© 2015

Competition and Compassion in Chinese Secondary Education

  • Authors

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xx
  2. Introduction: The Stressed and Lonely Chinese Teens

  3. Part I

  4. Part II

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 95-95
    2. Robert L. Selman
      Pages 97-115
    3. Robert L. Selman, Helen Haste
      Pages 117-138
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 151-192

About this book


Competition and Compassion in Chinese Secondary Education examines the nature of academic competition in Chinese schools and documents its debilitating effects on Chinese adolescents' social, moral, and civic development.


development education emotion

About the authors

Robert L. Selman, Harvard Medical School, USA Helen Haste, Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA

Bibliographic information


"China's 'success' on international benchmarks has generated a wave of stereotypes, distortions, and mythologies. This important book is an unprecedented picture of the complex emotional and educational lives of Chinese adolescents. It is, in Xu Zhao's words, a "soul-searching" study - for the author, for these young people, and, indeed, for China." - Allan Luke, Professor Emeritus, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

"Xu Zhao delivers a comprehensive and critical analysis of the policies and teaching, learning, and parenting practices that perpetuate a hyper-focus on academic achievement in Chinese schools. Her ground-breaking research opens a window for readers to appreciate the contextual influences in China that have historically fueled the focus on competitive academic success. Posing hard questions about the costs of academic achievement at the expense of social integration, Zhao offers practical suggestions for achieving the balance between these two critical aspects of adolescent development." - Nancy Arthur, Professor, Associate Dean Research, Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada

"This hugely important book carries a message to China and the world: balancing compassion and competition in schools is necessary to build trust in Chinese civil society and foster cooperative international relations. China's meteoric economic rise is impressive. Yet success does not come without costs. Focusing on education and youth from an empirical psychological perspective, Zhao challenges the success narrative through splendid analysis of escalating competition in schools in the post-Mao era and suggests a sound resolution to the current predicament." - Johan Lagerkvist, Professor of Chinese Language and Culture, Stockholm University, Sweden and author of Tiananmen Redux: The Hard Truth about the Expanded Neoliberal World Order (2015)

"In examining the twin poles of competition and compassion among Chinese youth, Zhao creates a moving narrative linking human development to societal development. Based on years of research with hundreds of Chinese youth, Zhao shows a disturbing developmental change between younger and older adolescents, in which competition and survival gradually overwhelm compassion, empathy, and prosocial moral values in the pursuit of educational success. This book is a landmark achievement in the study of China as well as the study of adolescence." - Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Courtney Sale Ross Professor of Globalization and Education, New York University, USA