China’s Export Capital Looks to Elite Grads for Guidance
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2016-05-23 11:17:14

Last week, the local government of Yiwu, in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, formally offered employment to 13 graduates from two of China’s elite universities. 

The Peking University and Tsinghua University graduates — all of whom possess advanced academic degrees — were offered positions in state-owned enterprises in Yiwu, with the hopes that their prestigious educations would help stimulate dwindling local industry. 

Currently, only 5.2 percent of Yiwu’s 4,977 civil servants have graduate degrees, according to an article by local Zhejiang newspaper Qianjiang Evening News.

In recent years, many local governments in China have been trying to bolster their economies by offering attractive compensation packages to professionals who might otherwise seek employment in the country’s wealthier cities or the private sector.

The best and brightest have traditionally flocked to China’s richer cities, which offer better work and education opportunities.

Many cities that rely on traditional industries are trying to reinvigorate their economies. Yiwu’s economy relies on small-product manufacturing, and the city has in recent years been trying to modernize its industry by tapping into e-commerce.

Yiwu has recruited the top-echelon students as part of a three-year guazhi program. This is a temporary work placement which targets young Communist Party cadres who are placed on a fast track for promotions once they have completed the program. One aim of the placement is to boost local economies in poorer regions by sending college-educated youth to work in their industries.

An official from the organizational department of Yiwu’s municipal party committee was quoted by the Qianjiang Evening News as saying that the graduates will be offered positions as vice presidents in local state-owned enterprises and government bureaus once they have finished their guazhi. The organizational department declined to comment when contacted by Sixth Tone.

In 2014, five foreign nationals became a media sensation when they were hired to be public servants in Foshan, in southern China’s Guangdong province. The Bureau of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation of Foshan City took the new bureaucrats on board in the hopes that they could communicate with multinational companies, attract foreign investment, and help bring the local government in line with international business practices. 

China has hired foreign experts in the past to advise on high-level political matters, but this was one of the first instances of a local government doing so. According to the South China Morning Post, the foreigners were offered salaries far higher than the average monthly wage of Chinese civil servants.

This year China’s northwestern province of Gansu is aiming to hire 500 fresh Chinese college graduates to work in local villages in senior administrative positions within local governments. Similar to Yiwu’s plans, the hope is that they will galvanize local economies by bringing knowledge of e-commerce and advanced learning in specialized subjects. The students will be offered prestigious positions with the promise of promotion if they do well.

Additional reporting by Li You. 

(Header image: Students receive their degrees at Tsinghua University’s graduation ceremony, Beijing, July 12, 2015. Hao Yi/VCG)