you?” some wrote. Even after 80 days without Li Jiaqi’s livestreams, people still commented: “I am waiting for you every day.”

On September 21st, Li Jiaqi finally – and somewhat quietly – returned and some people said they were moved to see their lipstick hero return to the livestream scene.

Although many were overjoyed with Li’s return, it also triggered more conversations on why he had disappeared and what happened to him during the 3+ months of absence. “He talked about a sensitive topic,” one commenter said when a Weibo user asked about Li’s disappearance.

One self-media accountpublished a video titled “Li Jiaqi has returned.” The voiceover repeatedly asks why Li would have disappeared and even speculates about what might have caused it, without once mentioning the tank cake.

“This cracks me up,” one commenter wrote: “On the outside we all know what’s going on, on the inside there’s no information whatsoever.”

“It’s tacit mutual understanding,” some wrote. “It’s the elephant in the room,” others said.

Some people, however, did not care about discussing Li’s disappearance at all anymore and just expressed joy about seeing him again: “It’s like seeing a good friend after being apart for a long time.”

By Manya Koetse 

Elements in the featured image by @karishea and @kaffeebart.

 

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Backgrounder

More Than Just a Visit: Explaining the Chinese ‘Cuànfǎng’

‘Cuànfǎng’ became a popular word on Chinese social media and in official Chinese discourse this year. But what is it?

Jin Luo

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Since Pelosi’s stopover in Taiwan, the word ‘cuànfǎng’ has been all over Chinese social media to refer to this controversial visit. But ‘cuànfǎng’ is more than just ‘visiting’ alone. Jin Luo explains.

It was a sleepless night for many Chinese people when U.S. House Speaker Pelosi flew to Taiwan on August 2nd of 2022. A new Chinese word created in recent years, cuànfǎng (窜访) appeared in the official statement that was issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry at 11 pm that night, and subsequently it appeared all over social media.

Meanwhile, a pop song released more than 30 years ago titled “Tonight, Are You Coming or Not” (“今夜你会不会来”) suddenly became a Weibo hot topic before it was taken offline. What is this word lost in translation, and why did people suddenly get nostalgic over an old romantic song?

 
Cuànfǎng: A ‘Sneaky Visit’
 

Here is the original wording in Chinese and the official translation to English from the statement of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on the evening on 2 August:

In disregard of China’s strong opposition and diplomatic discontent, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited China’s Taiwan region” (“美国国会众议长佩洛西不顾中方强烈反对和严正交涉,窜访中国台湾地区.”) The word ‘visited’ in Chinese that is used here is “cuànfǎng” 窜访.

While the English verb “visit” is a neutral word by itself, the Chinese “cuànfǎng” 窜访 has much stronger connotations. According to the Wiktionary, the word is a derogatory, officialese way to say “to visit.” But it is not an easy word to translate, as there is no direct equivalent in English, and both the literal and implied meaning of the word need to be understood.

Cuànfǎng is actually a compound word: cuàn 窜 refers to fleeing, escaping, hiding, or running away; fǎng 访 refers to inquiring, seeking, or visiting.

Cuan as a compound character (Sohu).

To make matters more complicated, cuàn by itself is also a compound character. It is written as ‘竄’ in traditional Chinese: the top radical ‘穴’ means ‘hole,’ and the lower part is the character ‘鼠’ which means ‘mouse.’ The character, having the shape of a mouse hiding in a hole, therefore has the meaning of ‘hiding’ and ‘escaping.’

The origins of the character ‘cuan’ explained, image via Sohu.com.

The mouse or rat is an animal that is more often associated with negative things in Chinese culture. They are often considered sneaky, dirty, running around everywhere, and able to reproduce quickly. With mice so often carrying a negative association, cuàn ‘窜’ also refers to a kind of hiding and escaping that is negative or objectionable.

The second character fǎng 访 is a neutral word that simply means “to visit.”

At the New York Times, Chris Buckley captured the underlying meaning of this word in writing: “The Chinese word used in the official statements for ‘visit’ — cuanfang — connotes a sneaky or illicit encounter, not an aboveboard meeting.”

 
The Evolution of Cuànfǎng
 

Although it is a relatively new word, cuànfǎng already existed before the Pelosi incident and was not created in light of this controversial visit.

Since the word’s first appearance, translators have had some difficulties in properly translating the term into different languages.

Research papers in translation studies and international relations in China suggested that cuànfǎng is a “new derogatory term invented in recent years, specifically for the purpose of maintaining national security and unity, and condemning and exposing the national separatists” and “demonstrated the big wisdom of Chinese diplomatic discourse users; vividly described the image of the separatists, that they go on the run sneakily, just like thieves and mice” (source, in Chinese).

Other sources interpret it as “the unjust, improper visit conducted in order to reach hidden political agenda, to agitate and peddle the separatist ideas,” and:

1. You went somewhere where you were not supposed to go;
2. The visit was not accepted or welcomed by the (Chinese) government;
3. The purpose is to shake justice and create conflicts
” (source, in Chinese).

Cuàn was mainly meant to add an emotional aspect to the term and shows the contempt of the person who uses it.

Image via Wainao.

The word was first prominently used in Chinese official discourse when the Foreign Ministry in 2006 referred to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Israel. Since cuàn has the meaning of fleeing, it is especially suitable when referring to political dissidents who went into exile overseas.

Since then, it has been used again for further visits of the Dalai Lama to other countries (US 2014, Mongolia 2017), as well as for Rebiya Kadeer, Lee Teng-hui, Shinzo Abe, Joshua Wong, and others.

Although it is clear that the term is not only applied to Chinese dissidents, it is generally applied to those who conducted visits that were perceived to be hostile towards China, with Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit serving as a clear example.

Since the Dalai Lama has been living outside of China and conducted numerous visits to other countries, cuànfǎng was previously mostly used in this context until Pelosi’s visit, which ended up being good for more than 80% of the search results of cuànfǎng on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website.

If cuànfǎng is a word with such strong emotional connotations, why was it simply translated as “visit” in official English-language documents? Some say it is because of the mere difficulty to translate this word, while others say it is the routine sanitization of English translations by the Foreign Ministry.

David Gitter, president of the Center for Advanced China Research based in Washington D.C., said that the external goal of Beijing can be different from the internal goal towards the nationalist domestic audiences, and that “more accurate yet counterproductive translations … [often] breach normal diplomatic language.”

At this point, it remains up for debate whether this is a linguistic constraint or a political choice.

 
Tonight, Are You Coming or Not?
 

While the term cuànfǎng has been widely used in official discourse, it has also become a popular online word. Chinese netizens seemed to be as passionate as the Chinese Foreign Ministry – and perhaps even more so –  in condemning Pelosi’s Taiwan visit and demanding radical countermeasures.

Chinese netizens were watching the entire event unfold with mixed feelings – on the one hand, there was a strong sense of patriotism and anger, on the other hand, the massive attention to the event also turned it into something that was almost as exciting as a celebrity drama.

On that specific evening of Pelosi’s nearing arrival in Taipei, Chinese netizens were doing two things: watching real-time tracking of Pelosi’s flight, and listening to a classic pop song released in 1991 titled “Tonight, Are You Coming or Not” (今夜你会不会来) (video). Back in the previous century, Hong Kong singer Leon Lai expressed the emotions of someone waiting for his lover to arrive in this melodic song, singing:

“你是否愿意为我停留

Would you be willing to stay for me

今夜你来告诉我

Tonight, you tell me

你是否愿意陪我走过我的梦

Are you willing to accompany me through my dream?

我的所有

My everything

(Chorus)

今夜你会不会来

Tonight, are you coming or not?

你的爱还在不在

Is your love still there or not?

如果你的心已经离开

If your heart has left already

我宁愿没有未来

I would rather not have a future

今夜你会不会来

Tonight, are you coming or not?

你的爱还在不在

Is your love still there or not?

别让我所有的等待

Don’t let all my wait

变成一片空白

Go all in vain

 

In the middle of the uncertainty about whether Pelosi would come to Taiwan or not, this song served as entertainment for netizens and became a “collective carnival” of people jokingly applying the song to Pelosi, turning her into a ‘mysterious lover’ that might or might not show up. (Later, some were unable to play the song anymore, although it remains unclear if this was due to geographic restrictions or because the song was actually taken offline by censors.)

“Taiwan has been preparing for your cuànfǎng ‘sneaky visit’, are you coming or not tonight?” some netizens wrote, combining the title song with the cuànfǎng term. In doing so, Pelosi became both a ‘sneaky mouse’ and ‘mysterious lover’, both a target of condemnation and subject of fun and banter.

All jokes and cuànfǎng references aside, Pelosi did end up realizing that visit, and its aftermath, including a second Taiwan visit by a U.S. congressional delegation, has had a substantial impact on U.S.-China relations that were already strained before the move.

Will there be more cuànfǎng to Taiwan? It’s likely not an issue of if, but when. For next time, at least we’ve got cuànfǎng covered.

 

By Jin Luo 

Featured image by Alexa from Pixabay

 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

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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