Chapter 2

Beijing Film Academy is a name that commands respect in the Chinese entertainment industry, which can be attested by the annual spectacle of a long queue of aspiring young students at academy gate, waiting to be auditioned by the academy’s admission panel.

However, a scandal involved a graduating movie star and the academy’s director threatened to bring the academy’s name into disrepute.

All originated from a live video appearance featuring a movie and television star named Zhai. Aged 28, Zhai is a rising star in the Chinese entertainment business, commanding a loyal fan base of up to 10 million followers on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. What separated him from run-of-the-mill actors is the focus he placed on his academic achievement: he has already been awarded a doctoral degree by Beijing Film Academy and recently been admitted as a postdoctoral student by Peking University’s Guanghua Management School.

But During the live video appearance, when faced the question by a fan regarding China National Knowledge Infrastructure(CNKI), an essay database used to detect plagiarism, he appeared ignorant of CNKI.

The fans from within the academic circles were outraged at his ignorance, raising doubts over his academic credentials. One fan commented:” how comes a postdoctoral student is ignorant of an essential tool every college students almost use daily.” A netizen pulled an article authored by Zhai Tianlin and run a plagiarism test through CNKI, which reported a startling 40% similarity with the article of an obscure lecturer in southern China, indicating an almost certainty that Zhai has plagiarized the work of this lecturer.

Amid the uproar generated by the actor’s dubious academic credentials, Beijing Film Academy dragged its foot in responding, releasing a belated announcement promising to investigate into this incident. Angered by the bureaucratic foot-dragging, members of the Chinese online community began to dig deeper, revealing another mischief involving none other than the academy’s director.

The director of Beijing Film Academy, Zhang Hui, whose spouse is his former student, a young actress thirty years younger than him. But much of the online speculation revolved around the source of funding for a movie in which he co-stars with his wife. Several heavyweight actresses have appeared in supporting roles, but a movie promotion campaign portrayed these actresses as in the leading roles, an apparent attempt to capitalize on their fame, but to no avail. The movie is an unmitigated box-office flop. According to the data released by Maoyan, the movie grossed only 1 million yuan at the box office, recouping a fraction of its total investment.

The source of the funding for the movie may remain a mystery, but the reputation of Beijing Film is in tatters. One comment on Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese social media platform, alleged that the movie was made with the sole aim of boosting the budding acting career of the director’s young wife. If it’s the case, the plan surely backfired. With rumours and mockery swirling around the movie, it would take a miracle to resuscitate her career.

These scandals are bound to have far-reaching consequences for Chinese higher education institutions. A Weibo user claimed that after the scandals spread overseas, A overseas university put on hold his admission to its graduate program, pending further review, possibly out of the concern for the authenticity of his academic record.

Chinese higher education institutions were remodelled on the Soviet system after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, which aimed to assert the party’s leading role in Chinese Universities. After the opening up of China at the end of the seventies, the Chinese Universities underwent a series of reforms which granted universities with greater autonomy as parts of the efforts to transform several leading Chinese Universities into world-class institutions on a part with the likes of Oxford and Harvard.

But inside China’s universities, party functionaries, not academics, are responsible for the running of academic systems. Lack of proper academic background means these administrators often rely on indexes, like the number of publications a scholar or a department churning out annually, to serve as academic performance indicators. Under the pressure for more publications, almost all Chinese universities require doctoral students to publish several articles in C-list journals, a group of China’s most reputable academic publications, before securing academic approval for graduation. 

But under Chinese press regulation, legally publishing a journal requires applying for a serial number which is sparingly issued. Restriction on the number of academic publications creates a shortage of spots for doctoral papers. Even after accepted, some papers have to wait years before seeing the print. Frustrated, some doctoral students resort to illegal and corrupt ways to ensure timely publication for their work. On Taobao, the most popular e-commerce platform on which physical goods and services are on offer, a search term” C-list Journals” brought up several vendors whose expertise including writing C-list journal worthy papers and guaranteeing time and spots for paper’s publication. So in theory, you could buy your way to a doctoral degree with minimal efforts. 

A wealthy and influential actor in possession of a dubious doctoral degree makes a ideal target for scholars to vent their anger and frustration, while the underlying cause of their misery was left untouched. Unless Chinese universities wake up to the real problem hindering its growth, the dream to build world-class universities probably will never materialize.


Table of Content | Next Chapter

It was usually hot in early May with intense sunshine. Shedding coats, pedestrians started to wear their summer outfit.

Today was the first day of the Labor holiday. Sidewalk Vendors lined the plaza outside the shopping mall, most of them selling various street foods. Mouth-watering scents from the delicacies enticed the passers-by. With above average height, Jianglan had no trouble getting a look from above the throng. He had his eyes on a vendor selling roasted pig foot.

This vendor attracted the biggest crowd. Judging by the aroma, He knew the food was ready.

“Smells so good.” Nesting inside Jianglan’s chest pocket, Suanni raised his head, and his eyes ran greedily over the roast pig feet. Looking down, Jianglan saw the appetite was stamped all over his face.

“I don’t have this month’s wage yet.”

Jianglan also craved the roast pig feet. But with only pennies left, He couldn’t afford this snack. Pushing down his little brother, He withdrew his gaze and left. “ Wait until we get to the restaurant, there are plenty of yummy foods there.” He was not sure whether he was comforting himself or his brother.

Gave out a faint “Oh”, Jinni dropped his ears in disappointment and tried to banish the food from his mind. After all, Brother Five[1]Refer to Jianglan, who is the fifth son of dragon had just moved out of the home, and his wage was barely enough for the two of them. 

Trying to get the pig foot out of their mind, they entered the shopping mall and took a lift to the fifth floor.

Jianlan came here for a blind date.

Jianglan did try to get out of this blind date fixed on him all of sudden. As a newly independent monster with a monstrous appetite for food, which ruined his budget, Jianglan could ill afford to bring another one to his life for it means an extra mouth to feed.

After several rounds of conference, the Head of the population and birth control office believed that the current situation of too many single monsters was intolerable. For the reproduction of the our monster race, to promote the harmony between human and monster race and preserve the stability of our society, he decided on a new policy: No single among monsters of marriageable age.

To pursue that policy, Head Hu went out of his way to invite a professional match-maker to organize the effort to make matches among single monsters.  

This unreasonable policy met unanimous resistance from all the single monsters. The efforts to make matches proved very hard. In the end, Head Hu asked Jianglan to take the lead.

As a dragon son, Jianglan enjoyed prestige among monsters. And a few big monsters knew the real reason for the fifth son of the dragon to leave the dragon palace, to scratch a living among humans. The population and birth control office, to which Hu is the head, and the special task branch, to which Jianglan belong, are both administered by the Monster bureau of Jiang City. As a colleague, Hu knew that despite his privileged background and striking appearance, Jianglan was almost penniless and sometimes couldn’t even afford a meal. Worried about Jianglan, his brothers inside the palace secretly reached out to Head Hu to ask him to take care of him.

Now Head Hu believed an opportunity to take care of Jianglan has arrived. He set up a special fund to reward those who successfully leave single lives. As a member of the oldest monster family, Jianglan will receive ten thousand Yuan[2]Chinese Currency, now 1 US Dollar equal 6.6 Chinese Yuan at the current exchange rate if he set a good example, plus an additional ten thousand if he left single life behind.

The additional ten thousand was to come out of Head Hu’s own pocket. As expected, Jianglan was tempted.

As a member of a special task branch, Jianglan was highly compensated for accomplishing many dangerous missions given to him, the reward was enough for a monster to live luxuriously. But Jianglan was no ordinary monster. As Taotie, he was born with the ability to devour everything, which made him powerful, but also left him with an insatiable appetite. In the eyes of a Taotie, everything is edible. In ancient times, Taotie was ranked among four types of monsters known as four fierce, for a Taotie is known to devour everything when mad with hunger.

But that was a long time ago. Now was a modern socialism age. Monster race had become a civilized race, receiving nine year compulsory education and socialism indoctrination. After came to live among human, Jianlan became a law-abiding monster citizen. But his special task branch wage and award could barely afford his insatiable appetite. To make matters worse, the highly rewarded assignment was not always available, leaving him struggle with a bare minimum wage.

The award promised by Head Hu was a large sum for Jianglan, All that takes was to show up at a blind date, why not.

Once he was paid, he can afford as many roasted pig foot as his little brother want.

So here they came, who cares about leaving single life, what matters was money.

He went straight to the appointed restaurant once he left the lift.

The restaurant was a well-furnished Italian food restaurant. The waiters were very courteous and professional. He has been here before when he was flushed with reward money, He knew it was expensive. Mindful of the balance in his bank account, he was a little uneasy.

Waitress led him to the table where a young man was waiting for him. He must be his date. Head hu said that Yingqiao came to this date as a big favor to her and Jianlan should value the chance to meet a rich and handsome man like Yingqiao.

Jianlan greeted the man.”Hi, I am Jianlan.”

Yingqiao looked at his watch, just eleven o’clock, very punctual. His barely concealed impatience lessened a little. Nodded at Jianlan.” I am Yingqiao, have a seat. Food is ordered already.”

Scanning his date without reservation, Jianlan took the seat.

Head Hu didn’t lie to him obviously for Yingqiao was indeed good-looking even compared with his princely brothers. Although his thin lip and upward eyes was an indication that Yingqiao was not a easy person to please, Jianlan didn’t mind, he was used to hanging around some of his bizarre colleaques in the special task branch. Withdrawing his stare, he waited silently for food like a nice boy.

Yingqiao reciprocated the stare by staring back.

He was likewise forced to come to this date for he own Hu Can a big one. But he didn’t take this date seriously. What mattered was showing up. He didn’t even bother reading his date’s profile Hu sent to him.

He started to scrutinize Jianlan sitting upright facing him. This boy didn’t even bother to get his hair combed. Yellow hoodie with black cargo pants, which Yingqiao surprisingly found to be a new release from a luxury brand. With a backpack, he looked so immature.

 Yingqiao thought Jianlan looks like a young man just entered the workforce. Maybe his family had a little money, but he obviously lacked taste. Luckily he had a pretty face 

Picky like Yingqiao, he found his impatience wear off a little by this face.

Waiters began to bring dishes to the table. Yingjiao wasn’t a chatty fellow and Jianlan had a hard time finding the right topic. So they ate in silence.

This restaurant serve perfect food and Jianlan really enjoyed it. When he though Yingqiao wasn’t looking, he sneaked a few bit of steaks into his chest pocket. Junni was the eighth child in the family, the second youngest child next to Jiaotu. After he was found, he couldn’t transform into human shape, regressed into a weak pub who need someone to take care of him. He always cling to Jianlan and followed along after Jianlan left Dragon palace. When Jianlan took him to register in the Monster Bureau, I picked the same family name for him, named Jianni.

The steak was very juicy. Jianlan fed Junni happily, thinking Yingjiao didn’t pay attention.

But nothing escaped Yingjiao. He detected a fist-sized Lion race pub with brown fur and square ear. If this little pub was a human-shaped monster, his expression probably looked the same like his brother. He began to reevaluate Jianlan.

Before he came, he thought the date Hu set him up with wouldn’t be too bad. Now obviously it’s not the case. Jianlan is just another ordinary monster, perhaps live in poverty for he let his little brother tag along to share the food. Looking at Jianlan’s creased luxurous brand outwear, he thought he couldn’t be more off mark. In his mind, he joked with self-ridicule that perhaps Jianlan’s good look obscure the fact that he wears a fake luxurous brand to a date.

No one thought ordinary monsters had such a hard time making a living. Stone-hearted as Yingjiao, he couldn’t help feeling a little sympathy towards Jianlan. Pretending that he didn’t notice the presence of Jianlan’s little brother, he began to talk after dissert was served. He intended to reveal his real identity to let Jianlan to know how ill-matched they are. But after witnessing their plight, he didn’t want to embarrass him and switch his wording.

“ok, meals over, let’s introduce ourselves.” He stretch his limps and leaned a little over to Jianlan, looking at his face.” I am an orphan of snake race. Work in a private enterprise. No house or car under my name. Make around three thousand Yuan a month. Too poor to afford medical insurance.

How about you.”

Looking at Jianlan’s stunned expression, he felt a little satisfied. What he just said wasn’t going to embarrass Jianlan, sparing his little sense of dignity.  Jianlan wound give up any thought of any future date. He could give a full report to the inquisitive Hu. One stone, three birds, perfect.

But Jianlan was stunned for a different reason. Why did Yingjiao pick such an expensive restaurant if he couldn’t afford it. How could he live beyond his means. There is nothing going to happen between us!

Jianlan could barely make a living on his own. Yet Yingjiao choose to live such an extravagant life despite his minimum wage. Even twenty thousand Yuan couldn’t bridge the gap between them. He thought hard to find the appropriate things to say, finally settling on a lie. He wasn’t good at lying, so he avert Yingjiao’s gaze.” I word as a temporal worker in Hanyang street administration office. Earn a wage of 80 Yuan daily. And I have eight brothers live off my wage.”

Looking at Jianlan, Yingjiao thought Jianlan was perhaps the poorest monster he knew. Earn 80 Yuans daily. Was it enough for two brothers let alone eight? No wonder he brought a little brother to share the food.

If not for the lie he just said, Yingjiao almost want to offer him a job in his company. Even a ordinary office job in his company was better than a 80 Yuan temporal job like his. But he couldn’t withdraw his lie, so he pretended to be troubled.” I want someone with a stable job. You…I am afraid we are not a good fit.”

Jianlan didn’t expect that a 3000 Yuan monthly wage office slave would look down on a 80 Yuan daily wage temporal worker. But this situation suit his purpose. He bite his lip.” Yes, indeed.”

Relaxed, they exchanged a look.” So that’s it!”

Reaching an agreement, they prepared to leave. Before leaving, Yingjiao offer to foot the bill and ask waiters to prepare a takeout dissert for Jianlan to take home. Taking the packaged dissert, Jianlan had a look at the bill, a little embarrassed he said.” Please add me as a friend in Wechat, let’s split the bill.”

Looking nonchalantly, his heart was bleeding. This dinner just costed him ten days wage. But mindful of Yingjiao’s wage level, he just couldn’t bring himself to ask Yingjiao to foot the bill alone.

“Oh, no…” Yingjiao almost turned down his offer before recalling the lie he just told. He swallowed his words and exchanged friend request in Wechat.

Jianlan sent the fund to Yingjiao’s e-wallet in Wechat. Waving goodbye, he left.

Yingjiao’s wechat gave out a faint bing and the fund transfer from Jianlan appeared on the inferface with a lovely owl emoji. Yingjiao was about to delete Jianlan from friends list, then changed his mind. Putting cellphone into his pocket. He took another lift to the underground carpark.

Out of shopping mall, Jianlan went across the road to enter subway station. While waiting for the traffic light, he saw a grey Austin Martin sped by with a young man looking very much like Yingjiao on the driver seat. The car left his sight before he could be sure. They just liked alike. How could someone as poor as Yingjiao afford a sports car.


1 Refer to Jianglan, who is the fifth son of dragon
2 Chinese Currency, now 1 US Dollar equal 6.6 Chinese Yuan at the current exchange rate