A state newspaper article belittling China’s celebrity cram school founder backfires
- The Economic Daily blasts education giant New Oriental for pivoting from tutoring to live streaming e-commerce to make ‘quick money’
- Entrepreneurs in the after-school education industry are struggling to survive under Beijing’s crackdown on private tutoring
A state media article criticising a new business move by the embattled education firm New Oriental has triggered an online backlash, as netizens came to the defence of its celebrated founder who is scrambling to respond to China’s sweeping ban on private tutoring for children.
“As a leading company in the private tutoring industry, New Oriental’s transition is meaningful as a bellwether,” Economic Daily author She Ying wrote in the Sunday article. “If the company only jumps from one industry that makes quick money to another one, it may not be the best role model.”
The article quickly drew tens of thousands of views on WeChat and became a trending topic on microblogging platform Weibo, with many commenters protesting the article’s stance and empathising with New Oriental’s attempt to save its business.
“The education industry is suffering significant losses thanks to new policies, and companies have no choice but to pivot,” one person commented under the article on WeChat.
“[The article] shows a type of arrogance and ignorance called ‘let me teach you how to do your job’,” another person wrote on China’s Quora-like Q&A platform Zhihu.
In July, the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council started banning tutoring firms from making a profit by teaching core subjects to students in grades one to nine after school. Listed companies and overseas entities were also barred from investing or acquiring stakes in off-campus education firms offering courses covering school curricula.
Since then, stock prices of education companies have tumbled, followed by large-scale lay-offs across the industry.
In a short video posted Monday on his account on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, Yu said that he appreciates the Economic Daily’s “kind reminder”, but he objects to the article’s characterisation of the private education sector as a platform for making quick money.
“It’s hard to make it big in the education field, and many education companies have been losing money,” Yu said, adding that live streaming is also a tough industry where top hosts spend up to 20 hours each day in front of the camera, in addition to sifting through various product offerings all “day and night” to select good ones to recommend.
“No industry is easy,” Yu said.