3 Nov 2023Read of the weekRead of the week: Chinese students outsource parental duties

Students in China are hiring strangers on the internet to stand in as their parents so that they avoid getting into trouble. For things like collecting a confiscated phone or meeting with a teacher, young people in China are questioning tradition and actively interrogating conventional authority.

J’Nae PhillipsJ'Nae Phillips is an Insights Editor at Canvas8. After an early career working in fashion and media, her passion for culture and journalism grew and she made the transition to writing and editing full-time. She specialises in fashion, trends, cultural shifts and all of the good stuff that gets people talking.

Parental stand-in job posts from Chinese students range from scolding students in front of their headmasters to calling for sick leave on the student's behalf. One request posted on the social media and e-commerce platform Xiaohongshu even asked a stand-in parent to pick up a confiscated phone. And in the post, the student included information about the age needed and task details such as work hours, salary, and application format required. The post received over 9,400 likes, with other netizens sharing similar stories.

China’s traditionally rigid parenting styles prioritise academic success and are causing students to attempt to avoid negative repercussions when they slip up – even through these elaborate ruses. The mounting pressure faced by young people in China is having a negative impact on their mental health and emotional wellbeing, with 24.1% of China's 18-24-year-olds found to have a risk of depression in a governmental health survey.

The high academic expectation of Chinese students is causing them to seek forms of escapism and challenge the status quo. Some are turning to slower forms of escapism as a reprieve from fast-paced lives, such as fantasising about the countryside or flocking to temples and using prayer apps for a sense of control, while others are finding release in brand activations such as Bilibili’s de-stress party and Fendi’s mindful art space.