Don’t Dream Big—Four Vignettes on Social Mobility

Don’t Dream Big—Four Vignettes on Social Mobility

Tea Leaf Nation’s Rachel Lu looks at social mobility in today’s China through a viral online post by microblogger Dadi, who observed the varying fortunes of interns from different backgrounds during and after their bank internship.

The interns all had good grades from the best university in the province, having aced the grueling gaokao college entrance exam. But Dadi wondered, did they really start the race from the same place? How would their family backgrounds affect their performance as interns, and their lives thereafter?

Dadi wrote that his curiosity was first piqued when one of his colleagues claimed that he could predict the interns’ behaviors on their first day based only on their files. Dadi marveled at his accuracy — the interns from poor rural areas arrived early, but were anxious and did not interact with the bank’s employees; those who greeted the internship directors and poured water for them all had Party officials for parents; those with family businesses traded jokes, and seemed carefree and jovial; then there were a few polite but standoff-ish ones – all of them, without exception, raised by urban professionals.

[…] Thus began Dadi’s informal sociology experiment. He asked the interns about their families, observed them during the internship program, and kept in touch with many of them for more than a year afterwards. He wrote about four of his subjects in particular detail.

[…] The moral of his stories, wrote Dadi, was that young people should not engage in the Quixotic battle against fate to rise too far above their class in today’s China. One’s background means more than just the level of financial support from family; it also determines one’s outlook, and even personality. [Source]

See Tea Leaf Nation for Dadi’s descriptions of the four interns.


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