Shandong, China—Intercultural program or matchmaking plan? A Chinese university in Jinan city received heavy criticism for their interesting “Buddy Program” that paired foreign students with local students of the opposite sex.
According to an initial report by the South China Morning Post, Shandong University’s “Buddy Program” was launched in 2016. University officials claimed that the program merely aims to encourage its students to “learn culturally and academically from each other.”
Netizens picked up the issue when a notice from the university was shared online. The notice indicated that 141 Chinese students who were mostly female were paired with 47 foreign students.
Majority of the international students came from Pakistan, Kenya, Yemen, and Nepal.
Netizens on Weibo criticised the program, saying that it was unnecessary and inappropriate to match male foreign students with female Chinese students. Users also argued that there were various ways to promote “intercultural communications” without resorting to potentially dangerous situations for the local students.
A netizen on Weibo posted that “No country takes care of Chinese students this way, so why can’t we just treat foreign students in China equally? Why should we treat them like they are gods?”
Some students of the university countered the backlash by saying that they rely on the few English-speaking international students to improve their English skills.
“I don’t see any problem with three Chinese students pairing up with one international student. It’s inevitable because the demand exceeds the supply,” the netizen said.
Responding to the outcry, Shandong University has apologised for implementing the program. In a statement, officials said that they “deeply regret the negative influence” of the program. Additionally, they admitted how they needed to review the program’s application process which currently includes an option to “make foreign friends of the opposite sex.”
“We are grateful for all the criticism and suggestions of friends who have expressed their views on the internet and for them caring about Shandong University.”
According to official figures from the Chinese government, there were 492,185 international students in 2018. Students from South Korea, Thailand, and Pakistan comprised the majority of foreign student population in China./TISG
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