Rachel Lu

A Vocational School For Chinese Hackers — And Tractor Drivers

A picture from the Lanxiang Vocational School’s website

When the New York Times reported yesterday that Chinese hackers had been attacking its computer system for months, one social media user in China asked, “Another glorious feat of Lanxiang Vocational School?”

While Lanxiang was not mentioned in the Times‘ January 30 report, a New York Times article from 2010 named Lanxiang as one of two Chinese schools behind a large-scale cyber attack against Google. The school, based in Shandong province, is an educational institution “with close ties to the Chinese military” and is possibly “being used as camouflage for government operations,” according to the earlier Times article.

This does not quite jibe with Chinese views of Lanxiang, a trade school that advertises tirelessly on local television as the training grounds for future tractor drivers, chefs, auto repairmen and hair dressers. “So badass? Stealing America’s state secrets and hacking into Google? Mom, why didn’t you send me to Lanxiang,” wondered one Internet user in China.

Another Web user designed Lanxiang’s next infomercial script: “Lanxiang, helping to turn YOU from a complete loser to 007. Want to be a hacker? Choose Lanxiang! Register now for surprise special discounts. What are you waiting for!”

The New York Times itself summed up the disdainful Chinese attitude towards vocational schools when it acknowledged in a recent article on China’s university graduates that

China’s vocational secondary schools and training programs are unpopular because they are seen as dead-ends, with virtually no chance of moving on to a four-year university. They also suffer from a stigma: they are seen as schools for people from peasant backgrounds, and are seldom chosen by more affluent and better-educated students from towns and cities.

It is no surprise, then, that New York Times‘ initial conjecture that Lanxiang lies behind awesome hacking feats has convinced no one in China. @新闻看客 tweeted on Sina Weibo, ”Please tell us, New York Times, how much money did Lanxiang give you for this kind of publicity?”

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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.