In China, U.S. education becomes a selling point, and an incentive to lie

December 23, 2010Jing Gao16 Comments, , , , , , , , , , ,

Ye Fei, a 23-year-old Chinese-American, is an inspirational role model for many young people. It is said that she was born in a well-off family in Beijing, studied abroad in Europe at an early age, won the “U.S. Presidential Award” as a graduating high school senior, went on to attend “Syracuse University, dubbed ‘Little Harvard,’ as she said.” At the age of 19, she wrote an autobiography, titled Be At Your Best: Journey of Growth of A Girl Who Won U.S. Presidential Award. The book is endorsed by Yu Minhong, founder and CEO of New Oriental School, China’s biggest and most influential private school franchise that teaches English as the second language and prepares customers for English tests, and Wang Shihong, director of Chinese Association of Higher Education.


Ye Fei

Cover of Ye Fei's book, Be At Your Best: Journey of Growth of A Girl Who Won U.S. Presidential Award. The cover also says it is endorsed by Yu Minhong and Wang Shihong, director of Chinese Association of Higher Education.

Except that the so-called U.S. Presidential Award is a myth. It sounds like the highest distinction that a high school student can possibly gain, but what Ye Fei actually did get is  a recognition much less selective.

Ye Fei mentioned in her book that when she first came to the United States, she did not speak a word of English. After more than one year of study, she had had a good command of the language and was elected President of the Student Organization. During her tenure, she founded the Asian Club for students to understand the Asian culture. On June 16, 2005 at her high school graduation, she was awarded the year’s “Presidential Award.”

She also said that then U.S. President George W. Bush wrote her a congratulatory letter, saying to the effect that he and his wife Laura felt happy for her, and that she and other award winners would become the elite of the country.

On November 27, 2010, China Central Television broadcast a talk show in which Ye said in front of the camera that the U.S. Presidential Award she got is the highest honor for high school students. Each year, only one graduating high school senior from each state is chosen.  Then President Bush presented her the award in person.  She also said that during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, President Bush spotted her, who then worked as a volunteer in the U.S. delegation, and soon recalled presenting her the award. She suggested the reason why he recognized her face is that she was the only Chinese recipient of the award that year.


Ye Fei (middle) and her mother (left) in an interview with China Youth Net


Ye Fei and her mother in a CCTV interview

Soon after the show was aired, Fang Zhouzi, a “science cop” and “fraud buster” well known in China for exposing scientific and academic frauds, wrote in his blog, “She went so far as to read the certificate verbatim on CCTV to every one. It surely gave her away.”

Fang Zhouzi said that according to information gathered by him and provided by other net users, there are actually two awards whose names approximate to “Presidential Award”: Presidential Scholar and President’s Education Awards. The former is for real cream of the crop of the country, and is awarded to at most 141 recipients each year, whereas the latter is by contrast more of a pat on the back.  Students with high academic grades and excellent class standing can have it. Millions of students in the United States at all grade levels were given the title.

“It is similar to our country’s Three Goods Student. (Jing’s note: Good moral ethics, good grades, good physical health) Bush would not have presented the awards in person. The congratulatory letter and the certificate that Ye Fei received were also pre-printed. It’s not a letter that the U.S. president personally wrote with his very own hand,” Fang Zhouzi said.

“If she said the President did present it to her, where is the photo? It must be a significant event, right?” he said.

The reporter visited the official Web site of Presidential Scholars. It has detailed information of each student since 1964. According to Ye Fei, she was the only Chinese to win the award in 2005. But among nine Presidential Scholars of Chinese descent recorded on the Web site, none of them looks like Ye Fei.

“This is a social demon that dates back to 1980s when going abroad started to be in vogue, and the phenomenon of crowing about overseas experience to enhance one’s status surfaced,” Fang Zhouzi said. This tendency has affected the youth. “But they didn’t know that time has changed. In the era of Internet, braggadocio and lies can be easily busted.”

It is not the first time of a Chinese personality caught airbrushing academic resumes. Tang Jun,  former president of Microsoft China and a social icon as a self-made entrepreneur, was also exposed by Fang Zhouzi to have invented his studies in California Institute of Technology in his autobiography. When Tang Jun countered the accusation by saying that was a typo, and his Ph.D.  was conferred  by Pacific Western University, Fang Zhouzi provided evidence that PWU was identified by U.S. government as a diploma mill.

Ye Fei is neither alone in cashing in on Chinese fantasies about U.S. education, especially Harvard University. A Chinese man named Danny Fung published a book titled Allocutions on the Wall of the Harvard University Library. It gained wide circulation on the Internet in China and quickly took on various titles. School principals post them up for students to recite, and eager souls put them up on their blogs. Several major newspapers, including Jiefang Daily, reprinted the excerpts. The book itself was a bestseller.

So many Chinese did not even take time to read the “original English version,” and simply bought it across the board because of the mention of Harvard University. If they did, anyone with a basic command of English would have not failed to find that while the Chinese “allocutions” make sense and are meant to exhort, the English version is totally incomprehensible, that these are software translated, grammatically messed-up English.



Incomprehensible English translated from Chinese by software

Another instance is Liu Yiting, aka Harvard Girl, whose parents wrote a book about they raised and educated their daughter to be admitted to Harvard University. The book was a bestseller in China and made both Liu Yiting and Harvard household names in China. Many Chinese parents tried to model their children after Liu Yiting and clone her success.

A spate of “how-to” books on parenting skills of the same genre mushroomed, including titles such as Ivy League is Not a Dream, From Andover to Harvard, How We Got Our Child Into Yale, Harvard Family Instruction, The Door of the Elite, Harvard Boy Zhang Zhaomu, Cornell Girl, and Our Dumb Little Boy Goes to Cambridge. Harvard University is revered much more in China than even in the U.S., and getting into it seems to be the sole purpose of education.

Ye Fei jumped on the same band wagon. Sadly, she tripped over her own mistake and fell.

Source: neteasegmw.cnGlobal Times Forum

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16 comments to “In China, U.S. education becomes a selling point, and an incentive to lie”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ray Kwong. Ray Kwong said: Appalling: "In China, U.S. education becomes a selling point, and an incentive to lie." [...]

  2. Cleo | December 24, 2010 | Permalink Reply

    That's so sad. Even if she had gotten into Harvard, that would not guarantee permanent future success. It's not like alumni or some secret Harvard organization guards over every graduate to ensure that they are never unemployed or fail or get arrested. It's just life. Many popular talented successful people went to ordinary schools but in America no one really cares about the elite. It's not really a class system with aristocrats. I think when China finally achieves a comfort level with self-confidence that citizens have a shot at being middle class, this type of fantasizing and self-aggrandizing to feel adequate will disappear. It's not attractive anyway to show off your superior good fortune.

  3. Li Lianqianq | December 24, 2010 | Permalink Reply

    I've attended Syracuse University, and it certainly is not "Little Harvard."

    And the original name of the U.S. Presidential Award is correct, and she may have won that award. I don't know why your "social researcher" said that there are two awards that may approximate this in meaning. I allege that the first name used is correct and that she may well have earned that distinction.

    • liu | December 26, 2010 | Permalink Reply

      what she represented herself as winning is the presidential scholar award,, by saying in interviews that she met george bush and that only a select few in the country win this award, which is true if she had really won the presidential scholar award, which is a very prestigious award and something to boast about. however, she won another award called by a similar name which is not prestigious at all, given to many people in the country, and does not entail any meeting with or public recognition by the president of the united states, like the other award does. but the way she represented herself deceived everyone into believing that she won the presidential scholars award, which she did not. the difference between the two awards is huge.

      • Jing Gao | December 28, 2010 | Permalink Reply

        Thank you for explaining the matter on my behalf to the other visitor. :)

  4. mike | December 27, 2010 | Permalink Reply

    Well, LYING seem to be very American if you look at the Housing bubble, Learman brother, banks, not to mention politicians. So China is learning very well from the US :-) .

  5. Fakeharvard | February 24, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    The Harvard Library Study Room Wall Statement Nonsense

  6. fakeharvard | February 24, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    Deborah Kelley-Milburn Harvard Librarian responding to inquries about those "Allocutions."

    Ask a Librarian

  7. amandanne | March 10, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    if ye fei was born in china, she is obviously lying unless she somehow got US citizenship really fast which is unlikely. only US citizens can be named presidential scholars- in some states, the student's parents must also be US citizens to receive any monetary awards/scholarships

  8. Sasa | March 15, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    LOL – so glad a fraud like her and her MOM got caught. These status-whores and their likes are the poorest examples of people. Hope they are laughed at, ridiculed, and have to hide their face in public. .

  9. snowlotus | March 23, 2011 | Permalink Reply

    Yu Minhong also fabricated the urban legend that a Duke University professor cried after learning that his student, a New Oriental graduate, can recite all four volumes of New Concepts in English, while he had never recited anything. Many Chinese students bought the story because they don't realize American professors values creativity way over memorization.

    (这位学员到美国第一个星期写文章,教授把他叫过去说他的文章是剽窃的,因为他的文章写得太好了,教授说:“我20年教书没有教出这么漂亮的文章来。“这个学员说,我没有办法证明我能写出这么优秀的文章,但我告诉你,我能背108篇文章,而且背得非常熟练,你想不想听。结果,他没有背完两篇,教授就哭了起来,为什么?因为这个教授想一想自己教了20年了,居然一篇文章也没有背过,被中国学生背掉了,所以很难过…… )

  10. [...] In China, U.S. Education Becomes a Selling Point and an Incentive to Lie –Ministry of Tofu [...]

  11. dobeandandy | January 5, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    re: The book is endorsed by Yu Minhong, founder and CEO of New Oriental School,
    Two months ago, Mr.Yu endorsed another fabrication. He sent an email to all his staff asking them to recommend to their students the fabricated article on sombre, no makeup, no nice clothes, no idle talk Harvard students staying up at 4:30 a.m. in a packed Harvard library!
    The next day, he sent out a partial retraction, but it was already too late. Several teachers had already put the article on SINA blog and were re-pasted over and over.

    See: 俞敏洪承认这些所 谓的“训言”确实是没有的

    Resurgence of the fake article “Harvard Library at 4:30 a.m.” 瞎扯的 !哈佛大学图书馆凌晨4点半的景象 死灰复燃

  12. Frankie Fook-lun Leung | August 12, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    I taught at Stanford Law School. When I look at the biographical details of many executives in publicly listed Chinese companies, they got doctorates from postal universities of the USA. They make me laugh. The US has an assortment of tertiary educational institutions granting all kind of degrees or certificates which do not require rigorous studies. Some executive management programs of top schools charge arms and legs but teach stuff more of net-working nature. I won’t name them. Moreover, if you look at Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and many others. They don’t get fancy name doctorates but they are creative. Why can’t the Chinese have more confidence in themselves and just say I am like Chairman Mao. I have no degree from USA or anywhere.

  13. Clayton Sosh | September 17, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    At the very least this now almost all makes sense!

  14. HC | December 13, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Nov 15,2012, The Wall Street Journal 哈佛大学教授在华尔街日报發言:
    A generation of Chinese students draws inspiration from a hoax about Harvard.

    Dec 3, 2012, 哈佛大学校报(The Harvard Crimsom) 报导有关中国人杜撰的”哈佛图书馆自习室墙上训言/哈佛凌晨4点”之事(Widespread Rumors Claim Harvard Students Are Super Studious).

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