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Plagiarism in China - an Academic Concern

Overseas Chinese students are paying for ghostwritten essays at unprecedented levels, but the jig might be up

By Zhang Yiqian Source:Global Times

Plagiarism is so prevalent in China that students face culture shock when studying overseas

Many Chinese students studying abroad pay ghostwriting agencies for essays due to language difficulties and a fear of failing classes

As the number of Chinese students abroad continues to rise, so do the number of such illegal services 

Ghostwriting and plagiarism are commonplace in Chinese universities, but foreign academia is finally cracking down on the phenomenon

Plagiarism in China

Many Chinese students studying abroad pay vast sums of money for ghostwriting services. Photos: IC, screenshot of a ghostwriting agency's official page

Every day, hundreds of thousands of messages advertising ghostwriting agencies are sent out across Chinese social media platforms.

"Our professional ghostwriting agency provides all sorts of essays: speeches, work summaries, professional movie critiques, fiction, self-introductions. We also provide ghostwriting for English essays, assignments, reports, papers, contact us!" reads one advertisement in a WeChat group.

Searches on the Internet pull up similar results: "Original ghostwriting essays," "Successful Ghostwriting," "Ghostwriting homework for students studying abroad," and "Ghostwriting love letters" are just some of the top results.

Ghostwriting has existed in China for many years. The Chinese government once issued some policies trying to stem the problem, without succeeding. Chinese students studying abroad are also using these "resources" for their English-language academic papers. And as their numbers increase, the issue becomes even more serious. 

According to data from China's Ministry of Education, in 2016 about 540,000 Chinese students attended overseas schools, an increase of 36 percent from 2012. Out of that number, 78 percent went to native English-speaking countries such as the US, UK and Australia. 

Different from in China, where academic rules are more relaxed and often unenforced, when Chinese students who are enrolled in foreign schools are caught using ghostwriters, they face severe punishments including expulsion.

A fear of flunking

Many Chinese students use such services because they feel they have no other choice. Aileen, a Chinese college student in the UK, told the Southern Weekly that she was afraid of not getting her diploma, so she turned to ghostwriting services to write all her papers, spending hundreds of thousands of yuan in the process.

Aileen majored in management and wanted a master's degree in the same field. The education agency she applied through suggested she major in International Developmental Management. She did not carefully read the details of this major, and by the time she started school in the UK she realized it was far different from what she had expected.

The course required heavy policy research, which she felt she could not handle. During her first semester, Aileen found herself a relatively affordable ghostwriting agency, but still ended up failing four of her classes.

During her second semester, Aileen spent an additional 80,000 yuan ($12,193) to buy more ghost-written essays. She had to ask her parents for money without telling them what it was being spent on. 

Even though all those papers received passing marks, she herself still failed her final exams. On the verge of flunking out of school, instead of simply studying, Aileen became even more dependent on ghostwriting agencies, believing that if she could just find herself the most expensive and most dependable agent, she'd be able to graduate.

According to Whole Ren Education, a private research center, in 2014 about 8,000 Chinese students were kicked out of American universities due to cheating or plagiarism. 

On Chinese question and answer site Zhihu (China's version of Quora), many students admitted anonymously that they have used such services out of a fear of flunking and not graduating. Many also blamed the language barrier or the way foreign universities conduct their courses, which is far different than at Chinese universities. 

"What's the point of education? I think over 90 percent of my classmates just want to get a good job and have a better future," one student wrote. "So is studying hard really the way to get there?"

Another student contacted by Southern Weekly said he tries to write his college papers himself, but seeing his peers achieve excellent grades through ghostwriting agencies, even though they spend all their free time partying and drinking alcohol, makes him feel that life is unfair.

"I don't know how long I can last," he told the Southern Weekly. "Maybe I'll find a ghostwriter for my next paper."

Carefully woven net 

Spurred by the massive demand, ghostwriting agencies for Chinese students have existed for decades, with those who pay for them being directly responsible for their continued existence. 

Agents usually advertise their ghostwriting services on WeChat and QQ groups, as well as Internet forums where overseas Chinese students congregate. Once the agent receives a query from a student, the agent emails their ghostwriter the request and specific instructions, and the writer gets to work.

Most ghostwriters are paid 300-400 yuan per 1000 words, but the essays must receive a passing score in order for the ghostwriter to receive payment. Wu Wenhao, an agent in his early 20s, told the Southern Weekly that he has a "good reputation" and endless clients, who usually pass. "I earn nearly 100,000 yuan per month," he bragged. 

Wang Hong (pseudonym) worked as a ghostwriter a few years ago while she herself was still in college. She was approached by an agent who asked if she would like to "make a few extra bucks" by writing essays for her fellow students.

Wang showed a list of all the paid essays she has ever written to the Global Times, which covered a wide range of topics, from finance and linguistics to history and literary studies. Some were just simple freshman-year essays, such as book reviews. The Global Times asked Wang why the students could not handle such simple assignments.

"They probably didn't want to bother to read the book," Wang shrugged.

For more difficult topics, Wang spent more time on research and citing multiple sources. But in her opinion, the work was always quite easy, and so was the money. Nonetheless, after just a couple of years, Wang quit ghostwriting. "It was a way to make some money during my school days," she said. "But I have found more noble ways to earn a living now."

Dim future

The booming ghostwriting business might be over soon, as many foreign schools have finally begun to crackdown on the problem. In January of 2017, after British media reported on the use of ghostwriters among overseas Chinese students, the UK government outlawed ghostwriting academic papers, with stiff punishments for offenders.

For many Chinese students, however, they don't understand the severe consequences of plagiarism. In China, the phenomenon is so unhinged that it has become a prevalent  part of campus life.

In 2013, China's Ministry of Education released a policy saying if dissertations are counterfeited, the author will be warned, disqualified from teaching or even fired. However, the phenomenon still went on as usual.

Wang, the former ghostwriter, confirmed this to the Global Times. "Once I wrote a doctoral dissertation for an associate professor of a Chinese university," she admitted.

At foreign universities, "contract cheating" and "plagiarism" are subject to academic punishment. UK's Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAAHE) released new guidelines this year saying it will crack down on companies offering such services and punish students who purchase them.

The QAAHE also said it now has software that can determine whether a paper has been plagiarized or ghostwritten.

In the US, plagiarism violates the ethics standards of most universities; violators face failing grades and expulsion. But this is no guarantee that the phenomenon can be completely stopped. Analysts say that to rid this issue from the root, good moral values must be instilled in Chinese students early on.

Southern Weekly contributed to the story



Paul Manafort - Ghostwriter for Russia

New Email Shows Paul Manafort’s Heavy Hand on Ghost-Written Ukraine Op-Ed

A redlined draft shows Manafort excised entire paragraphs, including one that mentioned he “had an ear of the president on a more regular basis than even some of his ministers.”

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort didn’t just ghostwrite portions of a controversial op-ed about himself, he also excised details about his work for the former Russia-aligned president of Ukraine that he felt “would not be good to mention,” according to email from Manafort that was unsealed in a court document on Monday.
The op-ed was intended to appear under the byline of Oleg Voloshin, a former spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign affairs ministry. Last week special counsel Robert Mueller argued that Manafort had substantially authored or re-written portions of the piece, and had therefore violated a gag order in his criminal case. Manafort denied the charge.
The newly-unsealed e-mail chain is between Manafort and Konstan Kilimnik, who sent Manafort the op-ed draft for review and comment. Kilimnik is longtime associate of Manafort who worked with him to support pro-Russia political figures in Ukraine.
“I have attached a framework for the op-ed in the Kyiv Post for Oleg,” Manafort wrote back on November 29.  “It keeps his approach but takes out pieces that would not be good to mention.”
“You will notice that I left several areas where you need to insert points,” Manafort added. “I am available to talk either tonight or in the morning.”
A red-lined draft attached to the e-mail shows Manafort excised entire paragraphs, including one that mentioned he “had an ear of the president on a more regular basis than even some his ministers.” The “president” in this case is former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who Manafort served as a political consultant before Yanukovych was ousted over corruption and policies friendly to Moscow.



Ghostwriter Hanaba Welch

Ghostwriting the biography of ghostly Michele

By Times Record News, Wichita

Hanada Welch ghostwriter

Ghostwriter. That’s my new name for myself.

The ghost’s name is Michele.

Yes, I know a normal ghostwriter is someone who stays in the shadows and writes stuff for someone else. I’m not normal.

For my kind of ghostwriting, I think it helps not to be weighted down with normality. Not unless you take a scholarly approach. My opinion. But I’m just getting into this genre.

Who was Michele? Oops. Wrong tense. Who IS Michele? Like I said, I’m new to this.

Michele, a teenager, lived in the 1860s in a three-story mansion in New Orleans’ Vieux Carre. We can assume she was attractive. Her parents were appalled that she flirted with Yankee soldiers camped in the street. Maman and Papa grounded her. Distraught, she jumped to her death. That’s the legend.


I first heard about Michele in 2002 when I spent a few nights in the above-described mansion as a guest of longtime friends Bob and Jan Carr. I’d been Bob’s secretary back when secretaries took memos on steno pads, not that I knew shorthand. I just wrote fast. This year, via email, I helped him edit his latest book, “The Packard Limousine:  A Boy’s Journey Through the Great Depression.” (Yes, I’m plugging it.) When Bob’s 90th birthday coincided with this month’s release of the book, my husband, Hugh, and I accepted an invitation to the party. Hugh’s responsibilities, cows included, necessitated his return to Texas afterward. I lingered, joined in New Orleans by my Arkansas friend Beverly. She and I lunched with Bob and Jan, who now live uptown but have a drawing of their old mansion hanging in their parlor. Beverly was intrigued. After lunch we went to see the place.

At Michele’s haunt, Beverly (identified above if you skipped it) posed vivaciously on the column-flanked porch, barley making it off before the current owner emerged. We introduced ourselves, dropping the names of Bob and Jan, who’d sold the house to his family. We gave him a copy of Bob’s new book. We mentioned Michele. He invited us to return the next day to swap stories.

Armed with croissants and one Danish, we arrived at mid-morning for the visit. The current living residents didn’t disappoint us; rather, they added to the list of Michele sightings and things going bump in the night.

I’d say more but I’d rather you buy the book – either my book about Michele, if I write one, or the book Bob has already started, “Wholly Ghost.” Maybe we’ll be co-ghostwriters. 

Meanwhile, Beverly and I are now Alabamy-bound to visit a college friend. Last night in Mississippi, Beverly mistakenly tried to open the wrong door at our motel. Oddly, the card worked. The room was empty. That door shut by itself while we were using the same card to get into our assigned room. When our door opened, we found the TV on, all lights on and bedcovers askew.

Michele was there ahead of us!

We got a different room.


Hanaba Munn Welch, a correspondent for the Times Record News who divides her time between Abilene and a farm north of Vernon, appears on Mondays. Her columns, as a tribute to the Childress Engine 501, always contain, amazingly, 501 words.