Communist missionaries spread the party gospel in the Chinese countryside

Communist missionaries spread the party gospel in the Chinese countryside

Sherry Shang could have pursued a cushy career in media after graduating from a top university last June with a degree in journalism, but instead, the 25-year-old headed to a small village in Hunan province to enforce Covid-19 regulations and signs. locals to join the Chinese Communist Party.

The Tsinghua University graduate previously held internships at tech titan Tencent and state broadcaster CCTV, but found the job unattractive. “This job allowed me to understand in ceng [grassroots]to learn about the real Chinese society,” she said.

Shang is just one of tens of thousands of graduates who have found employment in China’s expanding bureaucratic state. The new staff are often deployed in the countryside, far from the megacities that have driven the country’s economic growth in recent decades.

She joined an elite civil service program known as xuan diao or “recruit and move”. It takes ambitious young people from leading universities and turns them into administrators at the lowest levels of government in towns and villages.

Candidates are recommended by their university and local community Communist Party branches before leaving for the interview and written exam. After a few years in the political cadre, some graduates quickly rise to senior positions in provincial and central governments.

Shang hopes to work for the Hunan provincial government after his time in the countryside. “We [xuan diao students] can progress quickly. I just want to do something for society, for the whole country,” she said.

Tsinghua University in Beijing. The record 10.76 million students who graduated this summer in China now face a youth unemployment rate of 18.4% © Costfoto/Future Publishing/Getty Images

This was said by Victor Shih, a professor of Chinese political economy at the University of California, San Diego xuan diao was fertile ground for the leaders of the communist party, especially now as the study of Marxism and ideology is becoming increasingly important in China.

“There is a fairly high percentage of students at elite universities who become party members in China. If the party mobilizes people, there is a lot of pressure to respond to the party’s call,” he said.

Employment document for xuan diao of hope in Shanxi Province stipulates that candidates must have “good political quality, a sense of political mission and lofty aspirations [and be] willing to serve the country and the people”.

While some students become rural cadres out of a sense of duty and conviction, many others have chosen to embrace the “iron rice bowl” of secure government employment as China’s economy staggers under the weight of its strict zero Covid mandate and growth retardation.

The job market is particularly difficult for young people, with youth unemployment reaching 18.4 percent, according to data from Japanese investment bank Nomura released in April.

“We see an increasing number of students who are interested in this in ceng positions, even at the best universities in China,” Shih said. “You wouldn’t see the numbers we’re seeing this year if the job market wasn’t so bad.”

Katherine, another recent MA graduate who did not want to give her last name, struggled to find work in the private sector and was relieved when she was recommended for xuan diao program.

“I felt excited to the point of tears to be accepted,” she said. “We are from Tsinghua University, but when we apply for internet companies or media, there are so many students competing for just one position.”

This summer, 10.76 million students received their diplomas, the largest number in modern Chinese history, and a record 2 million graduates applied for government entrance exams, according to data analysis firm MyCOS.

The cadres are a bit like America’s “Peace Corps volunteers with executive powers,” said Shih of the University of California.

Catherine, who admitted her new job was repetitive and sometimes stressful, will eventually be posted to a rural area outside Beijing, where she expects to help farmers with e-commerce initiatives. According to MyCOS, her salary of around Rmb10,000 ($1,500) a month is significantly higher than the average starting salary of Rmb5,833 for graduates.

Some analysts say the scheme reflects the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, when many young people from urban areas were “sent” to live among rural communities. Among them are Xi Jinping, Chinese President.

“This party-state program to attract top students is more focused on the ideological correctness of the students,” said Mary Gallagher, a political science professor at the University of Michigan.

“It also puts a lot of emphasis on the experience and hard work that Xi Jinping has tried to encourage among the bureaucracy.”

One public policy graduate at a top university started his own xuan diao training before being deployed to a rural district outside Shanghai next month.

The 27-year-old, who declined to be named, said he felt lucky to be accepted into the program amid such fierce competition. “The Chinese think that entering the government is a good job. Incomes are stable, the position is good,” he said.

“But if I graduated in economics, I could work in the private sector. That’s where they actually make money.”



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