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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.

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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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5 Comments

5 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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China Insight

Chinese Netizens’ Response to New Zealand Mosque Attacks

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The shocking New Zealand mosque attack, killing at least 49 people, is making headlines worldwide. On Weibo, it is the top trending topic today. A short overview of some of the reactions on Chinese social media.

At least 49 people were killed and 20 wounded when an attacker opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Friday. According to various media reports, one man in his late 20s had been arrested and charged with murder. Three other people, two men and one woman, have also been arrested in relation to the attack.

Footage of the brutal shootings, which was live-streamed by the gunman, has been making its rounds on social media. Although the videos are being taken down from Facebook and Twitter, people are still sharing the shocking images and footage on Weibo at time of writing.

The gunman, who has been named as the 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, reportedly also posted a 70-page manifesto online expressing white supremacist views.

On Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo, the New Zealand mosque attack became a number one trending topic on Friday night, local time, with the hashtag “New Zealand Shootings” (#新西兰枪击案#) receiving at least 130 million views, and thousands of reactions.

“It takes the collaborate efforts of all people to work on a beautiful world, it just takes a few people to destroy it,” one Weibo user wrote.

“Extremism is incredibly scary,” others said. “I saw the livestreaming video and it’s too cruel – like a massacre from a shooter video game.” “I’m so shaken, I don’t even want to think of the panic these people must have felt.”

“I’ve seen the footage, and this is so horrible. It makes me want to cry. It’s a massacre.” Other commenters also write: “This is just so inhumane.”

One aspect that especially attracted attention on Chinese social media is that, according to many people posting on Weibo and Wechat, the main suspect expressed in his manifesto that the nation he felt closest to in terms of his “political and social values” is “that of the People’s Republic of China.”

Journalist Matthew Keys reportedly uploaded the main suspect’s manifesto, which was published on January 21, 2019. This article says that to the question about whether he was a fascist, Tarrant indeed wrote that “the nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China.”

Some netizens wrote that, in mentioning the PRC, the shooter “also vilified China.” Others also said that the shootings definitely “do not correspond to the values of China.”

There are also dozens of Weibo users who blame Western media for the attacker’s comments on China corresponding to his own values. “What he appreciated is what Western media is propagating about our management of Muslims in Xinjiang,” some say: “He was influenced by the foreign media disseminating that we’re anti-Muslim.”

“He sympathized with the China portrayed by foreign media, not with the real China.”

“Western governments and media have demonized China for a long time, what they are making Western people believe about what China is, this is what the New Zealand shooter felt closest to in terms of his values,” one person wrote.

“These kinds of extreme-right terrorists would be destroyed in China,” others wrote.

Among all people expressing their disgust and horror at the Christchurch shootings, there are also those expressing anti-Muslim views and hatred, with some comment sections having turned into threads full of vicious remarks.

Then there are those criticizing the Muslims that are also commenting on Weibo: “The Muslims in China were quiet when it was about the [islamist extremist] attacks in Kunshan, but now that this massacre happened at the pig-hating mosque, they are all bemoaning the state of the universe and are denouncing terrorism.”

Among the thousands of reactions flooding in on Weibo, there are countless comments condemning those who turn the shocking attack into an occasion for making anti-Muslim or political remarks. “This is a terrorist attack. The victims are ordinary people. Why would you make malicious comments?”

One Weibo user simply writes: “The world has gone crazy.” “A tragic event. I hope the victims will rest in peace.”

By Manya Koetse 

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In China’s “Kua Kua” Chat Groups, People Pay to Be Praised [Updated]

Money can’t buy you love, but in these ‘kua kua’ groups, they can buy you praise.

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Image via hexun.com.

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Social media is often called a battlefield, but in these Chinese WeChat ‘Kua kua’ groups (夸夸群), people will praise you no matter what you do or say.

A new phenomenon has become a hot topic on Chinese social media these days. ‘Kua kua’ groups (夸夸群) are chat groups where people share some things about themselves – even if they are negative things – and where other people will always tell them how great they are, no matter what.

Kua kua groups (夸 ‘kuā‘ literally means ‘praise’) have become all the rage in China. People seem to love them for the mere fact that it makes them feel good about themselves.

The format is clear. Person A tells about something that is on their minds, and asks people for positive feedback. Person B, C, and D will then come forward and tell them how good or pretty they are, sometimes based on their profile photo.

One could say: “Hi everyone, I’ve just turned down a job offer, but now my future is full of uncertainty, please compliment me.” Then people in the chat group will respond and say things such as: “You look like the type of person who knows exactly what they want.”

The Kua kua praise group phenomenon allegedly began within the online community of Xi’an Jiaotong University – although some claim it was Shanghai’s Fudan University – when one person asked others in a chat group to compliment them. The idea started to compliment and praise others, and so a trend was born; first, in university (BBS) chat groups, and now on WeChat and beyond the realm of universities.

The phenomenon has been around for at least six years, but only recently started gaining widespread attention on Chinese social media. According to China’s Toutiao News, virtually every college now has its own ‘praise group.’

But the praise does not always come for free. Although many (college-based) chat groups are free to join, people who want to be complimented and are not yet a member of an existing group can join Kua kua groups when they pay for it. On Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao, there are various online shops that sell a ‘Praise group’ membership starting from 50 yuan ($7,5) per person, going up to 188 yuan ($28).

The time of praise is limited to five minutes unless you pay more. The quality of the compliments you’ll be getting also depends on how much you pay. Some groups allegedly consist of “students of great talent,” and the number of people complimenting one person could reach up to 500 people.

The contents of the praise could literally be anything. A simple “I want to be praised” comment could get a variety of reactions from “your hat looks nice” to “the fact that you’re so honest and straightforward about what you want is something that is hard to come across in this day and age,” to “you used a period mark [at the end of your sentence], you must be someone who is very persistent in reaching your goals.”

The fact that the “Kua kua” phenomenon is such a success in China might relate to its culture, where humility and modesty are considered ideal in day-to-day communications. When given a compliment, it is common in China to deny it or to suggest that the person giving the compliment is much better than they are (also see Cheng 2003, 30).

These chat groups, however, break away from the dominant cultural interactions: people don’t have to be polite in responding to the compliments and can wallow in the praise they paid for.

Although not as big as the “Kua Kua” group phenomenon, these kinds of groups also exist in the English-language social media sphere. On Reddit’s “Toast Me” page, for example, there are some 92,000 subscribers participating in asking and giving positive feedback to others, albeit unpaid.

The people giving compliments in the Chinese Kua kua groups are random people, some students, some staff of Taobao stores, who get hongbao, red envelopes with digital money gifts, for contributing to the group. According to some reports, some ‘customers’ end up staying the group and become a part of the team themselves.

We will follow up on this later: we booked a ‘five-minute praise session’ ourselves, but are still awaiting admission to the group…

 

Update: Our Kua Kua Experience

 

So what is the Kua kua experience like? We decided to try out for ourselves and purchased a 5-minute praise session through Taobao for 50 yuan ($7,5) from a seller that had a good rating.

After the purchase is completed, the seller will contact you with details asking for your WeChat ID. After adding, they will ask you what your ‘problem’ or issue is, and you will be put in a virtual queue until your turn comes up to be praised.

You’ll then be added to a WeChat group that has your name in the headline (ours was something like “Manya you can do it”) and that has around 200 participants.

The message posted by us was:

Hello, I’m Manya (Dutch). I’ve been studying Chinese for more than ten years. In fact, I’m afraid to say it may even be more than 13 years, but I still often don’t understand what Beijing taxi drivers are saying. Even studying every day won’t help. I’ve been learning for so many years, yet I often still don’t understand what the old people in Beijing are saying. It’s a bit embarrassing. I think my Chinese is still not good enough. I can’t understand the ‘crosstalk’ [comedy sketches] during the Spring Festival Gala at all. It makes me feel a little dispirited.

Within a matter of seconds, the screen then just fills up with positive feedback and emoji. There are dozens of comments, and they almost go too fast to read them all.

Some of the responses:

You’re great, and even I don’t understand Beijing taxi drivers.

Stay confident in yourself!

You’re so cool.”

You can type so many Chinese characters, who’d say your Chinese is not good enough?!

Manya, you’re so fantastic.”

None of us understand what old people in Beijing are saying.

Chinese is just not easy to study, the fact that you’ve been doing it for so long already shows how great you are.”

It’s incredible that you’ve already come this far.”

A woman who is so motivated about studying really moves me, you’re my role model, you make me want to study more English.”

During the praise session, the group leader will occasionally post a hongbao [envelope with money] for the participants to receive in return for their compliments.

After five minutes, the session ends, and the people will send out some last words of encouragement. The group leader will personally thank you for being part of the group, and later, you’ll be removed from the group as the people will move on to the next person who is waiting in line to be praised.

How does it feel to be praised by some 200 people, receiving hundreds of compliments? It’s overwhelming, and even though you know it’s all just an online mechanism, and that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you say, it still makes you glow a little bit inside.

Although some experts quoted by Chinese state media warn people not to rely on these praise groups too much, there does not seem to be much harm in allowing yourself to be complimented for some minutes from time to time.

Other people reviewing the same Kua kua group apparently feel the same: “I’m super satisfied, the result is amazing.”

By Manya Koetse  and Miranda Barnes

Featured image via hexun.com.

References

Cheng, Winnie. 2003. Intercultural Communication. Amsterdam, John Benjamins Publishing.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please 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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