Chinese professor's teasing inspires debate on money worship

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Though his words were intended to be encouraging, chances are many students will avoid Professor Dong Fan in the future, especially if their pockets are bare.

Earlier this week Dong, director of the Real Estate Research Center of Beijing Normal University, used his microblog to warn his students "not to visit him again or mention him as their mentor" if they were not worth 40 million yuan (28 million U.S. dollars) by the age of 40.

"Poverty for those with higher education degrees means shame and failure," Dong wrote in his microblog on, a popular Chinese website.

His comments have attracted the attention of thousands of netizens and triggered a heated discussion on the issue of money worship in China's educational system.

In an ongoing survey at, more than 78.8 percent of 124,882 respondents by 3:30 p.m. Thursday said they would not consider their life a failure if they did not earn 40 million yuan. About 44 percent did not view wealth as the only indicator of success and 26 percent totally disagreed with Dong's remarks.

While many disagreed with Dong's money-oriented remarks, others found his words down-to-earth.

"It's cruel but true. What's the use of higher education if not to create wealth and seek fortune for your loved ones?" wrote netizen "dengdaiaiqingdesiren."

Netizen "chaney" asked, "What's wrong with encouraging people to make a fortune?"

According to figures from, a popular Chinese job-hunting website, the average monthly income for a recent graduate in China was 2,321 yuan and post-graduate degree-earners took in a monthly average of 3,254 yuan in 2010.

A separate survey done among 5,866 enterprises, also conducted by, showed that people working in real estate in China had average annual earnings of 66,700 yuan, making it the second highest-paid profession on the list.

In response to doubts and criticism, Dong took to his microblog on Wednesday to clarify that his "teasing" words only served to encourage his students to work hard upon entering the business world and that his message did not apply to all occupations.

"Forty million yuan won't be a high standard for a senior manager or proprietor with a postgraduate degree whey my students turn 40," Dong wrote, adding that his remarks were about money and investments in the real estate field, not a comment on morality.

"It's not necessarily worldly to talk about money just as it's not always chaste to talk about art," Dong added on Thursday.

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