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    In China, Even Stanford Grads Are Fighting for Civil Service Jobs

    A Stanford University graduate has ignited a social media storm by taking a job with an obscure township government in eastern China — highlighting the ferocious competition for state-sector positions.

    China’s intense competition for civil service jobs appeared to hit new heights this week after it emerged that a world top university’s graduate had chosen to take a job with an obscure township government in the eastern Anhui province.

    Su Zhen reportedly studied physics at an elite Chinese university before pursuing a doctorate at Stanford University, making his decision to apply for an unglamorous local government role the subject of heated discussion on social media.

    A related hashtag on microblogging platform Weibo has received more than 160 million views, with many commenters arguing that the story reveals just how unbalanced China’s job market has become.

    The uproar began earlier this week when Suzhou — a city of roughly 5 million people in Anhui — announced the results of this year’s civil service recruitment process. Su was among the list of successful candidates.

    Suzhou — not to be confused with the far more famous city in neighboring Jiangsu province — is far from a sought-after destination. It has one of the lowest per capita income levels of any city in Anhui.

    Until recently, the idea of someone from Su’s background applying for a civil service role in a place like Suzhou would have been unthinkable. Of the 434 successful candidates, Su is the only one to hold a Ph.D.

    Before Su, no one with a degree from a prestigious overseas university had ever applied for a role at a township authority in Suzhou, one local official told domestic media. Su was reportedly born and raised in the city.

    In his new job, Su will work on various grassroots public service projects, such as the rural revitalization drive, according to a job description posted online. He is required to commit to working in the township for at least five years.

    On social media, many users reacted critically to the news, arguing that Su was overqualified for the role. In their view, the story reflects the lack of high-quality jobs currently available for young graduates — especially in the private sector.

    “This is an example of excessive education and an inappropriate distribution of resources,” one user wrote, arguing that talents like Su should be contributing to scientific and technological research.

    Others pointed to the growing tendency for young Chinese to pursue careers in the public sector, which offers iron-clad job security and good benefits. “At the end of the universe, there is the bianzhi,” one user wrote, referring to state-sector positions.

    However, some users defended Su’s decision, stressing that it is an individual’s right to choose their own career path and that places like Lingbi County, where Su will be positioned, would benefit from attracting such talented officials.

    “Highly educated people can contribute to the local area, and the value and experience they bring can be shared with other nearby towns,” one user commented. “Shouldn’t that be the meaning of education?”

    Competition for state-sector jobs has intensified in China over the past few years. Last year, more than 2.6 million people registered to take the civil service examinations, the highest figure ever recorded.

    In a survey by recruitment platform Zhilian Zhaopin, nearly half of this year’s graduates said they were targeting jobs at state-owned enterprises. Another 15% said they preferred to work at a government institution, while only one-eighth said they wanted to work for a Chinese private sector firm.

    Though Su’s case has made national headlines, he isn’t the first world’s top universities’ graduate to apply for a civil service job this year. In March, a Harvard graduate attracted attention by taking a role at a local education bureau in the eastern city of Hangzhou. The bureau also reportedly recruited a number of graduates from prestigious Chinese universities.

    (Header image: VCG)