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Rachel Lu

Beijing and Shanghai Natives Unite to Defend Their Children’s Privilege

A student from Henan protested outside Peking University on stilts--symbols of the "leg up" he didn't get

Beijingers and Shanghai’ers usually have zero love for each other, but lately some natives of China’s two top metropolises have presented a united front — against migrants from other parts of China. Beijingers usually refer to them as “provincials” (外地人), while Shanghai’ers prefer “country folk” (乡下人).

Migrants from other provinces in China, who may have worked in these cities for decades without the elusive resident registration, or hukou, are petitioning local governments to allow their children to take the college entrance exam in Beijing and Shanghai, because the test score cutoff for test-takers from Beijing and Shanghai is usually lower at China’s elite universities.

Many provincial capitals, including Guangzhou, are drawing up plans to allow children of migrant workers to take the exams, but Beijing and Shanghai, the two cities with the best educational resources and some of the lowest test-score cutoffs in China, have held out.

Natives are incensed by what they perceive as an encroachment upon their children’s birthright. A minor scuffle broke out when two groups of parents confronted each other in a mini-protest outside Beijing’s Education Commission on October 18. The debate continues to gather steam on China’s microblogs as both sides marshal arguments to defend their corner.

Xu Yilong (@徐一龙), the vice editor in chief of China Weekly, tweeted, “You have no objections when outsiders work as nannies in Shanghai. You have no objections when they build skyscrapers in Shanghai. You have no objections when they clean the trash off the streets in Shanghai. Of course you have no objections when they become Shanghai’s mayor and party boss either. These outsiders have children too. They also love their children and cannot leave them. Now, their children want to take the college entrance exam in the city where their parents work, you are raising objections! Weren’t your parents and grandparents outsiders in Shanghai in the past? {{1}}[[1]]外地人去上海当保姆,你们不抵制;外地人去上海盖大楼,你们不抵制;外地人去上海扫垃圾,你们不抵制;外地人去上海当领导,你们更不抵制。这些外地人也是会生孩子的,也是会爱孩子的,也是离不开孩子的。现在,他们的孩子希望在父母工作的城市高考,你们抵制了。你们的父母爷爷,没当过上海的外地人吗[[1]]

Is it Beijing University or University of Beijingers?

While Mr. Xu’s sentiment is echoed by many who favor free movement of labor and equal rights, some natives of Beijing and Shanghai still voice strong xenophobia against their own countrymen. @北京高爷, a lawyer in Beijing, responds in kind, “You have nothing to say when natives go to overcrowded hospitals. You have nothing to say when native children face higher school fees. You have nothing to say when natives are restricted from buying cars [due to overcrowding]. You have nothing to say when cultural monuments in Beijing and Shanghai are destroyed. You have nothing to say when Beijing and Shanghai have too many people and too little resources. You have nothing to say when outsiders treat the one-child policy as a farce! You liberals, can you get your wives out of the nightclubs first before shaming yourself?” {{2}}[[2]]京沪土著看不上病,你们不说话。京沪孩子上学交赞助费,你们不说话。京沪土著自己家买不了车,你们不说话。京沪文化建筑被毁,你们不说话,京沪人满为患生存资源紧张,你们不说话。除京沪土著外其他地区的人把计划生育国策当放屁,你们还是不说话!各位公知,能先把你们媳妇从歌厅接回家再出来丢人吗?[[2]]

Li Long (@制片人李龙), a film producer in Beijing, also channeled Le Pen: “I’ve heard much of the arguments from protesting outsiders these days, and they are truly [expletive]. Are you [expletives] here to help develop Beijing? You take our jobs, pollute our environment, and commit crimes, and now you are taking the educational resources of our children? If you have any heart at all, don’t forget your ancestors and go back to where you came from. Your hometowns need you more.” {{3}}[[3]]这几天听说了好多异闹的言论,真的很蛋疼。你们这帮WDB是来建设北京的吗?抢夺着我们的就业岗位,污染着我们的城市卫生,扰乱着我们的治安环境,现在还来张嘴要用你们的下一代挤兑我们下一代的教育资源,你们要是有点心,就别忘了认祖归宗,哪儿来的回哪儿去,你们的家乡更需要你们的建设[[3]]

What underlines the bitter argument is the concentration of educational resources in Beijing and Shanghai and unequal treatment based on one’s hukou. @吳小帥叔叔 relates his personal experience: “When I took the exam a few years ago, I saw that students from Beijing can go to a good school with my score but I had to settle for a bad one. It’s not a huge deal for me, but I worry about students from poor regions — they put in the same amount of work, but will have different futures.” {{4}}[[4]]我那时候高考。也就几年前。看着北京学生就我这个分数都能读名校了我还是读烂校。我倒是没什么。但还是替更贫困地区的学子担忧。一样的奋斗。不一样的未来。[[4]]

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Rachel Lu

Rachel Lu is a co-founder of Tea Leaf Nation. Rachel traces her ancestry to Southern China. She spent much of her childhood memorizing Chinese poetry. After long stints in New York, New Haven and Cambridge, she has returned to China to bear witness to its great transformation. She is currently based in China.
  • Prima Facie

    Actually quite shocked that these type of sentiments existed in China, don’t these people realize that they are of one race? I wonder is there class system within the societal structure of BeiJing?

  • Prima Facie

    Actually quite shocked that these type of sentiments existed in China, don’t these people realize that they are of one race? I wonder is there class system within the societal structure of BeiJing?