By Oiwan Lam
The popularity of online payment systems has given rise to a new errand service among university students in China. An errand can vary from delivery delivering mail, packages, food, groceries and hot water to signing in class attendance, doing presentations, writing term papers and taking examinations for fellow students, but the existence of such errand services has raised some heated debate online.
Most university campuses in China are huge and not open to public. The setting creates a distinctive campus-based market. For example, on a cold winter’s day, many students do not want to go outdoors for meals, mail or groceries and prefer someone else to run their errands.
In the past, they would ask their fellow students to do them a favor and return the service later on. However, as online payments have entered their lives, many now prefer to hire someone to run their errands instead.
Among the 700 million internet users in China, approximately 60 percent actively used e-commerce and online payments in 2015, with a gross merchandise volume up to 11.8 trillion yuan, or approximately US$1.7 trillion.
University students are the most active user group. In 2015, 6% of the nation’s package deliveries had university campuses as their final destination.
New mobile applications, like “campus delivery” (校內達), are specifically designed to provide a platform for students to look up other fellow students to run errands for them for a small payment between three to five yuan per service. Reportedly, some students have managed to earn 3,000 yuan a month running errands for other fellow students.
Apart from mobile apps, some students also use chat rooms, such as Tencent’s QQ groups, to provide more controversial services, like signing in class attendance, taking the place of other students in class discussions or presentations, or even taking exams for them.
One survey shows that about half of university students have either hired others to take their place in class or seen others do it. The price varies from 20 to 50 yuan.
News commentators for official media outlets in China have been critical towards this new campus economy in their writings, saying it is the result of students being spoiled and lazy. Some, including news commenter Zu Yuanyuan from the Chinese Communist Youth League-affiliated Youth.cn, have taken a nostalgic view of campus life:
On the other side, some netizens see the errand service as a creative business. Here are a few of the comments on one of the news threads on popular social media platform Weibo: