Don’t Dream Big — Four Vignettes on Social Mobility in Modern China

On 16/08/2013 by Site Default

The New York Times recently ran an article that detailed the struggles of three young college women from low-income backgrounds, raising questions about whether education remains the “great equalizer” in America. How does the picture look in China, where education has been prized since the days of Confucius as a way to advance in society?

A recent thread on Tianya, a popular online discussion forum, engaged this issue directly and quickly went viral. The original post gathered almost 2,900 comments. One summarized version was retweeted more than 22,500 times on Sina Weibo. It was started by a user with the handle Dadi, a self-proclaimed human resources manager at a state-owned bank in a large city, who says he was tapped to oversee the bank’s internship program of about 60 college students.

Dadi’s story has not been verified. Although many comments are credulous, some question its veracity, particularly because Tianya is known for paying professional ghostwriters to stir up discussion with interesting or outrageous threads. But the story has hit a nerve for many Chinese Internet users because the characters face archetypal challenges in modern China.

In China’s hyper competitive job market for new graduates, a permanent position at a bank is highly coveted not only for its financial rewards, but perhaps more importantly, for its long-term stability, social respectability, and promise of future connections it offers.

While the bank had 15 openings for new graduates in that year, most positions would go to people with connections. Dadi described the internship program as a “sham” to score cheap labor and generate publicity. Only two or three out of the 60 interns would ultimately receive offers.

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Knife instead of steps on the stairs.


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