A war of words on Weibo between local residents from big cities like Beijng and Shanghai and non-local residents has erupted in recent days. The issue is whether non-local residents should be able to enjoy the same preferential policies as local residents when entering colleges.
The Beijingers and Shanghainese are annoyed that their cities will allow students without a local hukou (household registration) to take part in the national college entrance exam, or gaokao, in Beijing or Shanghai, while the non-locals are criticizing the selfishness of those hukou holders for trying to maintain their monopoly over elite educational resources.
Local residents can be admitted to renowned universities like Peking University or Tsinghua with significantly lower scores.
The Beijingers and Shanghainese who oppose changes to gaokao policy in essence are not willing to give up the benefits they have long enjoyed courtesy of the hukou policy. They are worried that outsiders will use up the limited city resources and further squeeze the available opportunities, in an already fiercely competitive education and employment market.
However, the arrogance of some Beijing and Shanghai residents reflects their prejudice toward non-locals, their sense of privilege, and their contempt when it comes to social equality. Some of them even go to the extreme of calling upon the city to expel non-locals.
The imbalances in how resources are allocated drive people toward big cities where educations are of higher quality and there are better job opportunities.
This migrant population has contributed to the city's construction and development. But due to the hukou barrier, they are excluded from equal opportunities in terms of welfare, education and employment. To protect their interests, the realization of education equality has been forged as a social consensus in recent years, and opening exam opportunities to non-locals in the city where they live has been a necessary measure.
These entangled conflicts of interest when it comes to promoting gaokao reform reflect China's struggles with social reform, which is also an issue bogged down by conflicts of interest. If protecting the interests of advantaged groups is accepted as an excuse to reject reform, then social progress will be impossible.
China's reforms in various fields have been advanced after reconciling varied interests. Some are complaining that the reform process is too slow. This is not because the authorities lack the resolve to reform, but there are so many competing interests.
Allowing students to sit school entrance exams in the city where they live should be promoted without hesitation despite opposition from certain groups.