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The “Tents of Love” Phenomenon: Chinese Parents Sleep in Tents At Their Kids’ New University

At the start of a new semester, more universities across China are setting up tented camps for parents who are seeing off their college freshman children. On Chinese social media, netizens discuss if these so-called “Tents of Love” (爱心帐篷) are indeed a sign of love, or epitomize the non-independence of China’s post-1990s generation.

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At the start of a new semester, more universities across China are setting up tented camps for parents who are seeing off their college freshman children. On Chinese social media, netizens discuss if these so-called ‘tents of love’ (爱心帐篷) are indeed a sign of love, or if they epitomize the non-independence of China’s post-1990s generation.

It is the first week of the new semester at Nanjing’s Forestry University (南京林业大学). While new students are getting enrolled and settled in their dorm rooms, their parents sleep in tents in the university sports hall.

Multiple Chinese universities, from Tianjin to Guangzhou, have started to set up tented camps at the start of the semester for the families of new students. There are also schools that simply provide mattresses, blankets and an air-conditioned space for parents of freshman students.

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The so-called ‘tents of love’ (爱心帐篷) are a relatively new phenomenon in mainland China. In 2012, Tianjin University was the first to set up an indoor ‘freshman parents’ camp with 200 tents, providing air-conditioning, free water, and shower facilities.

“Tents of Compassion”

It is common for Chinese parents to accompany their child when they first go to college. They sometimes run into problems, however, when they do not have a place to stay in the place where their child studies.

Some families arrive in the middle of the night after long travels, and nearby hotels and guesthouses are often fully booked at the start of the semester. There are also many parents who simply do not have the money to pay for accommodation.

Because this would previously result in parents sleeping on benches or laying down a mattress somewhere, some Chinese universities now offer free accommodation as a sign of compassion towards their student’s parents, which is why tents are called ‘tents of love’ or ‘tents of compassion’ (爱心帐篷).

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On Sina Weibo, netizens discuss the ‘tents of love’ after several Chinese media posted about them. The news has triggered discussions about China’s post-1990s generation. Many Chinese netizens think it is not right for parents to join their kids on their first days at college, as it makes them less independent and too pampered. There are also many, however, who think it is very normal for parents to see their children off and help them get settled in during their first days at university.

Spoilt and Pampered

“I went to school all by myself ever since kindergarten. Times have changed, and these are all only children – so precious to their parents,” one netizen comments.

The students that are now going to university belong to the post-1990s or post-1995 generation, a much-discussed age group in Chinese (social) media. Sometimes loved, sometimes hated, the generation is truly unique for being born in the new modern China, growing up amidst rapid socio-economical changes.

Not only are the post-1990ers mostly only children due to China’s one-child policy, they have also grown up in relative wealth in the era of modern house appliances, computers, and mobile phones. Because they generally are used to receive a lot of attention and (financial) help from their (grand) parents, they are often perceived as ‘spoilt princesses’ or ‘little emperors‘.

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“When I started university, my parents were busy. Nobody took me. I am quite envious of these kids,” one Weibo commenter says. Others say: “I understand they might want to bring their kids there, but why do they need to stay the night?”

On A School Trip

But many netizens support the initiative to set up tented camps for parents during the first days of college, and defend the custom for families to go to the university’s enrollment days together.

As one Weibo user writes: “What’s wrong with parents seeing off their kids? Who says it is a sign of their non-independence? When I just went to university, my parents also went with me. They stayed in a hotel, I stayed in my dorm room. After the registration process was finished, we went out to see my new town and new university together. It was like a family trip. I don’t see what’s bad about that.”

There are many reasons for families to join their kids on their first days at their new school. Mostly, it is for practical and emotional support. For many students it is the first time to leave their hometown, and their parents do not want them to travel alone to a strange city.

Setting out to start their life at campus, new students also bring a lot of luggage and are not able to carry everything by themselves. As a generation that has been pampered most of their lives, many post 1990s students can also use some help in other basic matters, such as purchasing bedsheets or navigating the city. One netizen writes: “My dad also brought me to college. He arranged my bed for me and cleaned the room. He left after he gave me a map of the city.”

But besides the worries parents have about their only child going off to a new school in a new city, there is also the simple curiosity of seeing the place where their child will study for the years to come. “There are many parents who do not necessarily have the money to stay at a hotel, but sending their kids off to college might be one of the very few chances for them to travel outside their hometowns,” one Weibo netizen says.

Another person remarks: “Parents also go because they want to travel a bit, have a look at the university their kid will be studying at, and walk around to see the scenery there. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

No Parents Allowed

In some cases, families are so proud of their college-going kid that they arrive at the university with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. As Quartz magazine reported, one family arrived at Anhui University with a group of 14 last year. The school even put the family picture on social media.

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But not everybody is happy with new students’ entourage, and tell them not to bring them. “My university says we have to come alone,” one female netizen comments: “Parents are not allowed to come. But I am a girl with many things and I can’t carry it alone. I am also going to a strange city. So I’ll let my dad come with me. My mum also insisted on coming, but I told her no. Her eyes teared up. But there’s nothing I can do.”

For most netizens, however, parents joining their children for their first days of college is nothing but normal. As one female netizen from Henan says: “The people who hate on these parents bringing their kids to university are crazy. Some students have to cross the entire country before they can study. Some have had very little contact with the outside world before going off to college. It’s only normal for parents to worry about them and coming along, and also it is a chance for them to make a trip. It’s just very good.”

– By Manya Koetse

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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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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