Cultural Revolution

No revolution, no reform

By Phoebe Chau  |   April 21, 2016

From Cultural Revolution to education reform

The ten-year revolution has interrupted schooling and destroyed human capital accumulation, which led to loss of social trust. What about now?

“Use blood and lives to protect president Mao!”A political slogan written by the Red Guards, and placed at the entrance of the university. (credits: Wikimedia common)

— When the bell rang, numerous groups of children swarmed out of the school with delightful faces. Mothers or parents were gazing at the school gate, trying to look for their children except for her, Chu Xi-ling. She sat calmly on a bench under the tree, and was reading an English textbook. While waiting for her 9-year-old son to come out, Chu made use of the time to learn English. “can I have…a cup… of… coffee…,” Chu was trying her best to practice English word by word, and she was so concentrated that she did not realize her son has already come out from school. Chu was so eager to learn.

“I did not have the opportunity to learn when I was young, so I learn now,” expressed Chu. Chu was born in Shanghai, a crowded and popular city now in the People’s Republic of China. However, she was moved to Guizhou province in Southwest China when she was three. “My entire family moved to Guizhou because of the Cultural Revolution, we have no choice…I mean, I have no choice. I never have a choice,” said Chu. Chu’s parents were divorced after moving to Guizhou, and she was raised by her grandpa.

Now, Chu is married with two sons. The older one is 23 years old, who is studying overseas now for a postgraduate degree; the younger one is only 9 years old, and is studying at an international school. Chu never interfere with her sons’ decisions; she respects whatever they want in their lives. “I would provide my next generation the best education, so they can become what they want to be,” said Chu. Chu is a housewife now with no occupation. “I am just an extremely ordinary housewife. I wished I could have education backed then; I may become professionals, who knows,” Chu laughed for what she said, but there was sorrow in her voice.

Millions of young children were forced to join as the Red Guards.
(Credits: Wikimedia common)

The Cultural Revolution was a sociopolitical upheaval in the history of the People’s Republic of China. With the interrupted ten years of schooling, huge human capital accumulation had been destroyed. People born before, during or after the revolution had lost the opportunity for education. They would either join the political movement as the “Red Guard” or educated by people who are not professors with abnormal curriculum.

During the period from 1966-1976, education was regarded as “evil”, the intellectuals or educated people were either sent to farms and labor camps; or were prosecuted. President Mao even sent the intellectuals to the countryside, and had them re-educated by peasants. Hence, there were a lot of children at that time being left alone, since they were not allowed to accompany their parents to the countryside. The echoes of the Cultural Revolution are invisible wounds which influence social trust among people nowadays.

People who were suspected as the leftists were prosecuted in front of the public.
(Credits: Wikimedia common)

Education was not encouraged by President Mao at that time. Instead, Mao urged students of different ages to form the Red Guards; in order to be revolutionary instead of academically. Teachers were struggled by their radical behaviors; education were attacked and destroyed. Backed in the days, students were the big bosses at school rather than teachers. In fact, teachers were not teaching at all; they just mentioned Russian bombs and shared their own stories due to the fact that they were afraid of being suspected for badmouthing President Mao. It is known that education would generate social capital, and the ten-year send down movement has massively interrupted China’s educational development. And the biggest question is: Has China recovered from the loss of human capital?

“The situation was hopeless backed then; we as the educated people were not valued by the society,” said Li Feng, an intellectual during the Cultural Revolution, and were sent to farms to do labor work in mid 60s. More than 100 universities were closed for reconstruction at that time, and teachers were sent away for re-education. Most importantly, national examinations for admission to universities were discontinued, as well as a lot of vocational-technical schools were shut down.

It could be seen that there were not much opportunities to receive education, and the education policy was unfair to students. Later on, after the death of President Mao and the denounced of “the Gang of Four”, the national examinations were resumed; each student could obtain a fair opportunity to enter university. Education system from the late 70s were reconstructed. In mid 80s, knowledge started to become more important; as Deng Xiao-ping said, “education must face modernization, face the world, and face the future”.


(Sources: World Bank – The Human Development Index, HDI)

According to the China’s Education Index from the World Bank, it could be seen that the trend is increasing at a steady pace from the year of 1966 to the year of 2013. Backed in the year of 1966, the index was only 1.34 out of 10. It is not hard to imagine how rare it was to receive formal education. Compared with China today, with the nine-year compulsory education and better living conditions; it is believed that youths now have higher education levels than 50 years ago.

“I felt sorry for my daughter; she did not receive a good education,” said Hong Fu-Xing, a member of the Communist Party now. There were no qualified teachers for a period of time after the denounced of the “Gang of Four”, since those experienced teachers were neither prosecuted nor sent away; and their next generations might not have received education. In other words, there were no qualified teachers since ten-year of schooling was interrupted. “Cultural Revolution lasted for ten years, and the ten-year time frame had destroyed the education system,” Hong added. China might need more than ten years to recover the education system.

Apart from the closure of schools, the nature of education changed as well. Admission to schools no longer based on the academic performances, but on social class. Children of peasants, soldiers or workers would have priority to be admitted, even with poor academic results. Thus, the standards of education had faced a downturn.

 The cover page of a textbook of the elementary school was the Red Guard.
(Credits: Wikimedia common)

“Without the revolution, I guess China would be much more civilized; and the average education level would be higher,” said Lee Qing, a former professor at a communist university in China. China in fact had lost a huge number of human capital because of the movement. “Education supports the society; when less people receive education, the society will not sustain,” Lee added.

“My daughter could not enter university because of me,” said Hong Fu-Xing, with tears in his eyes. Her daughter was playing games everyday with her friends; it is common at that time for youths to fool around instead of studying. “The reason they (the university) rejected my daughter was extremely ridiculous, I was furious; but I could not do anything,” Hong exclaimed.

The unfair treatment and rough experience caused profound effect on the victims. “I will never forget how sorrow I was when I knew that I was not admitted to university,” said Chu Xi-Ling. People began to lose social trust towards the society and people around them. Not only the victims that were born at that period of time would be affected, but also their next generations. Nowadays, people would not greet or help strangers; this is an obvious example of losing social trust. “I told my children about the Cultural Revolution, and I believe I am not the only one who do so; the revolution gave a negative impression,” Chu said. Intergeneration transmission would make the younger generations not able to slough off the history.

It is impossible to wipe off the history, and people in China have to be tough enough to overcome the echoes of the Cultural Revolution. After 50 years of living in the shadow of the bloody movement, it could be seen that the education development in China is growing.

According to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), China invests about 4% on education now; and according to a report from the Ministry of Education, it shows that approximately 99.7% of total population in China have completed nine-year education. In other words, China puts more resources on education nowadays undoubtedly, and the human capital accumulation is recovering gradually.

The government in China has introduced a number of new education policies since the Cultural Revolution. For instance, China had a school curriculum reform to adjust and improve the quality of education, a teacher development system to ensure the quality of the teachers, open door policy for foreign students to study in China, etc.

A timeline of key events of the education development in China from 1966 to now.


Without revolution, there would not be reforms. The cultural Revolution is unforgettable, but it someway changes China. “At least I am not fear of anything now, because freedom of speech protects me to voice out my opinion,” said Chu Xi-Ling. Chu Xi-Ling arranges a number of extra-curricular activities for her younger son apart from school, like basketball, swimming, Taekwondo, piano, jogging, etc. “I want to give the best to him. I am satisfied now, because he can learn; and he can choose what he wants,” Chu added. So do her, Chu now can learn English anytime and anywhere.


For further readings:

Posters and propaganda during the Cultural Revolution

Hu Ya-fei’s youth in China: Growing up in the Cultural Revolution

Story of Paul Crook – How he survived through the revolution

Transformation of China’s education policy
















Same, Different ?

“You have to be different.” The Siu Twinz said.


The Siu Twinz, Jason Siu and Philip Siu are identical twins. They were born in Hong Kong, but raised in New Zealand. Unlike most of the teenagers, they left their parents when they were 19, and began their dancing journey.


“We have stopped dancing for six months”, said Philip. Unfortunately, they had to stop doing what they love and work in offices. Indeed, reality could be mean when The Siu Twinz are on their own in Hong Kong, and their parents are thousand miles away.


Back in the days when they first started to learn dancing in Singapore, they fell in love with dancing and choreographing. Later on, they joined quite a number of dance competitions in New Zealand, Les Vegas, and finally in South Korea, where they realized dancing is what they want for life.


The Siu brothers were voted and selected to be the Top 15 Finalists for KPOP World Festival, and they received a 7-year contract to be part of the KPOP group. While everything seemed to be perfect at that time, they chose to walk away from the opportunity and came to Hong Kong.


The brothers had gone though thick and thin in Hong Kong. “I got a big injury on my toe. I could not walk, and I could not wear shoes for five months,” said Philip. In fact, the interview had brought The Siu Twins back on dance floor.


During the days when Philip was suffering from “ingrown toe nail”, both brothers had stopped dancing, and become ordinary office workers. “we enjoyed life, but we realized there was something missing in life,” said Jason.


Life is not easy for dancers, especially in Hong Kong. Though the Siu Brothers have no plan to go back to their hometown. “We want to build our dance studio,” said Philip. “We do not necessarily have to be teachers; we can just be the owners,” he added.


Both brothers were deeply moved by the hard times. It is believed that their dreams are still the same, but the way they pursue them is different. “We want to dance, but earn money at the same time,” said Philip.

Cathay Pacific increase seats into economy class for short haul routes

Cathay Pacific Airways is adding more seats to the economy class in order to maximize revenue on short haul routes and cater the current trend of the airline industry.

The percentage of passenger capacity in fact had increased by 6.4% in the first half year of 2015 compared with last year. However, the overall revenue has been decreased by 0.9% from HKM$50,840 in 2014 to HKM$ 50,388 in 2015. The slightly decreased percentage was due to the balance effect of reduced fuel costs and foreign currency issue.

The passenger yield has been decreased by 9.3% from HK¢ 66.6 in 2014 to HK¢ 60.4 in the first half year of 2015. The competitive industry, remarkable reduction in fuel surcharges, unstable foreign currency and heavy demand of passengers travelling through Hong Kong were the factors causing the downward trend, according to the Chairman’s letter in the Interim report in 2015.

In the first half year of 2015, the capacity of available seats has been increased by 13.9% from 8,973 in 2014 to 10,221 in Southeast Asia. Short haul trips around Asia are at high demand compared with trips at India, Middle East, Pakistan and Sri Lanka; which the capacity had a significant decrease of 10% from 5,512 in 2014 to 4,959 this year.

Cathay Pacific Airways may sacrifice the seat width by having more passengers squeezed into the economy class. The passengers in return could benefit from cheaper airfares, and obtain better passenger services on plane, such as better food, free Wi-Fi and other in-flight entertainment. In fact, the expenses of Inflight service and passenger expenses have been increased from HK$M 2,162 in 2014 to HK$M 2,284 in 2015.

It is a concern over the balance in which Cathay Pacific should maintain between its revenue and a premium inflight service over the other competitors in the airline industry.


Documenta 14: Art partnership amid Europe’s economic woes

An exhibition beyond contemporary art

Mr. Hendrik Folkerts, the curator of Documenta 14, talks about the history  of  the contemporary art exhibition at Hong Kong Arts Centre

Europe might be split over the economy, but when it comes to art, Documenta 14 shows that there can be partnership despite economic differences . Originally introduced in Germany, the 2017 chapter of the contemporary art exhibition Documenta, will be a collaboration between Kassel and Athens .

“Documenta 14 looks at relations between North and South, both historically and contemporary. The decision to hold the exhibition in both Athens and Kassel becomes a catalyst of that inquiry. Athens manifests in the exhibition context as a metaphorical and actual site in which these relations are drawn out,” said Hendrik Folkerts, a curator of Documenta 14, at a live interview session co-presented by Hong Kong Arts Centre.

The Documenta references not only the financial crisis, but also the refugees’ crisis or even larger confrontation in Europe, and the geographical identity is the highlight of Documenta 14.

Folkerts explains how historical relationships between  Northern and Southern Europe affect the artists’ interpretations of  contemporary art. The social and political situation in Europe is the driving force behind the 14th edition of Documenta.

“I grew up with Documenta.  It used to display the forbidden ‘degenerate art’. But it has changed   into a more diverse and inclusive platform for  contemporary artists around the world,” said Gabriele Gauler, a director of Goethe Institut Hong Kong.

“I want to know his personal ideas about Documenta 14 and how his taste on art can affect the theme of the exhibition. But  he just presented the general information about it,” said Franky Choi, an audience in the talk, who plans to visit Athens for the exhibition in 2017.

Mr. Hendrik Folkerts interacts with audiences during the interview to discuss new forms of contemporary art.

Documenta 14 serves as a platform for both modern art and socio-political issues. “We do not speculate how the coming exhibition will be, but Athens is definitely the symbol of Documenta 14.” Folkerts said.

writing: Phoebe Chau Yee Ting

Reporter: Catherine Xu

Photo: Ann Li

HKBU-SOPA Award Winners Forum

October 13, 2015 — HKBU-SOPA Award Winners Forum was held at the Hong Kong Baptist University.

The forum began by a welcome speech by Professor Roland T. Chin, who is a president and vice-chancellor of Hong Kong Baptist University; follow by a speech given by Mr. Cliff Buddle, a SOPA Awards Committee member of the Society of Publishers in Asia.

The topic of the forum was “Framing a story – The journalistic challenge to put issues in context”. It is facilitated by Dr. Cherian George, an associate professor of the department of journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University.

This year, it is honoured to have Mr. Harry Harrison, Ms. Didi Kirsten Tatlow, Ms. Yi-Shan Chen, Mr. Greg Torode, Ms. Nancy C. Carvajal and Ms. Hannah Beech as the speakers.

Greece Crisis: A Trigger to EU Economy?

Greece will not be able to pay off heavy debts due to high currency


Greece is undergoing a difficult situation with the single currency system. “The currency is too high, Greece will never manage to pay off the debts,” said Geoff Cutmore, an anchor of CNBC. “It is like fractures in earthquake, it will turn from small issues to big events,” Cutmore added.

The resignation of the former Greece prime minister Alexis Tsipras had left Greece crisis unfold. The bailout reform, which according to Bloomberg, includes the deferment of pensions on early retirements in public sector. Yet the pension reform is still under reviewing by Greece officials throughout the coming months.

“Greece has passed its most difficult times, I would say there are less uncertainties now at the moment,” said Zuriel Fu, the Deputy Director of Convoy Financial Services Limited. “European economy is better that what we expected,” added Fu.

Whether or not Greece could pay off the debts are not the major concern now. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Greek is 26,016 US$ per capita. “Greece is a tiny economy,” said Cutmore, “the economy of Europe would not be brought down by Greece.”

“There are no solutions for Greece crisis, but to extend the payments terms or cancel the debt,” said Cutmore. After all, Greece is part of the Monetary Union, Germany would not kick out Greece. “Greece would not break away from European Union, it is quite impossible,” said Fu. “I would say Germany is strong enough to leave the union; but again it is impossible.” Fu added.

Greece has heavier debts due to the high currency, yet people tend to leave it behind first. “Greece crisis is a long-term issue, and it would not be able to solve it with just a blink of an eye,” said Fu. The bail out reform has to be one step at a time. “Europe after all is a huge union, it would be a steady recovery for its economy,” said Fu.


Geoff Cutmore at the International Media Salon held by department of Journalism of Baptist University of Hong Kong.


Bloomberg on reform proposal

GDP data

Mr. Zuriel Fu from Convoy

Mr. Geoff Cutmore