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Consumerism Hits Colleges in China
When Chinese parents remit money to their children at colleges or universities, they mainly think of their expenses for food, but the children, like Zhang Chuan at Shandong Economics Institute, would say there are many things they love to buy.

Each month, Zhang, a 21-year-old girl student of international trade, receives a sum of 400 yuan (nearly US$50) from her parents, but she says the amount can only cover her food and, if anything is left, books.

However, mobile phone communication, weekend travels, birthday parties of friends, hair dyeing, fashionable clothes and keeping up with pop music and movies have all become "musts" for her.

Zhang has found two part-time jobs as a tutor outside school, which she says gives her enough money to cover her extra expenses.

"Society is developing and our life is so varied and colorful," Zhang says. "I feel that if I don't have all these things, I might not keep up with the development trends of society."

A survey involving 3,000 students at five universities in east China's Shandong Province showed that college students' consumption is changing.

According to the survey, conducted by the Sociology Department of prestigious Shandong University recently, the college students' spending on food and basic clothing currently accounts for only around 60 percent of their total expenses, falling about 20 percent from 2001.

The decrease is balanced by students' expenditure on communication charges of telephones and mobile phones, books and magazines, computers, movies, travel and training in gymnasiums.

Many college students have taken on part-time jobs, like Zhang, to cover various expenses, says Ni Anru, an associate professor of sociology at Shandong University.

According to the survey, over 25.7 percent of college students from needy families take part-time jobs, mostly as tutors, cleaners, salespeople and typists.

Another 35 percent from needy families cover their expenses with the money they get from scholarships, the survey shows.

Zhang Xiaonan, 21, a boy student at Shandong Teachers University from a needy family in central Henan province, receivesa scholarship of 4,000 yuan (less than US$500) every year. He also covers his expenses from the royalties he gets for his published articles.

Though students spending less than 300 yuan (US$36) and 600 yuan (US$72) a month constitute a major part of the surveyed students, 39.7 percent and 53.5 percent respectively, the survey also shows that some six percent spend more than 900 yuan (US$108) a month, with the highest at 1,450 yuan (US$175).

Over 15.2 percent of surveyed students have PCs and mobile phones and over 18.3 percent have pagers, according to the survey.

While noting that the change of college students' spending habits on one side reflects they are more aware of seeking social ethical and cultural enjoyment, Ni also warns that students should focus mainly on their studies and their expenses should not exceed what they can afford.

"Following others in consumption is not wise, especially for those students who still have no stable source of income."

(Xinhua News Agency May 30, 2003)

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