January 12, 2010

Bi ying ying Phases Out Plagiarism In China, Pt. 3

Readers don't care about plagiarism, and publishers are too busy making money to check for plagiarism. Making plagiarists even more gleeful is the fact that few writers who have been plagiarized choose to fight for their rights, not because they love being copied, but rather Chinese plagiarism laws are weak in many aspects, and litigations are drawn-out, resource consuming affairs.

Apathy combined materialism fertilized the Chinese soil for copy pasting. Still the root of the cause goes deeper, because the Chinese educational system teaches plagiarism.

As early as second grade when students first learn to write, children are taught to memorize any "elegant sentence and expressions" that they encounter, because the effective deployment of these sentences in their own writing will add a layer of sophistication. What the teachers intend is for children to improve writing skills through this type of borrowing or emulation. The part that many teachers fail to emphasize is the students should strive to form their own style as soon as possible and move away from the low level bi ying ying.

Teachers who participate in gaokao (college entrance exam) grading notice many essays which are amazingly similar in language, structure, and content, but compared to writings that are less coherent and organized, these lookalikes will still receive a higher score. There have been recent high quality gaokao essays that, after being published online as samples, are revealed by public scrutiny for plagiarism. The habit of copy pasting/cheating also carry far beyond high school, as the flourishing market of ghostwritten papers demonstrates.

Furthermore, as a result of the somewhat misleading education, many Chinese students equate plagiarism with allusion and citation. They also make wide allowance for materials that can be ethically copied. Under their erroneous way of thinking, historical novels, encyclopedias, news articles, movie reviews, any description that sets the mood/tone, and original stories re-posted more than 2 times on-line are considered "common facts" (or trivial enough) and may be copy pasted in any way, shape, or form.

Although the vivibear scandal has caused a backlash against simple copying, how long this correction will last is hard to say. The glorious commercial success of writers like Guo Jingming and An Yiru means that plagiarism and its next state of evolution--bi ying ying--will persist for quite a while to come.

Finally, it is humorous to note some excuses that fanatical readers come up to explain paragraphs and chapters copied verbatim. The excuses include but are not limited to victim authors traveling forward in time to copy the plagiarists, dead people coming back to life to copy the plagiarists, and synchronized brainwaves between the plagiarists and those they copy.

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