Chinese Students Have Each Other’s Backs

By Maggie Cai
Unlocked and unguarded, Ugg boots, purses, clothing and textbooks lie beside about 50 money boxes that line the hallways of a dormitory building at the Communication University of China in Beijing.

Such a sight would be unimaginable at any American university. Students wouldn’t dare leave unguarded a laptop or cellphone, let alone an expensive textbook. Instead, American students buy and sell textbooks and computers on the Internet or place flyers on bulletin boards around campus.

In China, students rely solely on the honor system. They leave their goods out on the ground for sale next to a box for payments. This demonstrates the level of trust among Chinese students.

“It is not something typical in society, but in the university we are all students, so we trust each other,” said Xing Chong, a student at CUC. Xing’s view is representative of his peers. Fellow CUC student Qi Xi explains that students feel a responsibility to look out for one another. He, too, said such trust was rare in China outside university.

The Chinese students trust one another, they say, because of a common sense of purpose about graduating from university. They want to help one another succeed in doing so.

Another reason for such trust is the Chinese long emphasis on community, said Dinda Elliott, a longtime journalist who has lived in Hong Kong and Beijing. Students see themselves not as individuals but as part of a group. Each student is only as strong as the group as a whole.

Such a strong sense of community is alien to most American students. They would rather isolate themselves with their smartphones than go out and socialize

Says Stony Brook University Junior Jessica Opatich: “If I’m selling something I’m not going to just leave it out and trust people to pay me the right amount of money.”

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