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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 Digital

Key Players, Digital Trends & Deep Dives: China Internet Report 2021

SCMP just launched its latest China Internet Report. (And What’s on Weibo readers can get a 30% discount on the Pro Edition!)

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As China’s tech sector has been facing an ongoing crackdown by Beijing regulations, a lot has been changing in the country’s digital environment over the past year. The new China Internet Report 2021 by SCMP gives an overview of the latest trends and developments.

When it comes to China’s online landscape, nothing ever stays the same. Over the past year, political, economic, and social developments and measures have once again changed the Chinese digital environment.

Giving a comprehensive overview of the key leaders and major trends dominating the Chinese online field, South China Morning Post (SCMP) issued its fourth annual China Internet Report.

China’s internet population has now risen to 989 million – last year’s report indicated an internet population of 904 million. By now, there are 853 million mobile payment users, which indicates that over 86% of the entire mobile internet population uses mobile as a way to pay.

As China’s internet population is still growing, and new online startups are still popping up every day, there have been tightening regulations on multiple fronts.

As laid out in SCMP’s report, regulations mainly focus on the four areas of antitrust, finance, cybersecurity, and data privacy. Regulatory actions targeting the monopolistic behaviours of China’s biggest internet companies are still ongoing, and the new Data Security Law came into effect on September 1st of this year.

While Chinese tech companies are seeing increased scrutiny at home, they have also been facing intensifying geopolitical tensions between China and other countries. Over the past year, the various probes and shutdowns into Chinese companies by countries such as the US and India have meant a serious blow to the market share of Chinese apps.

Meanwhile, the SCMP report highlights the trend of various older and newer Chinese (e-commerce) apps “downplaying” their Chinese origins when entering foreign markets. Shein is a good example of this development, but other players including Zaful, Urbanic, and Cider are also experiencing more success outside of China while not explicitly marketing themselves as Chinese e-commerce apps.

Another noteworthy trend explained in the new report is how China’s shifting demographics are creating new niche segments to compete over. The COVID-19 crisis is partially a reason why China has seen an increase in senior internet users, with an increasing number of online products and content catering to the elderly.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) even issued special guidelines earlier this year for web pages and mobile apps to carry out so-called “elderly friendliness modifications.” Since this user group is still expected to see significant growth, the “silver economy” is an area that will only become more important in the years to come.

To check out all the main trends for 2021, China’s latest internet statistics, its top tech competitors, internet companies, and more, here’s a link to the free report.

The free report is 55 pages long and gives an overview of China’s latest internet numbers and players, covers the top cross-sector trends for 2021, including the tightening regulations and the bumpy road ahead for China’s tech IPOs.

The Pro Edition of China’s Internet Report 2021, also launched by SCMP, is 138 pages long and provides a deep-dive into ten relevant sectors – featuring insightful and useful analysis, data, and case studies relating to China’s e-commerce market, content & media, gaming, blockchain, fintech, online education, healthtech, smart cars, 5G, and Artificial Intelligence.

The China Internet Report Pro Edition is priced at US$400, but the team at SCMP has kindly reached out and made it possible for us to offer a special 30% discount to What’s on Weibo readers.

You’ll get the discount by using the discount code: WHATSONWEIBO30, or by clicking this link that will automatically include your discount code.

By Manya Koetse

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.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Insight

Goodbye 996? Weibo Discussions on Changes in Overtime Work Culture

Beijing made it clear that working overtime is illegal, but netizens are concerned about the realities of changing working schedules.

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Many people are tired of being forced to log long hours, but are also worried about how a national crackdown on ‘996’ working culture could impact their workload and income.

In late August of 2021, China’s Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security (人社部) and the Supreme People’s Court issued a joint clarification on the country’s legal standards of working hours and overtime pay.

Their message was clear: the practices of ‘996’ (working 9am-9pm, six days per week) and ‘007’ (working 24 hours seven days per week, referring to a flexible working system worse than 996) are illegal, and employers are obliged to obey the national working-time regime.

On Weibo, China’s state broadcaster CCTV published a 10-minute long video illustrating the 10 typical cases of overtime work laid out by the ministry and the top court. The moment was marked as the first time for the state-owned broadcaster to publicly comment on overtime work practices.

The Weibo post pointed out that “striving for success is not a shield companies can use to evade legal responsibilities,” and made it clear that employees have the right to “say no to forced overtime.”

The topics of overtime work and China’s 996 work culture generated many discussions on Weibo, with the hashtag “Ministry of Human Resources & Social Security and the Supreme Court Clarify 996 and 007 Are Illegal” (#人社部最高法明确996和007都违法#) generating over 420 million views on the social media platform.

 
“Without implementation and enforcement, the law is useless”
 

The current labor law in China bars employees from working more than 44 hours a week, and any overtime work must be paid.

Although the 996 practice is technically prohibited by law, many companies still enforce the hours informally.

Many employees revealed online that, although the 996 practice is legally prohibited, they were nevertheless being assigned job tasks that exceeded the prescribed working hours.

“Just finished work,” one Weibo user (@介也没嘛) posted with this picture, showing it’s nearing 11PM.

“I wonder if the workload will decrease after all. If it doesn’t change, it means people will now have to work voluntarily,” one Weibo user commented.

People also indicated that, since the start of the pandemic, remote work has become a new norm. Many companies have moved from office to working at home, making it harder to draw the line between regular working hours and overtime hours.

“What really matters is whether working from home includes overtime hours,” one Weibo user wrote. Many netizens complained that their companies wouldn’t explicitly stipulate a 996 schedule; instead, most of them disguise the overtime hours as ‘voluntary’ work.


Many commenters say it takes more comprehensive legislation and tougher law enforcement to really solve the issue of overtime work.

“These regulations are good, but they are basically impossible to implement. Even if they ban ‘996’ and ‘007’ there is no way to regulate the so-called ‘voluntary work,’” one Weibo user wrote.

Some people said that their companies have various performance assessments and that they feared that refusing to work more hours would make them lose their competitive advantage: “The burn-out (内卷 nèijuǎn, ‘involution’) is severe. It is too difficult for us. I have only one day off during the week and I’m so tired,” one person commented.

 
“We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours”
 

China’s 996 work culture has been championed by tech leaders and denounced by workers for years, and it has become an unwritten standard – not just in the tech sector but also in other industries.

While working long hours has been ingrained in Chinese workplace culture since the early days of the country’s internet boom, it later also started to represent ‘a road to success’ for Chinese tech entrepreneurs.

Many Chinese netizens blame Alibaba’s Jack Ma for praising the ‘996’ work system. In 2019, Ma called the 12-hour working day a “huge blessing,” causing much controversy online. During his talk at Kyiv International Economic Forum, Ma said: “(..) ‘996 is the spirit that I encourage Alibaba people to follow. If you want to have a bright future, (..) if you want to be successful, you have to work hard.”

On another occasion, the tech mogul reportedly said: “If you join Alibaba, you should get ready to work 12 hours a day, otherwise why do you come to Alibaba? We don’t need those who comfortably work 8 hours.”

Jack Ma, the co-founder of Alibaba Group described 996 as a ‘blessing’.

However, after the shocking death of one Chinese delivery man working for food delivery platform Ele.me and the widespread discussions about the ‘996 ICU’ project – which called on tech workers to add names and evidence of excessive hours to a ‘blacklist,’ – the 996 work culture has come under increased scrutiny.

Some people argue that the overtime culture is draining employees and creating an unhealthy work-life balance; others argue that they work for themselves and believe that putting in extra hours will eventually translate to individual success.

While economic growth has slowed down during the pandemic, most companies are persisting with long working hours because they are under pressure to achieve results.

According to an online survey conducted by an influential tech blogging account (@IT观察猿), more than one-third of participants claimed to have one day off per week, and more than one quarter claimed they didn’t have any weekend days off.

 
“The workload is the same, but the income has reduced”
 

Starting from August 1st, ByteDance, the Chinese company behind the popular short-form video app TikTok, dropped its ‘big and small week’ (大小周) – a schedule that previously required employees to work six days in a row every other week.

ByteDance is not the only Chinese tech company that has begun to cut back on its long working hours. More and more companies have decided to drop grueling work schedules.

Kuaishou, another Chinese short-form video app company, stopped scheduling weekend work in July. Since early June, Tencent – China’s largest game publisher – has encouraged people to clock out at 6 pm every Wednesday.

Although these changes seem to signal a positive development, there are also many people who do not support the new measures. When Bytedance announced the changes to its working schedule, news came out that one-third of the employees did not support the decision (#字节跳动1/3员工不支持取消周末加班#).

Those relying on overtime pay said abolishing overtime work will cut their take-home pay by around 20%. Indeed, the first pay-out after the new implementation at Bytedance showed an overall drop of 17% in employees’ wages.

“The workload is the same, but the income has reduced,” one Weibo commenter complained.

One trending discussion on Weibo focused on the question “Do companies need to make up for employees’ financial loss after the abolition of weekend work?” Many comments revealed the situation faced by thousands of struggling workers who value free time but value their income more.

Many on Weibo still wonder whether a company that abolishes ‘996’ will come up with an alternative to compensate those employees who will otherwise inevitably lose vital income.

By Yunyi Wang

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.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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