It has taken me around two years to understand the systems of League and Party in mainland China universities.
It is interesting for me to know more about the Communist Party and Youth League by studying in Beijing. You just will not know how the systems run if you just come to exchange for half a year and live in another building separated from mainland China students. In mainland-well, some mainland students are rather sensitive when I use the word mainland (which does not include Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) and China (which includes them) wrongly. I do acknowledge that Hong Kong is a part of China (and this has been admitted internationally), but it is not always easy for me to choose the correct word, as it is rather difficult to clearly differentiate whatever something happens in mainland only or happens in both mainland and Hong Kong.
OK, let's get back to the main topic. In mainland, almost all high school students are members of the Communist Youth League. So what is the League for? It seems to me that it is for holding students' activities. The organization is probably less political than before. In Tsinghua and other mainland universities, students in one department are further divided into classes. Each class is also a Branch of the League. Students elect for a secretary (the head) and a commissaries responsible for study, organization, daily lives and so on. These commissaries co-operate to organize all kinds of student activities for the growth and development of students, absolutely not restricted to learning of socialism or communism. Activities may include volunteer teaching in schools, visits to the home of the elderly, invite experienced alumni to talk about future career, investigation of labs in our own departments, and so on. Similar to "social practice", these activities are all self-organized, and the diversity of quality is large. Some great, some stupid.
Every year, there is a public presentation for each Branch to show their achievement, as seen in the photo. It is funny that some achievements may include "highest average GPA in the department", or "had a happy traveling which improved friendship". "Excellent Branches" are elected and awarded. To me, it is just a show, though some secretaries may regard the honor as an important recognition. Anyways, it is a good platform for the commissaries to train their presentation skills. A bad thing is that the platform is formed by non-commissaries and I am one of them. I just feel that many activities are totally unnecessary for my personal development. Under peer pressure, however, it is not easy to isolate myself from these class activities, especially when I first came to Tsinghua and I might need the help from some classmates.
I sometimes doubted the necessity of such kind of organization. Personally, I can take care of my own study, daily lives and health, and do not need someone to be "responsible" for them. As a class, I believe that even without the League, students can go out and have fun casually by themselves. In Hong Kong, when I planned to go out with friends, we just went out straight away. (Is not that very natural?) But in mainland, we may have to open an inefficient meeting to "discuss the affair" and finally reach some conclusions which can actually be obtained without a meeting.
I remembered that in Year 1, the leaders of the class found that the average GPA of our class is lower than others by around 1 to 2 points. Well … it sounded it was just a random event. But the leaders took it seriously and suggested plans for improvement, such as "forcing the classmates to go to classroom for study together". Also, the commissary of study will collect all the past papers of courses, and ask every student to write a summary for each chapter for the convenience of revision. These are clearly helped to improve the exam results, but the learning environment was being destroyed. The aims were single: score, score and score. This led to a negative feedback: students have to put even more effort on examination skills and role memory of trivial knowledge in order to get higher scores and beat other classmates.
It is really hard for others to understand their desire on exam scores. Just after the exam scores were released, the first question a classmate asks me when we meet is, "What is your score of XXX and YYY?" Now I have submitted my applications to PhD. Every day I receive questions like, "Have you got the offer? What about an interview ??"
I feel that the personalities of a few students are negatively affected by the work in the League. They think that holding a meeting is the only way to find out solutions to a problem. They may use bureaucracy when they talk to me. They tend to exaggerate some minor problems so that there can be something for them to deal with. Fortunately, the situation becomes better when we are senior students. A dilemma is that senior students are very receptant to support and take part in class activities. Probably they have realized that the activities can not give them an offer. A greater dilemma is that in order to have something to report during the annual League presentation, some class leaders try to organize some activities that most classmates do not want to take part.
Historically, the system of the League may help the government to adjust and monitor the thoughts of the students, particularly in times when democratic movements are active. Today, this function is no longer important, as almost all students are "politically correct". It now tries to solve another problem caused by the high school exam system. The competition to enter Tsinghua and Peking University is so keen that the high achievers have to spend all their time and effort on exams, so development of other important qualities are strictly repressed, like communication skills, organization abilities, EQ, and creativity. However, the League can only provide very few students with the necessary platform for improvement. Moreover, there is an important ability that the League may hinder: Being independent.
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