After questions casting smartphone brand Huawei in a positive light appeared on an exam for fifth graders, Chinese netizens reacted with alarm and suspicion. However, further reporting revealed that the problems weren’t planted ads, leaving online reaction divided.

The incident took place in Luoyang in the central Chinese province of Henan, The Paper reported (in Chinese). Fifth graders in 27 primary schools were quizzed on a short video about Huawei. On the test, students were instructed to watch the video once, read the questions, and re-watch the clip before answering.

The four problems quizzed students’ knowledge of Huawei. They included multiple-choice questions such as “What is Huawei’s international trademark? A. Quality B. Design C. Functionality” (our translation). The last question also required students to mark statements such as “Huawei phone testers must test 2,000 phones every day,” true or false.

Some Weibo commenters found the questions inoffensive. “Many of the unlinked texts read in primary schools are instructions or introductions of medicines, videos, and electric appliances. What’s tested is students’ ability, [it doesn’t] let students buy them,” one user wrote. Another pointed out that practice tests for the gaokao, China’s national college entrance exam, often feature questions about brands.

Others disagreed. “As someone who studies advertising, I can clearly tell you that this is a violation of advertising law,” one objecting commenter wrote in response.

Photo of one of the question papers. (Image credit: Weibo/@刘虎16Plus)

Earlier this week, Gao Wuqiang of Luoyang’s Jianxi District Bureau of Education and Sports, who was responsible for formulating the questions, clarified his choices to The Paper. According to Gao, the video was not a promotional ad, but instead a clip about Huawei made by a television channel.

Gao felt that the subject would be engaging for students. “The children’s parents are all using Huawei phones. Hopefully the test examples are closer to students … ,” The Paper cites Gao as saying. The questions were also intended to provide variety, in contrast to traditional curriculum, according to Gao “In the past Chinese language materials remained unchanged, students would feel it’s no fun.”

Bailey Hu is based in China’s hardware capital, Shenzhen. Her interests include local maker culture, grassroots innovation and how tech shapes society, as well as vice versa.

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