Zhang Xiaoqiang, journalism professor, Chongqing University: “Never be fooled by a fraud like Zhang Xuefeng. He is poisoning young people’s minds and misleading the public. He insulted journalism. But the field he works in [social media] is what journalism students specialize in. He profits a lot from communications but also spits on it – how absurd!”
Zou Zhendong, journalism professor, Xiamen University: “I’m convinced that when choosing a major, most students and their parents will make rational and reasonable choices instead of shooting themselves in the foot. The questions Zhang Xuefeng asks are worthy of reflection, but don’t take his conclusions at face value.”
Chu Ying, former public administration professor, University of International Relations: “I think Zhang’s opinions are suited to certain groups of people. His advice is particularly helpful for parents who want their children to find good jobs to financially support the family right out of college. Zhang is not prescribing the same solution for everyone.”
With youth unemployment in China at 20.8 percent in May according to official data, an online influencer has stirred debate for sounding off about choosing majors in today’s job market.
Zhang Xuefeng, founder of education company Fengxue Weilai, has garnered a large online following for offering advice on students’ university and career choices.
The controversy kicked off in early June during one of Zhang’s livestreams when a parent asked whether their child should take a journalism course.
“I would knock my kid out if he told me he wanted to study journalism,” Zhang said. He argued that journalism pays poorly and more than 80 percent of graduates go on to work in other industries. He further posited that advancements in technology and social media leave little need for journalism education.
Similarly, the influencer dissuaded those interested in pursuing philosophy, English, biology, chemistry, material sciences and aerospace. Instead, he recommended majors which he believes make it “easy to find good jobs,” like computer science, software engineering, dentistry, ophthalmology and law. He also recommends Chinese language and literature, only because they may be helpful in civil service careers.
He emphasized that his suggestions are for students from “ordinary families.” “For students from well-off families, they can choose whatever major they like… But for most ordinary families, the first concern is whether the major leads to a well-paid job,” he wrote on Sina Weibo on June 16.
Supporters praised Zhang’s advice for helping working class families make informed choices. However, many argued that Zhang’s suggestions are purely utilitarian, and suggest that students of modest means do not deserve to pursue their dreams and ideals.