hina’s most successful education tycoon, whose company has taught speaking skills to millions, is now trying to walk back his own words after saying that he holds women responsible for China’s moral decline and degradation.
“If all Chinese women looked for a man of principles, then all men in China would be able to recite Tang and Song dynasty poetry by heart. If all women say that they want Chinese men to only make money and that his conscience doesn’t matter, then all Chinese men will have poor consciences. This is the standard that Chinese women use to choose men now,” Yu Minhong, the founder and head of the Beijing-based New Oriental Group, said on stage at an education summit in Shanghai on Sunday.
Yu, whose net worth is estimated at $1.8 billion, then declared, “The current denigration of women is leading to the denigration of the country.”
Almost immediately, Yu’s comments went viral on Chinese social media with women from across the country speaking out against his views including actress Zhang Yuqi (Kitty Lai) who wrote on Weibo: “I can only say that a Peking University education and New Oriental’s success have failed to help you understand the value of women. You don’t even understand what gender equality is.” Her post has now received more than 770,000 likes.
On Sunday evening, Yu attempted to clarify his comments, writing on his personal Weibo account:
As a result of not expressing myself well, my comments led to misunderstandings among netizens. I deeply apologize for this.
The real meaning of what I wanted to express is that the level of women in a country corresponds with the level of the country. High-quality women and high-quality mothers can educate high-quality children. Men are also guided by women’s values. If women pursue an intellectural life, then men will become more intelligent. If women only have their eyes on money, then men will desperately try to earn money while neglecting their spirtual cultivation. If women are strong, then men are stong, then the country is strong.
While Yu at least had the foresight to disable comments on his post, the “clarification” has only really made things worse for him with netizens noting that the 56-year-old billionaire had simply doubled-down on his old-fashioned sexist views where women are to blame for men’s behavior.
Yu founded New Oriental in 1993. It has gone on to become China’s most successful private education company, teaching English to millions of Chinese students, earning Yu the titles of the “richest teacher in China” and the “Godfather of English training.”