New leadership faces growing discontent among China’s youth

November 19, 2012


BEIJING--When China’s National Bureau of Statistics posted an opening in Chongqing for a researcher in mid-October, it was deluged with about 9,500 applications from around the nation.

A 21-year-old female college student in her fourth year from Hainan island at the southern tip of China was one of the hopeful applicants.

“The job of a public servant is very stable,” she said. “I would be able to have a job for life if I was accepted.”

While there were about 750,000 graduates in 2003 in China who were unable to find jobs after graduation, the number almost doubled in 2011. A major reason is that industries that would employ workers with advanced academic backgrounds have not been sufficiently developed in the nation.

A 20-year-old junior college student who is scheduled to graduate next year visited a job placement center in Beijing earlier this month.

“I do not care what it is I do as long as some company hires me,” he said. Although he has sent out many resumes, he has not received many offers.

A professor at Renmin University of China overheard a man in his late 20s, who remained at the university as a lecturer after failing to find the job he desired, say seriously, “I hope chaos ensues that will overturn the entire society.”

“The sense of despair is serious for the younger generation who are not being rewarded for their efforts,” the professor said.

The concerns and dissatisfaction held among Chinese youth extend beyond the difficulty in finding a job.

In late October, demonstrations continued in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, against the construction of a plant that would manufacture the toxic chemical paraxylene.

“The government is not thinking at all about the lives of the people,” a 23-year-old woman said angrily.

Officials of the Chinese Communist Party are seriously concerned that the government has been unable to monitor the dissatisfaction held by residents.

In 2010, Xi Jinping, who on Nov. 15 was named general secretary, visited Singapore. China’s new leader expressed strong interest in the community development councils that have been commissioned by the Singapore government to listen to local residents and their concerns about social welfare and education issues.

Bo Zhiyue, a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore, said, “Even though Singapore has many different ethnic groups living together, the society is stable. China is fervently trying to find the reason for that.”

After Xi returned to China, the government reportedly dispatched a team of specialists to Singapore to conduct a detailed study of those councils.

Although Hu Jintao, the previous general secretary, also held the hope of transferring some administrative services to the private sector, it never came to fruition due to resistance from conservative forces in the Communist Party, who feared losing their authority.

In his first news conference after becoming general secretary, Xi made mention of one proposal that was well-received by the public.

“One of our objectives of our struggle will be to bring about the dreams that the people hold for a wonderful life,” Xi said.

Social contradictions are running so deep in China that the new government will not be allowed to let that call become an unfulfilled slogan.

(This article was written by Kim Soon-hi and Nozomu Hayashi.)

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Young people, including some from distant regional cities, gather at a job placement center in Beijing. (Teruo Kashiyama)

Young people, including some from distant regional cities, gather at a job placement center in Beijing. (Teruo Kashiyama)

  • Young people, including some from distant regional cities, gather at a job placement center in Beijing. (Teruo Kashiyama)

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