In the classic Chinese novel Fortress Besieged, feckless everyman Fang Hongjian, takes money from his in-laws to study overseas but squanders it flitting around Europe.
So as not to disappoint his family, who place huge importance on his education, he buys a fake diploma from a non-existent university in New York called the Carleton Institute of Law and Commerce.
The acerbic comedy set in 1930s Shanghai was a massive hit in China. It’s so well-known that ‘Carleton’ remains a byword for sub-standard foreign institutes or diplomas issued for money.
Last week a modern-day Fang Hongjian emerged, sparking a new debate over China’s obsession with academic accolades – especially foreign ones – as well as the trend of adult children relying on their parents for money.
The 31 year-old from Jiangsu province had convinced his parents he was studying for a PhD at Oxford University, and over the course of six years they had sent him Rmb6 million ($944,000).
In reality, the man – who has not been named – had never even left China and was living the highlife in Beijing, the Beijing Morning Post reported. The story came out when his parents were unable to send him any more cash. His girlfriend – on whom he had spent Rmb2 million – then walked out.
In order to maintain his lifestyle, the man then borrowed a further Rmb400,000 from loan sharks but couldn’t repay the debt.
He then attempted suicide by jumping off a building.
The man says he intended to study at a foreign university and that he spent a lot of his parents’ money on agents who promised to find him a place abroad though personal connections.
His parents, who run a small silk processing factory, told the media they were angry with their son but have forgiven him.
The story caught Chinese netizens’ interest. “Six million, only dated one girlfriend?” wrote Baozi WM on her weibo account. “He sounds like he’s a good guy to me!”
Others saw further evidence of the parasite or ‘kenlaozu’ generation – children who have been spoiled and lack a work ethic. Then again, the Beijing Morning Post also thought that parents needed to shoulder some of the blame.
“Parents are willing to spend tonnes of money for their childrens’ education but they ignore where their children’s interests lie,” argued an op-ed in the paper. “They shouldn’t demand their children become dragons and phoenixes. Children should not have to go to college, get a PhD, go overseas to study, become rich or get promoted to make their parents happy. Parents should allow their children more freedom and simply hope they grow up to be happy people.”
Failing that, a visit to your son’s Oxford college may not be a bad idea…
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