The Traditional Roots of Parental Pressure and Academic Success in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan

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Song Dynasty Imperial Examination, 11th century illustration (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Chinese state media once called China a “world superpower in stress“. According to a 2012 survey, 75% of Chinese workers are stressed, compared with 47% in the United States, 42% in the United Kingdom, and 58% in Germany. Over 70% percent of Chinese white-collar workers suffer from overwork, which poses a serious risk to their health. China Daily cites rising home prices, long working hours, overtime work and living costs as the main sources of stress.

A survey showed that almost 70% of Chinese women believe that a man must have a house and earn more than 4,000 yuan (USD 634) a month in order to have a relationship with a woman and eventually ask for marriage. “The concept of marriage in China is becoming more practical nowadays,” China Daily quoted a Shanghai professor as saying. “No matter how self-confident a woman is, she will feel she is losing face if her boyfriend or husband doesn’t have a home.” Continue reading

Face, Filial Piety and Work Motivation in Chinese Culture

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Civil service examination during the Song Dynasty (via Wikimedia Commons)

“Sometimes, kids feel that studying is hard and stressful because parents are over anxious and expect too much,” writes the Student Health Service website of Hong Kong‘s Department of Health. “If parents’ expectations go far beyond their kids’ ability, the kids would be discouraged and lose confidence as they are not able to meet their parents’ expectations … Avoid comparing your kids with others in their presence. Negative remarks, such as ‘You’re really good at nothing! Such poor marks! Look at your cousin. He’s always the top of the class every year.’ will only hurt them.”

The fact that a government department gives such advice to parents means that parental pressure on children is not only based on anecdotal evidence, but that it is a fact which affects the lives of a large number of Hong Kong children. In 2016 alone, 35 Hong Kong students committed suicide due to academic pressure.

Chinese parents’ insistence on academic performance is notorious. Studies have shown that Chinese students and adults have a high level of work motivation, which is often explained as a result of a “socially oriented”  drive to achieve success “not for personal glory, but for the good of one’s family, group, team, or nation” (Handbook of Chinese Organizational Behavior: Integrating Theory, Research and Practice, ed. by Xu Huang, Michael Harris Bond, 2012, p. 503).

In this article we shall analyse the particular connection between “face” (mianzi), filial piety and work motivation. We shall argue that the ancient Confucian tradition of subordinating children’s interests and desires to the needs and wishes of parents, and of sacrificing oneself to achieve “glory” for the sake of one’s parents, are a fundamental element of career drive in Chinese culture. Continue reading

The Communist Party Will Uphold ‘One Country, Two Systems’, Oppose Hong Kong Independence, Says Zhang Dejiang

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Zhang Dejiang (photo by Lelde Rafelde, Saeimas Kanceleja, CC BY-SA 1.0 via Wikimedia Commons

On May 17, Zhang Dejiang  paid a high-profile visit to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). Zhang is a senior member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party’s Politburo, ranking third after Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang. He currently serves as chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC), as vice-chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), of the Central Committee and of the National Security Commission, and as head of the Communist Party’s Central Coordination Group for Hong Kong and Macau Affairs.

In Hong Kong Zhang attended a forum on the ‘One Belt, One Road‘ initiative. On May 19 he held a speech in which he outlined Beijing’s policy towards the city. He reassured the people of the territory that the Communist government will uphold ‘one country, two systems’ and that the city’s economy and way of life will remain unchanged. However, he also issued a clear warning to political groups opposing the Communist Party and calling for Hong Kong’s independence.

Continue reading

Girlfriend of Hong Kong Democracy Activist Joshua Wong Detained In Mainland China

On February 18 Tiffany Chin (錢詩文), a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist, was denied entry into mainland China and detained at Kunming Airport. The 19-year-old Tiffany Chin is the girlfriend of Joshua Wong, the founder of ‘Scholarism‘, a pro-democracy student association that was at the forefront of last year’s Occupy Central movement. Joshua Wong soon became one of the most famous leaders of the demonstrations.

According to the mainland Chinese newspaper Guanchazhe (观察者网), Tiffany Chin, a member of Scholarism, which was one of the organisers of the “illegal” Occupy Central protests, was denied entry into mainland China upon arrival with her family in the city of Kunming, where they had travelled to visit relatives on Chinese New Year. She was stopped by the police who asked her whether she “had done bad things in Hong Kong”. She was not permitted to leave the airport. She had to spend the night at a hotel inside the airport and flew back to Hong Kong the following day.

On February 7 Tiffany Chin had participated in a session of a special committee of the Legislative Council (LegCo) that dealt with matters concerning the electoral system. Chin had boldly criticised Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, going so far as to personally insult him.

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok stated that the Hong Kong authorities had not aided their mainland counterparts in compiling a blacklist of people who had taken part in ‘Occupy Central’.