With China’s annual gaokao or university entrance exams ending yesterday, Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu looks at the furore caused by a Beijing student who had left his test centre early and seemingly breezed through the exam. Netizens were quick to point out that regional differences in resources, administration and test papers have led to unfair advantages. In the face of serious concerns, is it time to look this perennial issue squarely in the face?
As children cram for their studies, their parents are cramming along with them, believing that they should be good role models. Is all this hyper-learning normal or good? Chinese economics professor Li Jingkui will let others be the judge, but he says that economically speaking, this is a sign that social mobility is shrinking; everyone feels compelled to grasp the last inch of rope that will airlift them to a better life.
In China, the term involution (内卷, neijuan) has been used to refer to various forms of inward spiral, regression or stagnation. Applied to education, it is the vicious cycle of kids being primed and plumbed for their potential. Cram-style preschool education, intense competition for places in elite schools, crazy property prices in school districts... the list goes on. If no one steps off the wheel, is there no end in sight?
The terms “involution” (内卷) and “lying flat” (躺平) are trending these days among young people in China who are speaking out against the intense competition and pressures they face. But how many are actually doing something about it? Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan digs deeper into the social phenomenon.
Every day, scores of young people from small cities or farming villages make their way to big cities to find work. Inhabiting the space between their old and new worlds, they find kinship and cultural affinity in online groups, forming subcultures that have emerged as alternatives to the mainstream. While this widens their network beyond their usual social circles, it has also spawned a form of online tribalism. How does this affect their worldviews and interactions online and offline? Wu Guo explores the topic.
Han Heyuan asserts that rising property prices in China are not just the “biggest grey rhino” in terms of financial risks as some policymakers have said, but also a catalyst for a slew of development and social issues such as the lack of entrepreneurs, negative attitudes to work, and falling birth rates.
The voting mechanism for elimination variety shows in China nowadays demands fans to put their money where their mouth is — pushing their favourites up the ranks with “support” that can be bought in cash. Clever marketing tactics by sponsors or a slippery slope bordering on exploitation?
In the name of “Never forgetting the founding mission” (不忘初心), CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping engineered a massive regression to communist orthodoxy, resurrecting ideological indoctrination, tightening control of the media and cracking down on freedom of speech. EAI researcher Lance Gore says this sharp swing to the left has surprised and agitated many in the West and led them to confront and contain what seems to be a renewed communist threat. However, he feels that the rationale for Xi’s left turn is misaligned with socioeconomic changes on the ground and the doctrine is thus difficult to sustain. It is in fact more of a generational phenomenon that will come to naught once Xi and his cohort depart from the scene.
What would an idealistic young Chinese person say to those who prefer to live their life in the virtual world, or who are willing to give up their voices in exchange for little comforts? Or who choose to turn a blind eye to the plight of others, as long as one is well looked after? Is it possible to convince others to be idealistic? Or does one have to look for inspiration and support from the ancients? Young comic artist Bai Yi from China shares her thoughts.