Top STEM Graduates Hired For District Official Roles in China

china-tsinghua-grads-june-2020-crop.jpg Students wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus attend a graduation ceremony at Tsinghua University in Beijing, June 23, 2020.

Government recruiters for ruling Chinese Communist Party-sponsored jobs are requiring ever higher levels of qualification for graduate positions in district-level government organizations, RFA has learned.

As China's economy continues to decline and unemployment continues to worsen, graduates with postgraduate qualifications from prestigious schools like Peking University and Tsinghua University are now being recruited by district-level government departments and neighborhood committees, according to recruitment advertisements seen by RFA.

Doctoral and master's graduates from Peking University and Tsinghua University have recently been found applying for positions in neighborhood committees in Hangzhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang, social media reports have indicated.

The Hangzhou Sub-district Office of the municipal government recently advertised for candidates holding PhDs in STEM subjects including biology, geophysics, materials science and engineering, according to one advertisement.

Jia Lingmin, a former high-school teacher in Zhengzhou, Henan province, said the graduate labor market is getting increasingly difficult in China.

"There is a saying that scientists are held in the highest esteem, especially those who majored in civil and biological engineering at Tsinghua," Jia said.

"But now, neighborhood committees are recruiting graduates with qualifications that have nothing to do with social management," he said.

Hangzhou's Yuhang district recently recruited someone with a masters degree in journalism and communication from Peking University, while Qiaosi sub-district office hired someone with a master's in software engineering from Peking University, according to social media.

Meanwhile, the Linping and Donghu subdistrict offices hired graduates in Chinese philosophy, someone with a masters in Law and a PhD in geophysics.

Some of the new hires were assigned to the general management office as stability maintenance personnel, an army of domestic security officials tasked with preventing social unrest by cracking down on peaceful critics of the government.

Politicization of universities

Shanxi-based scholar Lu Qiang said the new trend reflects the increasing politicization of universities under the ruling Chinese Communist Party's general secretary, Xi Jinping.

"The focus of professors is no longer on research, and the focus of students is no longer on learning," Lu said. "Universities seem from the outside to be prospering, but they are actually very materialistic."

"This process now starts in kindergarten, and education is simply a way to find a good job after college," he said. "Now the Chinese economy is in such a state that finding a job in a sub-district office is actually pretty good."

An official in charge of the Communist Party's organization department of the Yuhang District Committee said in response to netizens' questions that candidates of such caliber are needed to ensure Yuhang's economic and social development of Yuhang, according to the Qiangjiang Evening News.

Guo Baosheng, a current affairs commentator who graduated in philosophy from Beijing's Renmin University, said graduates are likely keen to land any job on the ruling party's payroll.

"Being an official is the only way to make your ancestors proud and ensure a stable income," Guo told RFA. "It also shows that Chinese universities educating people who are profit-oriented and have no ideals at all."

"Nothing in China beats being an official, because they have a stable income, and the opportunity for promotion and to get rich, have a bright future," he said. "You can embezzle a lot of money as an official."

Soviet similarities

Guo drew a parallel between China now and the former Soviet Union.

"This situation is very similar to the situation before the disintegration of the Soviet Union, he said.

"Back then ... Soviet university graduates and doctoral students were vying to be officials too," Guo said. "High-quality students would rather be local officials than do academic research."

Think tanks are predicting that unemployment will see a double-digit increase in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, while 8.74 million new graduates will enter the labor market.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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