«Those more outstanding than you also work harder.»This is a trendy aspirational phrase in China in the digital era, meant to remind people who do not come from well-to-do families that the only way they can catch up is by working hard. Had the Stanford University admissions scandal involving, among others, sophomore Zhao Yusi not made headlines, she would still be looked up to as living testimony of how diligence alone pays off in the end.
But last week, the fairy tale unravelled. It turned out that Zhao’s “hard work” combined with US$6.5 million that her parents paid to college consultant William “Rick” Singer, the largest such payment that has come to light, probably got her into Stanford. US federal prosecutors have accused Singer of falsely packaging Zhao as a competitive sailor.