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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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China Insight

‘Divorce Day’: Queuing Up to Get Divorced after Chinese Spring Festival Holiday

The first day after the Spring Festival holiday is a busy one at the Bureau of Civil Affairs as couples are lining up to register a divorce.

Manya Koetse

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On the first day after the Chinese Spring Festival holiday (Jan. 21-27), there are long lines at the Civil Affairs Bureau in several places across China.

In Jiangxi, one resident shared how couples were queuing up to file for divorce on the first day the local Bureau of Civil Affairs reopened its doors. The lines were allegedly so long that people had to wait outside. Another video showed similar scenes at a local bureau in Anhui province. A third video showed crowded scenes of people lining up to register a divorce in Henan.

Chinese media accounts such as Toutiao News (@头条新闻), Vista (@Vista看天下), and Phoenix News (@凤凰周刊) all posted about the long divorce lines on Jan. 29, with one post about the topic receiving 70,000 likes.

“I thought they were lining up to get married, then I watched the news and saw they were actually lining up to get divorced..,” one commenter wrote. Others wondered if the busy lines for the divorce registration office might have something to do with the Covid outbreak over the past weeks, with some couples finding out that their partner actually is not very sympathetic when they are sick (also read this article).

The Chinese media outlets posting about the divorce registration lines mentioned how the ones who suffer the most in a divorce are the children, but many commenters did not agree with this statement, arguing that children suffer the most when parents stay together for the sake of the children and then continue fighting.

The divorce trend after the Chinese Lunar New Year has also been discussed in Chinese media and on social media in previous years (“春节后离婚潮”).

In Western countries, it is a known fact that divorce rates increase after Christmas time; the Monday after Christmas break is also dubbed “Divorce Day.” Some sources claim this is often due to quarrels that occur during Christmas and the financial pressures that come with the festive season.

It is arguably not much different for the Chinese New Year, when incidents taking place during family gatherings could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“The Spring Festival is like a big marriage minefield,” one commenter wrote: “When you return to your family home, it doesn’t just mean reuniting with your close relatives, there are also various tests of human relations and etiquette. A careless moment can cause conflicts between a married couple, leading to quarrels or even divorce. Is your marriage good or not? You will know during the Chinese New Year. After the New Year, there will be a wave of divorces.”

But the pandemic situation of the past years, in including the lockdowns, mental stress and financial difficulties, inescapably also play a role in the recent divorce wave.

In December of 2022, this Chinese blog article already predicted that more people would file for divorce after the Chinese New Year since the end of the holiday would coincide with the end of the Covid peak. In times of lockdown, and especially in times of sickness, couples easily get annoyed with each other and their love is put to the test.

Earlier this month, some Chinese media also reported that three years after the pandemic began, cities were already seeing a “divorce wave” (#疫情后一线城市离婚预约爆满#).

Some netizens comment that the ‘cool-off’ period that was introduced to allow couples a month’s time to think and revoke their divorce does not seem to have much effect.

Some people sympathize with those standing in line: “Celebrating the New Year can bring about a war in some families. The divorce season has started.”

By Manya Koetse 

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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

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our 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.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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