Chinese Internet Users Hold Grudge Against Foreign Students

  • A Wanda employee got fired for joking about foreign students and Chinese females.
  • Foreign students in China get treated much better than Chinese students.
  • Internet users in China have become hostile against foreign students.

This past Thursday, Wanda Group, a Chinese multinational conglomerate, hosted an on-campus job fair in Shandong University (SU). During the opening speech, a recruiter said: “Today I’m so honored to be in this amazing city, Jinan. I see that girls in SU are all very beautiful. I have to admit, the foreign students in this university are so lucky.”

This inappropriate joke clearly angered the students and some started to protest. Soon, employees from the university job center came and interrupted the event after being notified by students through the Wechat app. The recruiter apologized later that night on Weibo for hurting students’ feelings. One day later, Wanda Group posted an official statement apologizing for the inappropriate speech and saying that the employee involved had been fired immediately. It has trended in Zhihu all day, with more than 4,000 answers under a question asking for people’s opinion on this issue.

This joke is obviously related to some recent news in SU. This July, a post on Sina Weibo stirred up a huge discussion. The post claimed SU had been carrying out a special “Study Buddies” program which aimed to encourage international communication between the Chinese and the foreign students in SU. For that, SU paired each foreign student with 3 Chinese students, the majority being female. Not surprisingly (for me), lots of comments deemed SU a pimp for doing so. Such hatred came with its own story.

In China, public universities are very keen to attract more foreign students, since one criteria to be ranked as a top university is the percentage of foreign students. As a result, Chinese universities become very generous to them. Take Peking University and Tsinghua University as examples, two single of the best universities in China. In Shandong Province, only around 4 in every 10,000 students can get in these two every year, after taking the notorious national exam Gaokao.

However, it’s another story for foreign students. They only need to apply for it and the requirements are much lower, e.g., holding a high school degree, which clearly lowers the quality of students enrolled. Due to the vast differences, some families choose to change their nationality so that their kids can get into these Chinese top universities that otherwise they might only dream about.

Wanda Group posted an official statement apologizing for the inappropriate speech and saying that the employee involved had been fired immediately.

What seems even more unfair to Chinese students is that basically every foreign student receives a scholarship from the Chinese government, which usually surpasses $1,000 per month. This is a lot money considering that normal Chinese PhD students only get around $200 of subsidies and they need to work really hard to get scholarships. On top of all this, the best dormitories in each university usually belong to foreign students. Even though they pay the same dormitory fee, many Chinese students share a 4-to-8-person room with bunk beds, but it is not rare that foreign students get their own apartment with air conditioning, a fridge, and a TV.

Shortly after the post on the “Study Buddies,” others posted that SU once selected 25 Chinese students to take care of a foreign student who was hospitalized after a traffic accident. Other posts also revealed that some female students had been sexually harassed by foreign students, but they always get away with it because universities consider everything related to foreign students an international issue. Gradually, Chinese internet users have developed strong feelings against foreign students in China, considering them “trashes” in their own countries who have come to China to boss people around.

So far, SU has not addressed this matter. It is not hard to believe, however, that changes have to be made. Sooner or later, public universities in China have to face this issue and give Chinese students an answer.

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