Researcher Zheng Jiawen from Nanjing University's School of Journalism and Communications contends that "China's real crisis of masculinity isn't 'sissy pants.'
"It's a generation of men anxious and insecure about their declining social status and their desperation to cling to power," Zheng wrote on the Shanghai-based website Sixth Tone.
"We must all learn to accept the fact that a delicate face does not mean a weak heart, slender shoulders do not reveal a fragile soul, and a 'betrayal' of outdated masculine stereotypes is not a betrayal of the nation."
___ Tang, who founded Real Man Training Club in 2012, has a world view that is divided into traditional gender roles: Boys are rough, boisterous and energetic. Girls are quiet, studious and groomed.
The former school teacher, whose class included troubled, low-achieving boys, said Chinese boys are betrayed by an education system dominated by risk-averse female teachers who reward girls' "good" behavior and punish "bad" male behavior.
Tang designed the club, which he says fluctuates between 2,000 and 3,000 members, to get boys to face tough physical challenges "in a manly way," which he defines as being brave, responsible and committed.
He said he was inspired by his love of American football and a visit to California in 2006 to see how teams were trained. He came away with the idea that U.S. parents wanted their sons to play football "so they could become alpha males." He decided the sport could transform Chinese boys. ___ Beijing's watery sunshine does nothing to take the bite out of the morning air, but it's time for the boys to strip off their shirts.
They hand them to their mothers, giggling and bouncing about, arms huddled to their chests, as their parents whip out phones for more photos.
The boys form into two military-style lines and run for about 10 minutes around the park. They run stoically, in lockstep with their coaches, as the low morning sun paints their long shadows on the ground:
"One, two, three! "Who's the best? "We are! "Who are we? "We are real men!" ___ (Gaochao Zhang of the Los Angeles Times' Beijing bureau contributed to this report.)