[P]rimary and secondary education in China is always free, however students must pay school expenses, for example textbooks and notebooks. This is a burden for low-income rural families. Some families are even forced to borrow money to allow their children to get an education, otherwise children are forced to interrupt their studies.
The state provides free textbooks to poor children and subsidies to poor students staying in education. In a country showing uneven urban and rural development, it is difficult to provide good educational resources for all.
(Mattia Vacca | Primary Education in rural China, PRIVATE 56, pages 36-39)