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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.

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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. 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. 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 and Covid19

Fangcang Forever: China’s Temporary Covid19 Makeshift Hospitals To Become Permanent

China’s temporary ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are here to stay.

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A new term has been added to China’s pandemic lexicon today: Permanent Fangcang Hospital. Although China’s ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are, by definition, temporary, these healthcare facilities to isolate and treat Covid patients are now becoming a permanent feature of China’s Zero-Covid approach.

Over the past few days, Chinese authorities have emphasized the need for China’s bigger cities to build or renovate existing makeshift Covid hospitals, and turn them into permanent sites.

So-called ‘Fangcang hospitals’ (方舱医院, square cabin hospitals) are large, temporary makeshift shelter hospitals to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. Fangcang shelter hospitals were first established in China during the Wuhan outbreak as a countermeasure to stop the spread of the virus.

January 5 2022, a Fangcang or Isolation Point with over 1000 separate isolations rooms is constructed in Baqiao District of Xi’an (Image via Renmin Shijue).

They have since become an important part of China’s management of the pandemic and the country’s Zero-Covid policy as a place to isolate and treat people who have tested positive for Covid-19, both asymptomatic and mild-to-moderate symptomatic cases. In this way, the Fangcang hospitals alleviate the pressure on (designated) hospitals, so that they have more beds for patients with serious or severe symptoms.

On May 5th, Chinese state media reported about an important top leadership meeting regarding China’s Covid-19 situation. In this meeting, the Politburo Standing Committee stressed that China would “unswervingly adhere to the general Zero-Covid policy” and that victory over the virus would come with persistence. At the meeting, chaired by Xi Jinping, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee also declared that China would fight against any words or acts that “distort, doubt, or deny” the country’s dynamic Zero-Covid policy.

Life inside one of Shanghai’s Fangcang, photo via UDN.com.

Following the meeting, there have been multiple official reports and statements that provide a peek into China’s ‘zero Covid’ future.

On May 13, China’s National Health Commission called on all provinces to build or renovate city-level Fangcang hospitals, and to make sure they are equipped with electricity, ventilation systems, medical appliances, toilets, and washing facilities (Weibo hashtag ##以地级市为单位建设或者改造方舱医院#).

On May 16, the term ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital’ (Weibo hashtag #永久性方舱医院) became a trending topic on Weibo after Ma Xiaowei (马晓伟), Minister of China’s National Health Commission, introduced the term in Qiushi (求是), the leading official theoretical journal of the Chinese Communist Party.

The term is new and is somewhat contradictory as a concept, since ‘Fangcang hospitals’ are actually defined by their temporary nature.

Ma Xiaowei stressed the need for Chinese bigger cities to be ready for the next stage of China’s Covid control. This also includes the need for some central ‘Fangcang’ makeshift hospitals to become permanent ones.

In order to ‘normalize’ the control and monitoring that comes with living in Zero-Covid society, Chinese provincial capitals and bigger cities (more than ten million inhabitants) should do more to improve Covid testing capacities and procedures. Ma proposes that there should be nucleic acid sample collection points across the city within a 15-minute walking distance radius, and testing frequency should be increased to maximize efficient control and prevention.

Cities should be prepared to take in patients for isolation and/or treatment at designated hospitals, centralized isolation sites, and the permanent Fangcang hospitals. The recent Covid outbreak in Shanghai showed that local authorities were unprepared to deal with the outbreak, and sites that were used as Fangcang hospitals often lacked proper facilities, leading to chaotic scenes.

A Fangcang Isolation Center in Quanzhou, March 2022, via People’s Daily.

The hashtag “Permanent Fangcang Hospitals” received over 140 million views on Weibo on Monday.

One of the Weibo threads by state media reporting on the Permanent Fangcang hospitals and the publication by Ma Xiaowei received nearly 2000 comments, yet the comment section only displayed three comments praising the newly announced measures, leaving out the other 1987 comments.

Elsewhere on Weibo, people shared their views on the Permanent Fangcang Hospitals, and most were not very positive – most commenters shared their worries about China’s Covid situation about the stringent measures being a never-ending story.

“We’re normalizing nucleic acid test, we’re introducing permanent fangcang hospitals, [but] why isn’t the third Covid vaccination coming through?” one person wondered.

“If there was still a little bit of passion inside me, it was just killed by reading these words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital,'” another commenter writes, with one Weibo user adding: “I feel desperate hearing the words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital.'”

“Building permanent Fangcang? Why? Why don’t you use the resources you’re now spending on normalizing testing to create more hospital beds, more medical staff and more medications?”

Another commenter wrote: “China itself is one giant permanent Fangcang hospital.”

“The forever Fangcang are being built,” one Weibo user from Guangdong writes: “This will never end. We’ll be locked up like birds in a cage for our entire life.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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Featured image via user tongtong [nickname] Weibo.com.

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China and Covid19

‘Hard Isolation’ is Shanghai’s New Word of the Day

In line with a new ‘hard isolation’ measure, the entrances of some Shanghai residential buildings were fenced up.

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While some Shanghai households have already endured weeks of isolation, a new word was added to their epidemic vocabulary today: ‘hard isolation’ or ‘strong quarantine’ (yìng gélí 硬隔离)

The word popped up on Chinese social media on April 23rd after some Shanghai netizens posted photos of fences being set up around their community building to keep residents from walking out.

“New word: hard isolation. Shanghai is rotten to the core,” one commenter wrote.

The word soon turned into a hashtag page where people started commenting on the issue of fences being placed around residential buildings, voicing concerns on what a fence around buildings would mean for fire safety, especially after online rumors suggested that there had been a fire at one community in Pudong on Saturday night.

An official document regarding the ‘hard isolation’ measure was also shared online on Saturday. It is dated April 23, 2022, and its source is the Pudong New Area Office for Epidemic Control.

The document states that in line with the guidelines for the city’s epidemic prevention and control, the division between areas or zones that are in certain risk categories should be ‘optimized,’ with those in the high-risk category requiring a ‘hard isolation.’ Security guards should also be on duty 24 hours a day at the entrance of the buildings.

Earlier this month, Shanghai adopted “3-level control measures” after its initial phased lockdown. It means that local areas will be classified as “locked-down,” “controlled” or “precautionary,” based on their Covid19 risk.

“Could we also put fences around the homes of Shanghai leaders?”, one person suggested, while others posted images from the Walking Dead to mock the situation.

In the hope of Shanghai soon tackling the Covid situation, not everybody disagreed with the decision to fence some buildings or communities in the Pudong area: “I don’t disagree with it, as long as there is always someone there to open the fence in case of fire,” one person stated.

Although having a fence around their building is currently not a reality for most in Shanghai, the online photos of some communities seeing their buildings being fenced up is a reason to worry for some: “It’s been 40 days, and now they start hard isolation? This actually scares me. Before we know it, it’s June.”

One Weibo user asked: “Why is it possible to implement this hard isolation now? Was this created by the same persons who also implemented the rule to separate children from parents at isolation sites?”

“I truly can’t imagine why some people thought this is a good idea,” others wrote.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

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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