March is a busy season for college students—final papers are due, graduate program applications have to be filed, and seniors go job hunting. But many Chinese students don’t sweat the academic side of things.
Among Chinese students, the demand for “dai xie” (literally “write for you” in Chinese)—ghost paper writers—is so great that it has spawned a whole new market both at home and abroad.
The “dai xie” market is not just popular in mainland China. Facing enormous pressure from family members to excel in their studies, and struggling to cope with a foreign language, Chinese students studying abroad are reportedly getting their papers, essays, and theses ghost-written.
Do a quick search for English “dai xie” agencies, and hundreds of results show up. For instance, there’s essayshifu.com, a top-ranked website that offers to write papers for high school to doctoral students in Canada and the United States. Fees range from $29 to $57.80 per 250 words, depending on the student’s education level, as well as how and how quickly (8 to 24 hours) the paper should be done.
One of these “dai xie” agencies, MyMaster Group, caused a stir in Australia last year. The company, owned by a 30-year-old Chinese woman named Yingying Dou, did the homework for thousands of Chinese students in Australian colleges, charging up to AU$1,000 (US$777) per paper. MyMaster Group made at least AU$160,000 (US$126,000) in 2014, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
When the academic fraud was unearthed, thousands of Chinese students in 16 colleges were investigated and over 70 students were punished, while several top Australian universities suffered a drop in prestige, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
On China’s biggest online shopping website, Taobao, over 3,000 stores or agencies are selling academic papers or offering to write them from scratch for college students, according to state-run China Youth Daily. To attract customers’ attention, many of these websites feature the words “Gold medal writers” in large, bold font on their home pages.
“The ‘dai xie’ market nowadays is basically an unsupervised gray zone,” an unnamed ghost writer told China Youth Daily. “Sometimes the people who bought papers are caught and punished, but no one really stops people like me.”
Because the demand for ghost-written academic papers is so great and the writers so few, there are currently no barriers of entry to the “profession,” resulting in a rise in quacks who “don’t really know how to write theses” but “just cheat people of money and run away,” according to the unnamed ghost writer.
According to a White Paper on “Dismissed Chinese Students in the United States” published by WholeRen Education, a education research institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 500 cases of dismissed students in the United States as of July 2014, 21.4 percent of them were Chinese. Reasons for dismissal included dishonesty, cheating on exams, and hiring people to take exams for them.