Latest News

Villagers draw inspiration from Xi

By Cui Jia, Wei Tian and Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2013-03-15 07:40

New generation

More than 300,000 college graduates have become village officials since China launched a nationwide program in 2009. The number of graduates occupying official positions in rural communities is expected to increase to 600,000 by 2020.

In a bid to encourage more students to work in rural communities after graduation, the central government has promised to recruit more graduates from among those who have taken on leadership roles in the countryside.

This year, 10 to 12 percent of newly recruited public servants will be graduates with experience of working as village officials, according to the State Administration of the Civil Service. In this way, a new crop of future leaders is being nurtured.

In addition to becoming public servants, the graduates, who are initially employed on three-year contracts as assistants to village heads or village Party chiefs, can become village leaders themselves, providing their work has been appreciated by the locals.

Eleven graduate village officials were elected as deputies to the 12th National People's Congress. Gui Qianjin is one of them. Sitting in front of a group of reporters, the 25-year-old looked like the typical "girl next door".

Her delicate fingers, with long nails, played with her white cell phone, while her ponytail and red-framed eyeglasses gave her the air of a recent graduate. However, Gui's youthful appearance hasn't disqualified her from becoming a grassroots village official, leading nearly 1,000 residents in Jiangxi province.

"Being a village official isn't just about planting crops; it's about being able to introduce new concepts to the villagers, and dealing with all kinds of guanxi (relationships)," she said.

Gui's village sits at the foot of Wuyi Mountain, where the rugged landscape is beautiful but makes road-building a difficult proposition. In 2011, Gui watched a group of school pupils struggling through the muddy ridges in the fields, and decided they needed a decent road.

However, dealing with the bureaucracy was dispiriting work. "I asked the town authorities for the money, but they told me to talk to the county government. When I did, I was told that I would have to apply for project funding."

Despite the red tape, the new road was constructed a year later after Gui obtained funding through a special fiscal-support program for public projects in rural areas. "Walking along the road, I feel a great sense of achievement," said Gui.

She later boosted her credentials as a village leader by introducing mushroom farming, which has become a more profitable enterprise than growing rice and is now a stable source of income for the residents. "Being a village official certainly provides a quick introduction to local society," said Gui.

The only downside for Gui is that the salary for such an arduous job is not attractive. "Many of my college friends applied for village-official posts to improve their chances of becoming civil servants," she said.