University life in China

I’m a good student. I attend all my classes, get good grades and don’t go out too often. Yet in China I felt that that wasn’t enough. Whilst living with my Chinese homestay family and meeting Chinese friends, the message I got was that in seeing friends, apart from maybe at sporting activities, you were a bad student. Feeling stuck between two cultures, the experience was frustrating at times. I wanted to fit into two distinct university lives – and this was harder than it seemed.

This guided tour brings together some critical but also original articles on university life in China. Feel free to comment and tell us how your uni experience compared.

中美教育逻辑对比– Comparing the underlying models of education in China and the US

by Bai Weilin, 9th June 2013

This is a well-argued piece which confronts why Chinese people want to study in America so badly. American education allows for personal development and growth, where Chinese schooling does not. But Bai Weilin isn’t just some Uncle Sam sycophant. The balance in this article is what really gives it weight. Does anyone agree that American education is about ‘finding talent’?

大学里的反智主义 – Anti-intellectualism at university

by Muran, 14th September 2015

How can universities resist the powerful tide of anti-intellectualism? Muran offers a structural explanation of the sources for this phenomenon – exploring academic power plays since the beginning of the communist eras –  as a way to articulate potential forms of resistance.

当代大学生如何可能 – How did our contemporary students come about? 

by Li Tengteng, 16th October 2013

More and more young people receiving university education is no doubt a sign of great social development. Yet, as Li Tengteng discusses, because of this, you can go to university and not be an intellectual. In China, more so than in England perhaps, some simple logic applies to university study. That is, go to a good uni, by any means necessary, and you will be successful in life. Where does this leave students? Li Tengteng talks about how so many young people study at university who aren’t necessarily suited to university. This ultimately distorts what education is about.

大学生为何后悔上大学 – Why do Chinese students regret entering University?

 by Xin Lijian, 29th June 2012

Rather worryingly, I am often told that your time at university is the best time of your life. So what, it’s all downhill from here? That’s unfortunate, especially if you’re Chinese. A large proportion of students in China regret entering university and feel that they learn very little. After entering uni, they believe that it’s all smooth sailing and success from then on. Unfortunately, it’s not like this and this is hard to take after a high-pressure high school life.


我为什么读博士 – Why am I writing a PhD?

by Jiang Zhidao, 13th February 2013

I like this piece because our academic environment is largely, as Jiang Zhidao says, ‘diluted’. People go to university for the sake of it. Yet, despite this, there are those who still truly believe in what they’re studying; and that’s a relief! Jiang Zhidao has chosen to do a PhD and here he outlines his reasons why. Chinese students aren’t all disheartened and dejected by university life, there’s passion there too.

我对高考的一点看法 – My views on the university entrance exam

by Li Yehang, 7th June 2008

One of the major pressures a Chinese teenager faces is that of the Gaokao, the university entrance exam which determines what universities he or she may go to. Through many horror stories, the exam has become infamous. For example, I’ve heard of kids going on UV drips in order to study longer during revision time. In this article, Li Yehang draws upon the really interesting Marxist idea of alienation. Unfortunately, some of the key parts haven’t been fully translated; are there any Marxist specialists out there who want to give it a shot?

This post is adapted from an original by Francis Beechinor posted on the Marco Polo Blog as part of our Reading Thread series in 2014.