• Valve’s gaming handheld is called the Steam Deck and it’s shipping in December
    STEAM Initiative

    Valve’s gaming handheld is called the Steam Deck and it’s shipping in December

    Valve just announced the Steam Deck, its long-rumored Switch-like handheld gaming device. It will begin shipping in December and reservations open July 16th at 1PM ET. It starts at $399, and you can buy it in $529 and $649 models as well.

    The device has an AMD APU containing a quad-core Zen 2 CPU with eight threads and eight compute units’ worth of AMD RDNA 2 graphics, alongside 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM. There are three different storage tiers: 64GB eMMC storage for $399, 256GB NVMe SSD storage for $529, and 512GB of high-speed NVME SSD storage for $649, according to Valve. You can also expand the available storage using the high-speed microSD card slot.


    The Steam Deck.
    Image: Valve

    The Steam Deck has a huge number of control options. There are two thumbsticks, but also two small, Steam Controller-style trackpads beneath the thumbsticks, which could give you more precision for things like first-person shooters. The front of the Steam Deck also has ABXY buttons, a D-pad, and a 7-inch 1280 x 800 touchscreen for 720p gameplay. The device also has a gyroscope for motion controls. Like the Switch, it has two shoulder triggers on each side, and there are four back buttons (two on each side) as well as built-in microphones.

    Here’s a legend to all of the Deck’s ports and controls:

    The Steam Deck’s external hardware features.
    Image: Valve

    As for the battery, “Steam Deck’s onboard 40 watt-hour battery provides several hours of play time for most games,” Valve says. “For lighter use cases like game streaming, smaller 2D games, or web browsing, you can expect to get the maximum battery life of approximately 7-8 hours.” Valve tells IGN that “You can play Portal 2 for four hours on this thing. If you limit it to 30 FPS, you’re going to be playing for 5-6 hours.”

    And if you need to pause your game, the Steam Deck offers a quick suspend / resume feature built into SteamOS that will let you put the device into sleep mode and pick up where you left off later.

    Valve will also sell a dock you can use to prop up a Steam Deck and plug it into external displays like a TV. You won’t need a dock to plug it into a TV, though — Valve says that the “Deck can be plugged in to your TV, monitor, or even your old CRT if you have the right cables.” The Deck comes with fully-fledged USB-C ports that contain HDMI, Ethernet and USB data, as well as standard Bluetooth. You’ll have native Bluetooth audio, something that’s missing from the Nintendo Switch.

    On the software side of things, the Steam Deck runs what Valve is calling “a new version of SteamOS,” that it’s optimized for the handheld’s mobile form factor. But the actual OS is based on Linux, and will use Proton as a compatibility layer to allow Windows-based games to run without requiring that developers specifically port them for the Steam Deck.

    A rear view of the device showing off its four grip buttons, triggers, bumpers, vents and Switch-esque design.
    Image: Valve

    Ultimately, though, the Steam Deck is still a full-fledged Linux computer, meaning that more technical users will be able to jump out to the regular Linux desktop, too. Valve notes that you’ll be able to plug in a mouse, keyboard, and monitor, and install other game stores, regular PC software, browse the web, and more.

    Valve says the Steam Deck’s features are designed to emulate the regular Steam app on desktop, complete with chat, notifications, cloud save support, and all of your library, collections, and favorites kept in sync. And if you want more power, you’ll be able to stream games to the Steam Deck directly from your gaming PC using Valve’s Remote Play feature.

    When reservations for all three versions open on Friday afternoon, they’ll initially be available only to accounts with purchases on Steam before June 2021, in a bid to keep reseller bots at bay. There’s also a refundable $5 reservation fee, and one reservation per person. Your reservation isn’t exactly a preorder, but it does put you in line to preorder the system once there’s inventory available.

    In December, the first units will be available in the United States, Canada, the European Union, and the United Kingdom, with other areas following in 2022. The preorder invitations are supposed to go out before December, and if you miss your window on the invite, your reservation fee will be refunded to your Steam Wallet.

    IGN got an early, exclusive hands-on with the Steam Deck, which you can watch below:

    IGN also got an interview with Valve’s Gabe Newell, who said that Valve designed the whole system with “very aggressive” pricing in mind, calling it a “critical” and “painful” aspect of development. That’s a different strategy than Valve took with the Valve Index VR headset, when it intentionally tried to push the industry forward with what was then the most expensive consumer-grade VR experience, at $999. Here, a $400 entry-level Steam Deck comes in just $50 more expensive than Nintendo’s new OLED-equipped Switch, which goes on preorder for $350 today and ships October 8th. (Valve swooped in on that.)

    Valve’s Greg Coomer told IGN that should the Steam Deck succeed, the company’s already thinking about future models, and offering the “building blocks” to other manufacturers as well. “We look at this as just a new category of device in the PC space,” he said. That might bring back echoes of Valve’s failed Steam Machines initiative, in which it tried to encourage partners to build desirable Linux gaming desktops, but with key differences.

    This time, Valve has created its own hardware first, it doesn’t need to sell every game developer on Linux ports, and this “category” of PC already exists to some degree: we’ve written about how Windows portables have been edging closer to the dream of a Nintendo Switch-like gaming PC.

  • Middle East Gaming Market Report 2021: Adoption of e-Sports Betting and Fantasy Sites Drives the Market – Forecasts to 2026
    3D Game Development

    Middle East Gaming Market Report 2021: Adoption of e-Sports Betting and Fantasy Sites Drives the Market – Forecasts to 2026

    DUBLIN, August 11, 2021–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The “Middle East Gaming Market – Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2021 – 2026)” report has been added to ResearchAndMarkets.com’s offering.

    The Middle East Gaming Market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.1% during the forecast period 2021-2026.

    With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, the gaming market in the region is expected to witness significant growth, owing to an increased usage of online gaming services. Various gaming vendors in the market studied are expected to focus on increasing their user base during this period and surging returns post COVID-19 scenarios, owing to which vendors are offering benefits, offers, and waiving off their fees on the use of their services.

    The gaming industry is proliferating in the United Arab Emirates, with rising interest and investment in locally developing homegrown talent and games. In terms of spending, it is a very diverse region. It is expected that the average gamer in the country spends USD 115 per year.

    Additionally, the growing penetration of smartphones and online gaming is a key factor driving the growth of the market. The growing development of AR-based apps and games is expected t create market opportunities over the forecast period.

    The government of the country is also heavily investing billions of dollars in theme parks and the amusement space. So, as a Saudi entertainment industry stakeholder, trade visitors can attend dedicated conferences to gain knowledge and wealth of experience and get a hands-on technology experience at its innovative best.

    Saudi Arabia set up a new charity e-sports event to raise money to fight the COVID-19 outbreak with a USD 10 million prize fund. The competition comes as the COVID-19 outbreak keeps people at home, shuts down businesses, and restricts travel to a minimum. This may unite and connect the global gaming community in response to COVID-19. With around 70% of the country’s population under 30 years and approximately 20 million gamers or gaming enthusiasts, the market is expected to witness growth over the forecast period.

    Key Market Trends

    Smartphones is Expected to Hold the Significant Market Share

    • Smartphone gaming has increased in the past couple of years. In UAE, mobile gamers play an average of 20 to 40 minutes of video games a day (source: AdColony). This increasing demand for mobile games is a direct result of various technological advancements such as AR, VR, cloud gaming, 5G. This trend is not surprising considering the mobile game industry primarily relies on new technology. Another trend in the market includes the rise of the hyper-casual game genre.

    • AR is becoming perfect for mobile gaming, owing to its immersive and interactive nature of technology. Moreover, mobile games are the most popular AR category in app stores. Apart from previously released AR mobile games that are still popular, such as Pokemon Go and Ingress, multiple new additions to the genre are being made by players in the market such as Harry Potter: Wizards Unite and Minecraft Earth.

    • In August 2020, OPPO, a global smartphone brand, partnered with Dubai Summer Surprises to create a gaming extravaganza for the youth. The challenge was developed to engage gamers in the country with a uniquely designed, socially distant gaming arena at Mall of the Emirates.

    • Dubai Media City also announced that it will launch a new Instagram Live series called GAME_ON, in collaboration with ON.DXB, which will feature regular video game development workshops. Al-Natsheh’s workshop will comprise 3D modeling, rigging, animation, sound engineering, VR, and tips for developers in the United Arab Emirates to further their careers.

    Adoption of E-Sports Betting and Fantasy Sites Drives the Market

    • E-sports are witnessing substantial market demand in the current market scenario, and they are, thus, driving the overall gaming industry across the middle east. The entire e-sports market is expected to grow over the coming years.

    • Working with the Saudi Telecom Company, Activision introduced dedicated servers – hosted in Riyadh and Jeddah – for Call of Duty in the region. Moreover, Riot Games, the company behind League of Legends, followed suit with Middle East servers for the game Valorant, in October 2020.

    • More recently, Kuwaiti telecoms provider Zain Group – which has 50 million customers across MENA – launched a new eSports brand, Zain Esports, with the aim of building a calendar of regional online eSports tournaments.

    • As part of this growth, Dubai plans to build a dedicated eSports stadium, and the South Korean-based International Esports Federation (IESF) signed an MoU with the UAE’s Motivate Media Group, as part of their plans to expand eSports in the Middle East.

    Competitive Landscape

    The Middle East Gaming market is moderately competitive and consists of a significant number of global and regional players. These players account for a considerable share in the market and focus on expanding their client base across the globe. These players focus on the research and development activities, strategic alliances, and other organic & inorganic growth strategies to stay in the market landscape over the forecast period.

    Key Topics Covered:

    1 INTRODUCTION

    2 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

    3 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

    4 MARKET DYNAMICS

    4.1 Market Overview

    4.2 Assessment of COVID-19 Impact on the Gaming Industry

    4.3 Market Drivers

    4.3.1 Presence of young & millennial consumers

    4.3.2 Adoption of Gaming Platforms, such as E-sports Betting and Fantasy Sites

    4.4 Market Challenges

    4.4.1 Issues, like Piracy, Laws and Regulations, and Concerns Relating to Fraud During Gaming Transactions

    4.5 Porters Five Force Analysis

    4.6 Industry Ecosystem Analysis – Game Publishers, Technology & Network enablers, Customers & Stakeholders

    5 CLOUD GAMING LANDSCAPE IN MIDDLE EAST

    5.1 Current market scenario

    5.2 Analysis of Addressable Market for Cloud Gaming in Middle East

    5.3 Major Cloud Gaming stakeholders in Middle East

    5.3.1 Etisalat

    5.3.2 PlayPod

    5.3.3 PlayKey

    5.3.4 Nvidia (GeForce)

    5.3.5 Google Stadia

    5.4 Assessment of the major factors expected to influence the adoption of Cloud Gaming Market in Turkey

    5.5 Market Outlook

    6 MARKET SEGMENTATION

    6.1 By Platform

    6.1.1 Browser PC

    6.1.2 Smartphone

    6.1.3 Tablets

    6.1.4 Gaming Console

    6.1.5 Downloaded/Box PC

    6.2 By Country

    6.2.1 United Arab Emirates

    6.2.2 Saudi Arabia

    6.2.3 Turkey

    6.2.4 Iran

    6.2.5 Kuwait

    6.2.6 Rest of the Middle East

    7 COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE

    7.1 Company Profiles

    7.1.1 Sony Corporation

    7.1.2 Microsoft Corporation

    7.1.3 Apple Inc.

    7.1.4 Google LLC (Alphabet Inc.)

    7.1.5 Electronic Arts Inc.

    7.1.6 NetEase Inc.

    8 INVESTMENT ANALYSIS

    9 FUTURE OF THE MARKET

    For more information about this report visit https://www.researchandmarkets.com/r/aom1k2

    View source version on businesswire.com: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210811005456/en/

    Contacts

    ResearchAndMarkets.com
    Laura Wood, Senior Press Manager
    [email protected]
    For E.S.T Office Hours Call 1-917-300-0470
    For U.S./CAN Toll Free Call 1-800-526-8630
    For GMT Office Hours Call +353-1-416-8900

  • why Xi is cracking down on video gaming and private tutors
    Personal Tutoring

    why Xi is cracking down on video gaming and private tutors

    The additional lessons Wang Gang bought to help his only child prepare for China’s rigorous university exam, or gaokao, were not cheap. In addition to group courses from a private education company, he also paid Rmb6,000 (€790) for his daughter to take one-on-one maths and physics sessions with a retired teacher over the month-long winter school break.

    “We are just an ordinary family but we cannot have any regrets when it comes to our daughter’s education,” says Wang, who lives in Baoding, an industrial centre in central Hebei province. “Every point counts in the gaokao. It’s just too important. It will basically decide her life and career.”

    Late last month, however, the Chinese government declared that parents like Wang were piling too much work on their children. In a shock decree that rocked the country’s stock markets and the share prices of Chinese education companies listed in New York, President Xi Jinping’s administration announced strict new curbs on tutoring companies that drastically reshape an industry worth more than €80 billion a year in sales.

    Last week it appeared that Xi’s nanny state was targeting another lucrative industry – video gaming, which China’s president has previously criticised for increasing “the incidence of myopia among students”.

    On Tuesday last a state newspaper published a commentary that criticised online video games as “spiritual opium”. The term is a particularly loaded one for the Chinese Communist party, whose history emphasises the “century of humiliation” that began with China’s defeat by the British empire in the first Opium war of 1839-42 and ended with the party’s revolutionary victory in 1949.

    Even in the absence of any new regulations like those targeting education companies a week earlier, shares in Tencent, China’s largest online gaming provider, fell almost 11 per cent.

    The tutoring and video game controversies provide a window on to the mounting stresses and strains of middle-class life in China’s big cities. To outsiders, the world’s second largest economy can often seem relentless, immune to even the worst pandemic in a century and notching persistently large increases in consumer spending as prosperity spreads rapidly across society.

    But for many residents of its larger cities, their lives have become riddled with anxieties that belie the broader sense of progress – from seemingly unattainable home prices to the hothouse pressure of securing the best education for their children and coveted places at leading universities.

    Ambitious parent

    And in the background there is the fear that nags at almost every ambitious parent – the possibility that their children will grow tired of the race and seek refuge in the world of video games and the internet, which Xi has railed against for harbouring so many “dirty things”.

    Rattled by parental angst, the party’s response has been to adopt the tactics of a nanny state, potentially reversing elements of the compact it has established with urban residents over the past four decades to steadily reduce its interference in their private lives.

    “It is parents’ anxiety that is driving the proliferation of after-school tutoring,” says Christina Zhu, an economist at Moody’s Analytics in Singapore. “That anxiety stems from uneven school quality, intense competition and possibly even a lack of confidence in the social security system.”

    At stake, Xi appears to believe, is the party’s ability to maintain unchallenged political control, which ultimately depends on its capacity to meet what the president has termed “the people’s demand for a happier life”.

    In 2011, when he was still vice-president, Xi told his then US counterpart, Joe Biden, that the Arab spring that was rolling across north Africa and the Middle East had erupted because governments had lost touch with their people, according to two American diplomats familiar with the exchange.

    At the 18th party congress in November 2012 that marked the beginning of his first term in power, Xi acknowledged the people’s aspirations for “better education, more stable jobs, higher incomes, more reliable social security and higher standard healthcare, more comfortable living conditions and a cleaner environment”.

    Xi and the party have now demonstrated that in order to deliver they are willing to upend entire industries and intrude into deeply personal aspects of people’s lives, such as how to educate and raise their children. Shortly after Xi criticised video games in 2018 for harming kids’ eyesight, the education ministry recommended that children should have no more than one hour of non-educational screen time each day.

    “Xi has made it clear that he intends every policy area to be subject to the leadership of the party,” says Steve Tsang, director of the Soas China Institute in London.

    Investors

    Over recent weeks Xi’s administration has demonstrated that it is not too concerned about the collateral damage investors may suffer as the party extends its reach into new areas.

    “Beijing will not hesitate to completely overhaul an entire business environment if it deems it politically necessary,” says Chen Long at Plenum, a Beijing-based consultancy. “All sectors related to providing public goods traditionally viewed as not-for-profit will face greater risks.”

    Xi had foreshadowed the move against China’s booming tutoring industry in March when he told a group of educators that the sector was “a stubborn disease that is difficult to manage”.

    “Parents want their children to be physically and mentally healthy and have happy childhoods,” the president added. “On the other hand, they are afraid their children will lose before they even reach the starting line…This problem must be solved. Education should not be too focused on scores.”

    Ironically, says Zhu at Moody’s, some of the biggest economic victims of Xi’s crackdown on education will be recent university graduates, whose average monthly salary last year was just Rmb5,290 (€700), according to Zhilian Zhaopin, a Chinese online hiring platform.

    “The private tutoring sector provides millions of jobs,” she says. “The entire education sector accounted for 17 per cent of employment for recent graduates in 2020, the highest among all industries.”

    For most recent graduates, buying a flat in China’s most desirable cities is out of the question. According to EJ Real Estate, a property research institute, last year the average annual home price to income ratio was 40 in Shenzhen, the high-tech hub bordering Hong Kong, 26 in Shanghai and 24 in Beijing.

    Cities with ratios of 10 or lower are generally experiencing population outflows and offer little in the way of attractive employment opportunities.

    Lianjia Beike, a housing agency, estimates that new graduates now spend more than 40 per cent of their income on rent.

    Lie flat

    In addition to worrying that some children are doing too much as they prepare for the looming pressures of Chinese urban life, officials and parents also fret about an entirely different phenomenon whereby young people react to mounting social stresses by choosing to tang ping – or lie flat– and withdraw from the world.

    Another concept that has caught on this year in China is “involution”, an anthropological term used to describe a process by which some societies fail to realise their maximum economic potential. In Chinese the term is translated as nei juan, meaning to curl or turn inwards.

    Che Rui, a Beijing parent, signed his daughter up for supplemental Chinese maths and English classes offered by some of the country’s largest tutoring firms a few years ago, as she moved from kindergarten to elementary school. He welcomes the government’s crackdown on the sector – but also still worries about how to keep his daughter active and motivated outside school.

    “The tutoring companies were deliberately creating anxiety,” says Che, who noted that education providers were continuing to bombard him with sales messages even after the government’s broadside against the industry last month. “All discounts and benefits will expire at midnight,” one sales agent warned him over WeChat, the messaging app, if he didn’t rush to sign his daughter up for additional course offerings. “I hope you don’t regret it.”

    Che says he is considering signing up his daughter for swimming, music and other recreational lessons, which are still officially encouraged by the government. “I don’t want her to turn inward,” he adds.

    Many analysts and parents, however, believe that Xi is addressing the symptoms rather than the disease – the gaokao system itself.

    Wang, the father who arranged winter-break cram sessions for his teenage daughter in Baoding, says that “even if there had been a ban, I would still have gone around it by hiring a private tutor”.

    The Rmb6,000 he spent on a private tutor during that brief period is equivalent to about 40 per cent of his household’s monthly income, and almost one-quarter of the city’s average annual per capita disposable income of Rmb25,200.

    “If you don’t let your child study on holidays, other parents with more resources will and your child will be left behind. Imposing a simple solution on a complex problem doesn’t work,” he adds. “It just shuts the door for ordinary families.”

    Anxiety

    Another much wealthier Chinese father, who has two teenage children and asked not to be named, says “some parents may cheer the crackdown, but the problem lies with the gaokao and the university entrance system”.

    “The anxiety is not going away because it’s not like you’re not in the race any more,” says the father, who went to university in the US and is also educating his children outside China. “Are you rich enough and have connections to do one-on-one tutoring? Online education was the starting point for average people. Their anxiety will come back very soon unless the government completely reforms the education system.

    “Look at South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, ” he adds. “When is tutoring ever going to go away in Asian cultures?” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021

  • China’s nanny state: why Xi is cracking down on gaming and private tutors
    Personal Tutoring

    China’s nanny state: why Xi is cracking down on gaming and private tutors

    The additional lessons Wang Gang bought to help his only child prepare for China’s rigorous university exam, or gaokao, were not cheap. In addition to group courses from a private education company, he also paid Rmb6,000 ($927) for his daughter to take one-on-one maths and physics sessions with a retired teacher over the month-long winter school break.

    “We are just an ordinary family but we cannot have any regrets when it comes to our daughter’s education,” says Wang, who lives in Baoding, an industrial centre in central Hebei province. “Every point counts in the gaokao. It’s just too important. It will basically decide her life and career.”

    Late last month, however, the Chinese government declared that parents like Wang were piling too much work on their children. In a shock decree that rocked the country’s stock markets and the share prices of Chinese education companies listed in New York, President Xi Jinping’s administration announced strict new curbs on tutoring companies that drastically reshape an industry worth more than $100bn a year in sales.

    The tutoring business in numbers

    16.6%

    Percentage of all educational expenses that is spent on tutoring by families in rural areas, according to a 2017 Peking University study

    44.2%

    Percentage of all educational expenses that is spent on tutors in China’s first-tier cities, according to the same study

    30%

    Average annual growth of the private tutoring market in 2017-19, reaching a total of Rmb800bn in sales

    This week it appeared that Xi’s nanny state was targeting another lucrative industry — video gaming, which China’s president has previously criticised for increasing “the incidence of myopia among students”.

    On Tuesday a state newspaper published a commentary that criticised online video games as “spiritual opium”. The term is a particularly loaded one for the Chinese Communist party, whose history emphasises the “century of humiliation” that began with China’s defeat by the British empire in the first Opium war of 1839-42 and ended with the party’s revolutionary victory in 1949. Even in the absence of any new regulations like those targeting education companies a week earlier, shares in Tencent, China’s largest online gaming provider, fell almost 11 per cent.

    The tutoring and video game controversies provide a window on to the mounting stresses and strains of middle-class life in China’s big cities. To outsiders, the world’s second-largest economy can often seem relentless, immune to even the worst pandemic in a century and notching persistently large increases in consumer spending as prosperity spreads rapidly across society.

    But for many residents of its larger cities, their lives have become riddled with anxieties that belie the broader sense of progress — from seemingly unattainable home prices to the hothouse pressure of securing the best education for their children and coveted places at leading universities.

    At stake in Xi Jinping’s crackdown, the president appears to believe, is the party’s ability to maintain unchallenged political control, which ultimately depends on its capacity to meet what the has termed ‘the people’s demand for a happier life’
    At stake in Xi Jinping’s crackdown, the president appears to believe, is the party’s ability to maintain unchallenged political control, which ultimately depends on its capacity to meet what the has termed ‘the people’s demand for a happier life’ © Naohiko Hatta/Getty Images

    And in the background there is the fear that nags at almost every ambitious parent — the possibility that their kids will grow tired of the race and seek refuge in the world of video games and the internet, which Xi has railed against for harbouring so many “dirty things”. 

    Rattled by parental angst, the party’s response has been to adopt the tactics of a nanny state, potentially reversing elements of the compact it has established with urban residents over the past four decades to steadily reduce its interference in their private lives.

    “It is parents’ anxiety that is driving the proliferation of after-school tutoring,” says Christina Zhu, an economist at Moody’s Analytics in Singapore. “That anxiety stems from uneven school quality, intense competition and possibly even a lack of confidence in the social security system.”

    At stake, Xi appears to believe, is the party’s ability to maintain unchallenged political control, which ultimately depends on its capacity to meet what the president has termed “the people’s demand for a happier life”.

    The property squeeze in numbers

    Apartment blocks in Shenzhen

    24

    Average annual home price to income ratio in Beijing. In the tech hub of Shenzhen it is 40; in Shanghai it is 26

    40%

    Percentage of salary that new graduates are paying in rent, according to China’s largest housing agency

    4.7%

    Average annual increase in price of new homes in China’s 70 biggest cities in June. In May it was 0.5%

    In 2011, when he was still vice-president, Xi told his then US counterpart, Joe Biden, that the Arab spring that was rolling across north Africa and the Middle East had erupted because governments had lost touch with their people, according to two American diplomats familiar with the exchange.

    At the 18th party congress in November 2012 that marked the beginning of his first term in power, Xi acknowledged the people’s aspirations for “better education, more stable jobs, higher incomes, more reliable social security and higher standard healthcare, more comfortable living conditions and a cleaner environment”.

    Xi and the party have now demonstrated that in order to deliver, they are willing to upend entire industries and intrude into deeply personal aspects of people’s lives, such as how to educate and raise their children. Shortly after Xi criticised video games in 2018 for harming kids’ eyesight, the education ministry recommended that children should have no more than one hour of non-educational screen time each day.

    “Xi has made it clear that he intends every policy area to be subject to the leadership of the party,” says Steve Tsang, director of the Soas China Institute in London.

    Students leave a private after-school class in Beijing. Private tutoring is a $100bn-a-year industry in China
    Students leave a private after-school class in Beijing. Private tutoring is a $100bn-a-year industry in China © Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images

    ‘A stubborn disease’

    Over recent weeks, Xi’s administration has demonstrated that it is not too concerned about the collateral damage investors may suffer as the party extends its reach into new areas. “Beijing will not hesitate to completely overhaul an entire business environment if it deems it politically necessary,” says Chen Long at Plenum, a Beijing-based consultancy. “All sectors related to providing public goods traditionally viewed as not-for-profit will face greater risks.”

    Xi had foreshadowed the move against China’s booming tutoring industry in March when he told a group of educators that the sector was “a stubborn disease that is difficult to manage”. “Parents want their children to be physically and mentally healthy and have happy childhoods,” the president added. “On the other hand, they are afraid their children will lose before they even reach the starting line . . . This problem must be solved. Education should not be too focused on scores.”

    Ironically, says Zhu at Moody’s, some of the biggest economic victims of Xi’s crackdown on education will be recent university graduates, whose average monthly salary last year was just Rmb5,290, according to Zhilian Zhaopin, a Chinese online hiring platform. “The private tutoring sector provides millions of jobs,” she says. “The entire education sector accounted for 17 per cent of employment for recent graduates in 2020, the highest among all industries.”

    For most recent graduates, buying a flat in China’s most desirable cities is out of the question. According to EJ Real Estate, a property research institute, last year the average annual home price to income ratio was 40 in Shenzhen, the high-tech hub bordering Hong Kong, 26 in Shanghai and 24 in Beijing. Cities with ratios of 10 or lower are generally experiencing population outflows and offer little in the way of attractive employment opportunities.

    People play computer games at an internet café in Fuyang. President Xi Jinping is targeting the video gaming industry, which he has criticised for increasing ‘the incidence of myopia among students’
    People play computer games at an internet café in Fuyang. President Xi Jinping is targeting the video gaming industry, which he has criticised for increasing ‘the incidence of myopia among students’ © Lu Qijian/VCG/Getty Images

    Lianjia Beike, a housing agency, estimates that new graduates now spend more than 40 per cent of their income on rent.

    In addition to worrying that some children are doing too much as they prepare for the looming pressures of Chinese urban life, officials and parents also fret about an entirely different phenomenon whereby young people react to mounting social stresses by choosing to tang ping — or lie flat — and withdraw from the world.

    Another concept that has caught on this year in China is “involution”, an anthropological term used to describe a process by which some societies fail to realise their maximum economic potential. In Chinese the term is translated as nei juan, meaning to curl or turn inwards.

    Che Rui, a Beijing parent, signed his daughter up for supplemental Chinese, maths and English classes offered by some of the country’s largest tutoring companies a few years ago, as she moved from kindergarten to elementary school. He welcomes the government’s crackdown on the sector — but also worries about how to keep his daughter active and motivated outside school.

    “The tutoring companies were deliberately creating anxiety,” says Che, who noted that education providers were continuing to bombard him with sales messages even after the government’s broadside against the industry last month. “All discounts and benefits will expire at midnight,” one sales agent warned him over WeChat, the messaging app, if he didn’t rush to sign his daughter up for additional course offerings. “I hope you don’t regret it.”

    Pedestrians walk past apartment buildings in Beijing. Private tutoring is a large employer of recent graduates, who are estimated to spend more than 40% of their income on rent and for whom buying a flat in China’s most desirable cities is out of the question
    Pedestrians walk past apartment buildings in Beijing. Private tutoring is a large employer of recent graduates, who are estimated to spend more than 40% of their income on rent and for whom buying a flat in China’s most desirable cities is out of the question © Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

    Che says he is considering signing up his daughter for swimming, music and other recreational lessons, which are still officially encouraged by the government. “I don’t want her to turn inward,” he adds.

    University anxiety

    Many analysts and parents, however, believe that Xi is addressing the symptoms rather than the disease — the gaokao system itself.

    Wang, the father who arranged winter-break cram sessions for his teenage daughter in Baoding, says that “even if there had been a ban, I would still have gone around it by hiring a private tutor”. The Rmb6,000 he spent on a private tutor during that brief period is equivalent to about 40 per cent of his household’s monthly income, and almost one-quarter of the city’s average annual per capita disposable income of Rmb25,200.

    “If you don’t let your child study on holidays, other parents with more resources will and your child will be left behind. Imposing a simple solution on a complex problem doesn’t work,” he adds. “It just shuts the door for ordinary families.”

    Another much wealthier Chinese father, who has two teenage children and asked not to be named, says “some parents may cheer the crackdown, but the problem lies with the gaokao and the university entrance system”.

    “The anxiety is not going away because it’s not like you’re not in the race any more,” says the father, who went to university in the US and is also educating his children outside China. “Are you rich enough and have connections to do one-on-one tutoring? Online education was the starting point for average people. Their anxiety will come back very soon unless the government completely reforms the education system.

    “Look at South Korea, Japan and Taiwan,” he adds. “When is tutoring ever going to go away in Asian cultures?”

    Additional reporting by Xinning Liu, Xueqiao Wang and Edward White