Wang Xinyi, an 18-year-old girl from a poor family in north China's Hebei Province, was just admitted into the prestigious Peking University after performing incredibly well on this year's national college entrance examination. In a recent article, she thanked poverty for her success. Although growing up in extreme difficulties, "narrows my vision, stabs my self-esteem, and even takes the lives of my loved ones indirectly, I still want to say, thank you, poverty," she wrote. The article quickly went viral, triggering discussions, debates and speculation among the public.
Many people have expressed bewilderment at her gratitude. They argued that Wang did well in the national college entrance exam not because she comes from a poor family but because she has made unremitting efforts to enter an excellent university. There are a lot of people to be thanked, like her parents, teachers, friends, but by no means should poverty be thanked. Especially, at a time when the whole country is working hard to eliminate poverty, it's discouraging to sing its praises.
Others believe that she is not thanking poverty for the misery it has inflicted upon her, but the strong will to fight, optimism and resilience extracted from the battle against it. Still others think the public and media do not fully understand Wang's ideas when she thanks poverty, and should therefore stop the hype and focus instead on delving into her article and her story.
Poverty alleviation unshakable
Zhu Changjun (Guangming Daily): The news of a girl growing up in poverty being admitted into Peking University is really encouraging. However, her Thank you, Poverty article is understandably controversial.
Wang should not be blamed for thanking poverty, but in the public context, her gratitude toward poverty should never be amplified. What the whole society should learn from such strong and successful examples is not to thank poverty, but to see the resilience and hardworking spirit of these young people.
For most people, poverty means setbacks and trauma, and thus it's something that does not deserve gratitude. Surveys on left-behind children living in poverty have long pointed out that poverty does more harm than good. Thus, the effort to push forward social progress means lifting more children out of poverty so that they can compete with their richer peers on a leveled playing field.
What we should focus on is the imbalance of the educational resource distribution across the country, not simply to spin an ordinary inspirational story, although her story is indeed inspiring.
The whole country is now gearing up to eliminate poverty, so we should try to avoid using stories of individuals' struggle against poverty as propaganda, as it may be used to justify poverty and even downplay the urgency of poverty alleviation efforts. Wang's story will help more people to know better about the life and psychology of people living in poverty, and this is part of the value of her story. As for society, the immediate task is to rally social resources to eradicate poverty so that young people like Wang don't need to experience such hardships.
Li Ji (www.hebei.com.cn): Many people commented below the post of Wang's story. The remarks ranged from: "It is you yourself that should be thanked, not poverty," to "It is your courage and optimism in the face of poverty that deserves thanks, rather than poverty," and "Poverty is the last thing that you should thank." Therefore, a large part of society did not agree with the girl on her attitude towards poverty.
So, what should she feel grateful for? First of all, the people around her: her parents, who have endowed her with talent and done so much for her in the past years and will continue to do so in the upcoming years; her relatives and friends who have helped her through difficulties by offering her and her family clothes and other daily necessities; as well as many kind-hearted strangers who have reached out a helping hand.
Of course, she should also thank herself for never giving up under adverse situations, but by no means should she thank poverty. Her grandmother lost her life to cancer. If it had been a rich family, the elderly woman would have stood a good chance of surviving and Wang wouldn't have been so hard hit by the early death of her grandmother.
Wang's article is rife with optimism and self-confidence, but hardship and bitterness brought on by poverty will not disappear just because of her attitude.
Moreover, for most children growing up in poverty—no matter how industrious and hardworking they are—the odds of becoming successful or going to a prestigious university is much lower compared to those who grow up in richer families.
The fact that it went viral online was not the girl's intention, but was due to a large extent to the media's hyping her story to pander to certain readers' interest.
Success based on hardship
Peng Jian (Daily Sunshine): Frankly speaking, I don't think it's right to either exalt or criticize Wang. While thanking poverty, she does not mean to praise poverty. Instead, she is looking in retrospect at the hardships in her life and revealing her true feelings after overcoming all the difficulties. If the article had not been titled Thank you, Poverty, but Thank you, Hardship, much less controversy would have arisen.
Behind the article, there are indeed things worthy of attention or even vigilance. We should be vigilant of poverty itself. It should be eliminated by a well-governed society. Poverty is neither worth praise nor overestimation. We should indeed be wary that poverty will hamper social mobility and entrench people in it. Poverty is an unavoidable social problem. Wang's growing up in a poor family and being admitted into China's top university is something to be celebrated. However, most children from poor families may already have fallen behind at an early age. She is an exception. The severity of poverty will not abate even a little because of this single exception. Of course, we should also be wary of commercial exploitation and exaggeration. It was her privacy decision to write an article thanking poverty, but when it is brought into the spotlight, it is totally another matter.
Xiao Jiang (The Beijing News): We all know that poverty is not conducive to cultivating a person. It does harm to both mental and physical health and even kills people.
Those who manage to get out of poverty depend on their perseverance, frugality and even fortune. They feel grateful that they have not been knocked down by all kinds of hardships stemming from poverty. They regard the hardships and poverty as an invaluable asset and become stronger and braver for the future. Most people living in poverty are unable to rise out of poverty. For those who still live in poverty, they will never thank poverty.
At the current stage, poverty alleviation is still a priority. By no means should poverty be whitewashed. As for Wang, her admission to Peking University deserves congratulations. While thanking poverty, she is actually celebrating the fact that she is able to say goodbye to poverty. She is only 18 years old and still has a lot of things to experience in life. We sincerely hope that she can fight to the end. The public should read her article in a more flexible way, instead of trying to understand such stories from only their own perspective.
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo