Why China’s Student Leaders Are Turning Into Tiny Tyrants

Wang Yuewei:

One of a university’s primary responsibilities is to train the world’s next generation of leaders: our future literary, scientific, and political luminaries. But in China, there is a growing concern that our schools may be manufacturing a bunch of imperious, bullying bureaucrats instead.

Earlier this month, China’s student unions became the focus of a raft of unflattering headlines after screenshots of a group chat between members of a student organization at Chengdu Aeronautic Polytechnic, a college in southwestern China, leaked online. The screenshots, which quickly went viral, revealed the group’s student leaders in all their self-important and condescending glory: reprimanding new members for not showing enough respect and reminding them to “know their place.” The post inspired many netizens to share their own horror stories of power-crazed student leaders at universities.

Pretty soon, both the state-run Xinhua News Agency and the Communist Youth League weighed in with opinion pieces criticizing the senior students’ behavior and lamenting what they called the “bureaucratization” of university student groups — a term that in China conjures images not just of red tape, but of high-handed, bumptious officials who abuse their power over others whenever possible.