China youths

New Oriental founder Yu Minhong started selling farm products online from last month. (Internet)

China's 'godfather of overseas study' now selling farm produce, regrets listing

For New Oriental Education and Technology Group Inc. founder Michael Yu Minhong, the year 2021 has been a rollercoaster ride of losses amid a crackdown on the off-campus tutoring sector. The company seems to be bouncing back with livestreaming farm sales, but is this all just bravado and a further move away from the company’s origins as an educatonal provider assisting those preparing to study overseas? Yu himself has lamented in the past that the minute the company listed on the NYSE, it went off course. In the aftermath of the chaos, will it be able to recentre itself, or will it continue being swept by the tide?
"Sometimes through the cracks, I watch people go by."

[Comic] We live in the crevices of life

Chinese comic artist Bai Yi observes that most of us, the masses, are but tiny pawns fighting to survive in this immense and turbulent world. Lives are spent living in obscurity and dullness, often voiceless and unnoticed, coming and going in the crevices of life and society. No one really wants to live such a life forever, but before the crevices are exposed under the light, can we contemplate our lives in the safety of the shadows?
Signs of Alibaba Group and Ant Group are seen during the World Internet Conference (WIC) in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, 23 November 2020. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Painful retrenchments at China’s internet giants

Even as the pandemic created greater demand for internet companies like Kuaishou, Alibaba and Meituan, these companies are finding their large staff numbers unsustainable, leading to a wave of major retrenchments over the past year or so. This is not just due to overexpansion, but also operational pressures that come with new regulations to protect employment rights. Zaobao journalist Meng Dandan reports.
Students, tourists and visitors gather in front of the Harry Elkins Widener Library on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, on 21 June 2011. (Kelvin Ma/Bloomberg)

Chinese returning talents losing their shine?

With Chinese returning talents (海归, haigui) increasingly becoming a dime a dozen amid worsening US-China relations and less Chinese students venturing abroad, the aura of prestige that such returnees used to enjoy is fast diminishing. In fact, many of them were ostracised in the early days of the pandemic for bringing the virus back to China. But all is not lost, as many among them feel their years spent abroad will still open doors.
Students attend a lesson at a school in Qingyuan county, Lishui city, Zhejiang province, China, on 9 December 2021. (AFP)

Students snitching on teachers in Chinese classrooms: Return of Cultural Revolution?

Another internet furore has erupted, this time over a Shanghai college lecturer who was ratted out by her student and accused of being “spiritually Japanese” for questioning the death toll of the Nanjing Massacre. Are fears of a Cultural Revolution returning justified as people feel emboldened to tell on others without much thought?
China's pet economy is taking off, driven by the one-child generation born in the 1980s and 1990s. (Internet/SPH)

China’s pet industry booms as the post-90s generation seeks to fill a void

The pet economy is thriving in China, driven mostly by the one-child generation who crave an emotional connection and young job seekers taking up “animal communication” gigs during the pandemic. Analysts are optimistic about this sector, where middle class households are more than willing to spend more on the physical and emotional well-being of their furkids. Zaobao correspondent Wong Siew Fong speaks to pet owners and business owners to uncover more about this emerging industry.
Often in rural China, a couple would travel far to find work in cities, leaving their offspring behind with their grandparents as pictured here in rural Yunnan.

China’s rural elderly: The disappearing keepers of tradition

The rural elderly are the guardians of local traditions, says Hisham Youssef, an Egyptian-American architect based in Shanghai. On his travels to the Chinese countryside, he sees aged craftsmen labouring quietly, often with no one to pass their skills on to. Will precious culture and traditions disappear without a trace at this rate? How can this group’s life experiences be best harnessed and passed down and the youth attracted to stay or return to carry on family trades?
Office workers walk past buildings in Beijing's central business district on 8 September 2021, in China. (Greg Baker/AFP)

Are the Chinese embracing the 'iron rice bowl' again?

More young Chinese job-seekers are looking for "iron rice bowls" within the government. It is even becoming increasingly common for PhD holders to apply for regular jobs. Nothing wrong in that per se, but for a nation seeking greater innovation and technological supremacy, would this be a stumbling block?
Students attend a flag-raising ceremony during the first day of the new semester in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, on 1 September 2021. (STR/AFP)

Parents and teachers brace themselves for China's new school year under the 'double reduction' policy

Since September, primary and secondary schools across China have started to implement the “double reduction” policy. Among other measures, primary one and two students no longer have written homework or paper-based exams, while primary three to six students will have their written homework load significantly reduced. These measures are changing up the education ecosystem with students, parents, tutoring companies, teachers and schools all having to adjust. At the back of everyone’s minds is the thought that the rules have changed but competition has not gone away. What are some of their concerns and how will they cope?