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"Files Vanished, Young Chinese Lose the Future."
July 27, 2009 4:12 PM   Subscribe

Imagine you're living in China, trying to work your way out of the family date farming business (which garners approximately $450 annually). You do all the right things. You apply for (and receive) Communist Party membership. You study literally to the point of collapse, and despite coming from coal-town origins, you score high on your gao kao ("high test," more-or-less the only thing that matters in getting into a Chinese university). Your already-poor family goes deep into debt to send you to college, and you even manage to come out with a degree. Classic rise-up-by-your-own-bootstraps tale, right? However, finally, when you go to apply for a job—your state-sanctioned educational, occupational, and political records are inexplicably, awfully gone. What has happened to that plain manila folder (!) that serves as your only legitimate, official history in Chinese society? Probably stolen and sold so a party official's child can get everything you worked so hard for. And then, of course, your family is detained by party officials when your parents demand to know where the hell your life went. Of course.

Then again, local corruption by local officials in China isn't terribly surprising. It's had some time to evolve. This just isn't what you normally think about when you think "government corruption."
posted by Keter (47 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
There's nothing equivalent to an SSN ID in China?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:18 PM on July 27, 2009


Zenmasterthis - I think your answer might be above.
posted by tawny at 4:25 PM on July 27, 2009


Epoch Times, a purported spokespaper for Falun Gong?
posted by njohnson23 at 4:26 PM on July 27, 2009


I will always remember my Operation Research third year engineering paper, you *know* when your math is right and thus have an idea of the score you can expect. What I finally recieved was barely one third of that score... too many such things happen too often, and not just in China.
posted by infini at 4:26 PM on July 27, 2009


God, that's awful. More on the public records in China on Wikipedia.
posted by mdonley at 4:27 PM on July 27, 2009


this is not a fun thing to imagine. i'd rather be in my happy place playing bridge.
posted by the aloha at 4:28 PM on July 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


I hate it when that happens.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 4:29 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


as far the reality of the situation, i concur with popular sentiment that the system is extremely unfair within the peoples' republic.
posted by the aloha at 4:31 PM on July 27, 2009


There's nothing equivalent to an SSN ID in China?

First of all, there is no such thing as an "SSN ID" In the U.S. either. Social Security numbers are not identifiers, (and you can change your SSN under certain circumstances anyway)

Second of all, what good would having a number do in this circumstance? If the people in the government are screwing you, how would you expect the government to be any help?
posted by delmoi at 4:31 PM on July 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ah this is what happens when you put way too much emphasis on quantitative testing as a qualification. In America we've learned to include expensive summer educational camps as a qualification for admittance. And when that doesn't work, well there's the essay. We have tons of ways to get the right people into the right programs.
posted by geoff. at 4:38 PM on July 27, 2009


I wonder if it's easier to revise actual records so they are under the name of a party official's child, or create wholly fake transcripts and school records? I ask because I've heard that you can buy university credentials in Russia, with your educational records forged at the school to back up your fake credentials. At least that's what our translator told us while we were in Moscow.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:42 PM on July 27, 2009


As soon as I finished reading this, two thoughts came up:

1. Corrupt bastards!
2. Doesn't he have school notes, papers, books and any other objects or files that prove he was in college? Friends to vouch for him?
posted by nataaniinez at 4:48 PM on July 27, 2009


2. Doesn't he have school notes, papers, books and any other objects or files that prove he was in college? Friends to vouch for him?


That would imply that someone in the government had done something wrong. I don't expect that's an argument you're going to win. More likely, you and your lying friends will be punished for your insolence.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:03 PM on July 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Arrgh.

I'd like to read a version of this story that ends much the same way the "trailer" for "Machete" did...only, you know, with Chinese people.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:06 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think that the problem here may be two-fold: that not only do you have this irreplaceable, physical document (literally, the "permanent record" that American high school disciplinarians loved to brandish at their more incorrigible troublemakers), but that you've got so many people in China that the possibility that someone else will have your name is much better, especially given that most Chinese only have two names, and "as few as twenty [surnames] cover a majority of Chinese people." So, you might be looking at finding the one out of [pulling a number out of my fundament] hundreds of thousands of people who might be using your file. What a nightmare.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:12 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Imagine you're living in China,

Man, this is the worst Choose-your-own-Adventure story ever!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:27 PM on July 27, 2009 [17 favorites]


nice to see my local municipal governments have some competition for the title of "most corrupt."
posted by klanawa at 5:30 PM on July 27, 2009


Man, this is the worst Choose-your-own-Adventure story ever!

Imagine you're living in North Korea.

Do not turn the page. There is no other page. There has never been another page. Page 2 is morally vulgar fiction from the US Imperialists. All celebrate the glorious reign of Page 1. Juche!
posted by zippy at 5:35 PM on July 27, 2009 [35 favorites]


Ah this is what happens when you put way too much emphasis on quantitative testing as a qualification

No, it's what happens when someone's academic identity can be stolen by lifting a single manila folder.

Over-reliance on quantitative testing has other problems. For example, a Chinese friend told me that the GRE tests (taken by students wanting to study abroad) had been defeated by having people memorize questions and contribute them to a database that eventually contained all of the questions used in multiple variants.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:04 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


it's a real comfort to know that in the U.S. the children of the rich and powerful are never given a leg-up over the poor and deserving e.g. who didn't get into Yale so that there was a place saved for G. W. Bush...and his family didn't even have to buy a transcript for him.
posted by geos at 6:18 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


In capitalist United States we still hire people based on how well they "fit in", so stop worrying so much about those grades and start collecting "tobacco" pipes. You'll be a shoe-in with a human-skull-bowl.
posted by jsavimbi at 6:33 PM on July 27, 2009




it's a real comfort to know that in the U.S. the children of the rich and powerful are never given a leg-up over the poor and deserving e.g. who didn't get into Yale so that there was a place saved for G. W. Bush...and his family didn't even have to buy a transcript for him.


Yeah, but at least in the US they don't make you earn his degree for him.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:35 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well yeah, they PAY someone to earn his degree for him. That's capitalism, baby!
posted by jamstigator at 6:40 PM on July 27, 2009


y helo thar, nitemare fuel...

Seriously I think this is my worst nightmare that I never realized I had...until now.

Yes, also...as horrible as it is that the underqualified and over-moneyed get spots in schools that could have gone to someone more deserving, at least they don't tend to take that spot while simultaneously erasing the other person's entire identity.

Unless they're a real dick. Or REALLY rich.
posted by ilana at 6:47 PM on July 27, 2009


2. Doesn't he have school notes, papers, books and any other objects or files that prove he was in college? Friends to vouch for him?

Prove it to who? The government officials in charge of record keeping are obviously in on this. The Chinese courts are not exactly in the business of helping the individual buck government corruption.
posted by fshgrl at 7:10 PM on July 27, 2009


a relative of mine sponsored an immigrant woman to be employed as his housekeeper and nanny. her name was emily and she had been a physician in poland before coming to the u.s. she worked for eight years and also took college courses in the evenings to improve her communication skills and whatever was required to earn her eligibility to practice medicine again. newly licensed as an american citizen and doctor, she resigned her position, packed her things, stepped out of the house and was run over and killed by a chicago city bus.
posted by kitchenrat at 7:18 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Makes you wonder why ordinary Chinese don't ask for their own transcripts. Or isnt' this option available? Just something like a piece of paper with some kind of embossment on it to prove it's genuine. Seems such a simple solution. We don't have corruption issues like that here but when I left University I still ordered several copies of my transcript just in case of bureaucratic snafu, hard disk crashes hurricane, earthquakes, nuclear attack.....
posted by storybored at 7:51 PM on July 27, 2009


If the government's gone that far, bet you dollars to donuts they would just consult the "official" records and claim it's a forgery.
posted by crapmatic at 8:09 PM on July 27, 2009


Makes you wonder why ordinary Chinese don't ask for their own transcripts. Or isnt' this option available?

I think the problem is that you can't prove you're the person on the transcript, in the face of non-matching official records.
posted by grobstein at 8:10 PM on July 27, 2009


Well yeah, they PAY someone to earn his degree for him. That's capitalism, baby!

Yeah, but only $20k a year.
posted by delmoi at 8:37 PM on July 27, 2009


Working hard is for suckers.
posted by BaxterG4 at 8:50 PM on July 27, 2009


This story makes me angry... and then I give up. I have zero sympathy left for these pathetic whiners.
his father, Xue Ruzhan, said he owed more than $10,000 — more than twice what his property is worth.

“What is the point of continuing to live?” the father said. “Sometimes I want to commit suicide. These corrupt officials destroyed all our hopes.”
Aw, poor widdle baby. Here, unca hincandenza has a solution for you: Kill yourself- but first, take out as many fucking corrupt government officials as you can. Hell, kill as many people in power as you can, innocent or not. Make the powerful absolutely fear the weak, make them quake at even thinking of stealing a man's life, knowing that that man will cut you and your children down in the night. Why is the daughter who benefited from her father's corruption still alive?!? Don't give me the "she's innocent" crap: she almost certainly isn't, and even if she was then hey, what's a little more hurting of innocence? That line was crossed already when the student's life was stolen from them and their parents left in crushing debt, so hey- in for a penny...

And I will now predict the posting of Metafilter: "That's crazy" or "You're disturbed" or "You can't do that" or "that doesn't solve anything". Which is bullshit: when a corrupt man knows you have a stronger moral code than him, that you'll keep yourself in check as if you were still playing a game that actually had rules and boundaries... he has the power of knowing you won't fight back.

Because these problems run deep, and when you have a billion and a half weak, pathetic, soulless losers who won't lift a fucking finger to make a difference, who gladly empower these opportunistic monsters- and who would gladly be those opportunistic monsters, because the Chinese people apparently think this is all hunky-dory, the spineless cowards- then fuck you and your shit life. You've got to fucking fight back, you stupid shitbags. And not in that stupid Cultural Revolution idiocy that fucking morons embrace the world over, attacking intellectuals and peaceful people because they're too fucking frightened to challenge the actually powerful, and the actually corrupt...

When you play in the "system", and corruption within it takes away your life for no reason, then you shouldn't be bound by the "system" any more.
posted by hincandenza at 12:13 AM on July 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


It could be worse. He could have been that little girl singing at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Loosing some manila envelope is nothing compared to having your identity stolen and replaced by a cuter more "TV" friendly girl. Hooray for communism :)
posted by Plug1 at 12:34 AM on July 28, 2009


I'm sure the girls all tell you this, hincandenza, but you're kinda intense.

That said, I too was waiting for the OP to turn into a bloody rampage of revenge. Or perhaps something starring Jack Black.
posted by Hollow at 12:44 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


You've got to fucking fight back, you stupid shitbags.

They try this in China periodically and it never goes well for them. As we saw recently in Iran, if you're going to revolt in a country with strict gun control laws, you either turn the security services, get slaughtered en masse or meekly return home. The only thing that those victimized by corrupt officials can do to rectify this situation is what they're doing: publicize it, let it serve as a challenge to the legitimacy (or at least the PR) of a government that, whether on communist or Confucianist lines, still claims to serve the people. The likelihood that this will do anything is slim, but it's still better than being shot as a knife-wielding crazy driven to despair.

Not that I'd be opposed to the implementation of your plan here in the United States. Any representative government unwilling to adopt punishments for official corruption akin to those of the Roman Republic is practically calling the pigs to the trough.
posted by Makoto at 1:56 AM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


And I will now predict the posting of Metafilter: "That's crazy" or "You're disturbed"

Making a crazy, disturbed suggestion and then predicting that people will call it such, so that you can sit back smugly and say, "see, I told you people would say that," doesn't mean that you have some great insight into other mefites. It just strongly suggests that you're kind of an asshole.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:18 AM on July 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Aw, poor widdle baby. Here, unca hincandenza has a solution for you: Kill yourself- but first, take out as many fucking corrupt government officials as you can. Hell, kill as many people in power as you can, innocent or not. Make the powerful absolutely fear the weak, make them quake at even thinking of stealing a man's life, knowing that that man will cut you and your children down in the night. Why is the daughter who benefited from her father's corruption still alive?!? Don't give me the "she's innocent" crap: she almost certainly isn't, and even if she was then hey, what's a little more hurting of innocence? That line was crossed already when the student's life was stolen from them and their parents left in crushing debt, so hey- in for a penny...

Nice mindset you have there. In Bush years, that would have been as good response on how to treat American tourists. Kill'em for the sins of somewhat associated and their foreign policy, make them fear etc etc.
posted by Free word order! at 2:30 AM on July 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


ActingTheGoat - is armed struggle against the powerful automatically crazy and disturbed? I just want to be clear that you agree that at some point it's reasonable, or we must condemn the Cambodian anti-Pol Pot resistance and such movements. I would posit that it is not unreasonable to resist those committing genocide. If you agree with this then the difference between your position that hincandenza is crazy and disturbed and hincandenza's position is merely a difference of at what point one draws the line of acceptable government action. Hincandenza just implicitly recognises that he views governments or people as tyrannical at an earlier point.

To put this another way, "What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."

If hincandenza is disturbed, so is Jefferson.
posted by jaduncan at 2:32 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


hincandenza, you mean something like the angry people of Shishou? Or Gansu? Or the 30 000 Chinese steelworkers?
posted by kolophon at 4:37 AM on July 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I know the amazing depths that Chinese corruption goes and find the story mostly plausible, but there is one thing that I find puzzling. In China everything, I mean EVERYTHING, comes with a receipt. A little slip of carbon paper with a little red stamp (or two or five) in the corner. If you really went through an entire life of schooling, testing, college, etc. your life would be chock full of little receipts. A receipt for paying your tuition, a receipt for receiving your grades, a receipt for paying the testing fee, etc. Additionally, the Chinese love certificates. The more official looking the certificate, the better. Surely a good little, Young Pioneer who presumably studied his or her ass off for 20 years would have stacks of the things. Certificate for 1st Class in Piano. Certificate for 2nd Class in English Language. Certificate for Participation in the 8th Chinese Youth Convention and International Physics Competition... Where is all that stuff?
posted by Pollomacho at 5:51 AM on July 28, 2009


"All political power comes from the barrel of a gun."
posted by Pastabagel at 6:11 AM on July 28, 2009


> Where is all that stuff?

It doesn't matter because the bureaucrat in charge of getting you a job wasn't trained in creativity, flexibility and problem solving, he just wants that one document that you don't have.
posted by msittig at 7:24 AM on July 28, 2009


It doesn't matter because the bureaucrat in charge of getting you a job

You don't need a dangan to work for a multinational.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:52 AM on July 28, 2009


kolophon: hincandenza, you mean something like the angry people of Shishou? Or Gansu? Or the 30 000 Chinese steelworkers?
Actually... yes! Thanks for that. I guess my extreme (intense!) frustration is from reading another news article where something seems terribly unjust and right out of "Brazil", and yet I can't do anything about it.

I'm kind of tired of feeling impotent about injustices in the world, feeling powerless that we live a godless, cruel, and chaotic world where it seems evil- or at least banal selfishness writ large- is pretty well ahead of the game, where good and decent people are trampled underfoot and rarely take a stand to muscle out some space for their own dignity and rights. So yes actually, I'm heartened to hear that the people of China don't always just take this lying down in some culturally embedded notion of not disobeying authority.

Now if we could only do something about their American peers... ;)
posted by hincandenza at 9:13 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


actually i meant to link to the second video, starting at about 1:50
posted by kolophon at 11:35 AM on July 28, 2009


It doesn't matter because the bureaucrat in charge of getting you a job wasn't trained in creativity, flexibility and problem solving, he just wants that one document that you don't have.
posted by msittig at 10:24 AM on July 28 [+] [!]
Yep, the right paperwork in the right place. After spending two weeks of doing little more than paperwork for my daughter's adoption, I got stranded at the airport departure gate when one stamp on my visa had the wrong date--it was the third date stamp but for some reason, indicated I was supposed to have left the day before. Didn't matter that all my other paperwork was marked correctly. I was the last in line of my group and damned near got stuck there by myself (and my kid) because I had just turned my Chinese money back to American and couldn't pay the fine. Luckily someone else realized I was missing and came back and paid it and I was free to go after about 45 minutes of panic.
posted by etaoin at 11:47 AM on July 28, 2009


Now if we could only do something about their American peers...

1 High-powered rifle... $700
1 Very good scope... $700
100 Rounds of .308 Winchester FMJ... $75

Preserving American Democracy... Priceless.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:34 PM on July 28, 2009


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