Chinese Corner: The education gap, the spectacular rise and fall of Ofo, and a sexual harassment victim speaks out

Live-streaming alone won’t fix China’s education gap

This screen might change fates
By Chéng Méngchāo 程盟超
December 13, 2018

The education system in China has been failing disadvantaged students for a long time. Every year, scores of gifted high schoolers in rural areas have their college prospects hampered by life circumstances, such as a lack of high-quality educational resources and financial difficulties. Recently, the problem was exacerbated by a growing wave of urban, well-educated, and affluent parent committed to fostering academic excellence in their children at all costs.

But a viable solution seems to be on the horizon, as suggested by a feature article that made the rounds on the Chinese internet last week. Published by China Youth Daily, the piece features students at a remote high school in Yunnan Province who have been taking real-time classes from Chengdu No. 7 High School, a famous school known for its high college acceptance rate, via live-streaming. According to the newspaper, since its launch in 2002, the program has helped 72,000 students from 248 rural schools by giving them access to classes taught in prestigious schools. Some of them even made it to top schools such as Peking University and Tsinghua University.

In contrast with other attempts by the central government to close the education gap, such as policies that require universities to enroll more disadvantaged students by lowering admission standards, live-streaming was hailed as an effective way to reduce regional unevenness when it comes to educational resources and actually helping students achieve long-term academic success.

But the limitation of its power is also obvious, as China’s education gap is the result of several economic and cultural factors. As some experts pointed out, low-income students in China often have parents who are away, working in big cities. The lack of parental guidance and support can have a detrimental impact on academic performance even if a student goes to a good school. In addition, introducing live-streaming technology into classrooms raises questions about privacy, as students on both sides are being closely watched. Teachers at rural schools can be negatively affected, too, as live streams can significantly reduce their roles from instructors to graders.

It’s rare to see a news story about the education gap attracting as much attention as this one received. And the conversation is still ongoing. A good number of personal essays and thoughtful commentaries have been published. Even though it’s unlikely that China will completely eliminate education inequality in the near future, this week we’ve seen encouraging signs.

Related reading:

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The spectacular rise and fall of Ofo

People inside the Ofo drama: We refuse to make final curtain call
By Zhāng Jūn 张珺
December 5, 2018

Ofo, once the world’s biggest bike-sharing company, appears to be one step away from total collapse. The struggling brand is facing a host of problems, from a substantial staff loss to mounting doubts about its business model, but nothing is more troubling than the simple fact that they’ve literally run out of money while 11.7 million customers are still waiting to get their deposit back.

It’s safe to assume that Ofo is living its final days. But looking back on its history, Ofo’s story is a good one. In less than four years, it transformed from a campus-based project to a billion-dollar startup to a failed case emblematic of China’s wild venture capital scene. The story also includes Mobike, a strong rival in addition to being a collaborator that helped it build up the entire bike-sharing industry. Dài Wēi 戴威, Ofo’s founder who is currently on a government blacklist for unpaid bills, added another gripping part to the story by sending an emotional letter to his employees this week. He wrote,“I hope every person working for Ofo can share this same belief: We can’t escape. We need to hang in there bravely and be responsible for every penny we owe to our customers.”

In the past few weeks, many journalists and bloggers have tried to tell this fascinating tale from various angles. The results are this collection of stories:

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Untold truth about stan culture

A memoir of a third-grade fan site owner: How my fandom came to an end
By Lǐ Mǎn 李满
December 6, 2018

“Stan,” the word, was coined by Eminem in his 2000 single by the same name, about an over-obsessed fan named Stan who engages in a series of extreme actions to show his unhealthy dedication to the rapper. Afterwards, “stan,” a portmanteau of the words “stalker” and “fan,” evolved into a term to describe “an overzealous maniacal fan for any celebrity or athlete,” as Urban Dictionary notes.

While the word originated in the U.S., this type of hardcore fandom has a long history in Chinese pop culture, where “stanning” an artist often entails engagement in a number of obsessive and — at times — disturbing activities on the internet, including interacting with other devoted fans in online communities, defending idols unconditionally, liking all of their social media posts, and cyberbullying other artists feuding with their idols.

For outsiders, stan culture is intimidating. But for those who are part of it, the pain and pleasure that comes with frenetic celebrity worship is addictive — until it becomes overwhelming. In this personal essay written by a former stan who was deeply involved in the culture and eventually became exhausted by her passion, the author reflects on her complicated two-year relationship with a few celebrities, and gives plenty of insightful observations about standom.

“I met this male pop star in person more than 20 times but I never talked to him. I didn’t even try to because I learned my lessons last time. If we never communicate, he will always fit that image of that flawless person I’ve constructed for my worship, and our relationship will last longer.

“I want to completely immerse myself in fan love like others do. I imagine how much happiness I can gain from that collective act. But the thing is, I let my rationale take over my obsession, a decision that makes me question myself: Is it worthwhile to go through the immense pain that comes with intense fandom just to boost my favorite artist’s popularity on Weibo?”

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‘It’s weird that people are placing high expectations on a sexual harassment victim like me’

Xianzi: It’s weird that people are placing high expectations on a sexual harassment victim like me
By Chén Yíhán 陈怡含
December 18, 2018

It’s been almost six months since Xiánzǐ 弦子, a former intern at the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) network, came forward with sexual harassment allegations against Zhū Jūn 朱军, one of the highest-profile TV hosts in the country. In August, the accused perpetrator filed a defamation case against Xianzi’s friend Màishāo 卖烧, who shared her story in a viral post on Weibo. After Xianzi agreed to give testimony about the incident in defense of Maishao and became vocal about her experience on social media, Zhu listed her as a defendant along with her friend. In December, the Financial Times reported that Xianzi is the first accuser to file a civil lawsuit claiming infringement of personal rights.

With two lawsuits to combat, Xianzi only became more passionate in her advocacy for China’s #MeToo movement. She started to help other sexual assault victims seek legal assistance and spent a lot of time contemplating how to do more for them. “I don’t want people to think I’m doing things for the labels people put on me. I’m not doing things out of my conviction in some ideological movement. I’m doing these things because I’m a woman who deserves freedom,” Xinazi said in another article.

chinese corner logo 1Below are some other articles that caught my eyes: