PERSONAL NOTE: I decided to share my book with many friends and students in China because the book is not available in mainland China. It costs too much for anyone to order it from USA. Enjoy it and share it with your friends. Steve, usa, december 22, 2018 firstname.lastname@example.org https://getting2knowyou-china.com
– 90 –
How did Benny know I was a foreign teacher or someone who could only speak English? He was a freshman in political science. He did not think he could be a politician some day. But Benny could speak English. I was more than impressed because his major was not in English. I was in for a shock the first few weeks on the campus because somehow I was naïve and stupid to think all college students in China could speak some English. I did not know at the beginning of my life in a new country that all Chinese students in China are exposed to and study English from primary schools all the way through colleges. And when I tried to speak to many students in the canteen (cafeteria), one of the best places to meet students from different departments, I was in for a heart attack. Most, if not all, students could not speak a word of English, other than, like the many Japanese I had encountered in the streets in Tokyo once, a polite bow and a quick wave and they would quickly disappear. Japan is a fucking xenophobic country because the country is dying and yet top leaders still refuse to allow immigrants to enter the islands to work and live there or to become Japanese citizens. So why so few Chinese students could speak English? Later students would tell me some were shy. Some never learned to speak English. Most because they never spoke English since they started learning English in primary schools because “our teachers never spoke English to us. And so we cannot speak English now.” But Benny was not afraid to speak English to me. That was the start of our friendship that continues till today where Benny is now working for the national government, in an office in Xiamen City where Benny attended Xiamen University and graduated two years ago. Benny continues to speak English to me whenever he is free to visit with me, unusual for most Chinese students who are more at ease using Chinese when communicating with their friends, classmates, parents and teachers.
The first photo Benny sent to me was a teenager who seemed to be wearing an Afro hairstyle. And he was quick to explain what had happened to him and why he let his hair grow long and bushy. “I failed my Gaokao and I was angry at myself,” he said, with a big grim on his face. He continued, “I did not care too much about how I looked after I failed my college entrance examination. So I let my hair grow for about a year until I took my second Gaokao. It is so sad in China when you failed your Gaokao. You have to wait for a whole year before you are allowed to take it again. Not only that, you have to return to a high school to study all the subjects for a whole year again. Nobody wants that. Now you may wonder why so many students who failed the first time would not go back to school to do it again. And if you failed the first time, the fees to attend a high school could be higher. In most places it is higher than the first time because you have failed the test. And many students do not have the
– 91 –
money to repeat the second time. Many simply do not want to enter college for further education. They can not afford the high tuition if you do not meet academic requirement of the colleges or universities. I understand in your country, USA, students who take the SAT, something like our Gaokao in China, can take the test any number of times during a year. And you are not required to return to school to be a student in order to do that. I wish we had that system in China. Anyway, I studied very hard the second time and I was able to pass it and applied to Xiamen University and I got in. I was accepted as a student in this prestigious university. Then I decided to have a crew cut hairstyle, just like what I am having now.”
After graduation from Xiamen University, two years ago, Benny had a chance to work as a “spy” for Fuzhou government and his parents were very proud that he could do something for his country. “Fucking crazy, Steve? I would not want it but my parents were so happy I went for the interview. During the interview they told me I would not be using my name, that I would be just a number to them, that I would be sent to Taiwan to do my work, something like a spying job. You know Taiwan and us are not good friends. Most times we do not trust each other. I would have to be careful the kind of people I hang out with. What the shit! No way I would want this kind of life for me. I left the interview. I did not go back again. I would not want the job. Too dangerous for me.” Instead Benny started to work for Xiamen Airlines. They had come to the Xiamen campus looking for the right people to work for them. And Benny was one of promising young men hired by the airlines.
Benny shared with me an interesting story months later about a new female employee and how on her first day she literally took over the office, like she owned the place, like she knew everything and was not afraid to say so. “You would not believe what she did. She could not stop talking. She just talked and talked all the time. As if she knew everything. She behaved like a big boss, trying to tell you what to do. She is a new employee but her behavior really upset me.” I told Benny she would be voted the Employee of the Year, and she would be the one the boss would promote to a higher position because of her aggressiveness and leadership quality. Modern businesses need people like her, fearless and pushing forward at all times, not afraid of consequences. Just do it. And he would be under her command. Yes, Benny, you should be like her. You are a man and you need to assert your personality. Show who you are, if you want to climb the career ladder. I told Benny.
But Benny was not happy, not because of her, after a few months: “You should see the kind of people I have to deal with everyday. Yes, I had a college degree but most young people working with me or under me are high school graduates. Some with very little education. I did not like the job at all. Yes I had a high position but it was
– 92 –
boring to work with this kind of people. I could not stand it. I don’t see any future in this kind of work.”
“Benny, I suggest you find something else inside the company. Don’t leave yet. OK? See if you could find another kind of work inside this company.” I told Benny that and I told many other students the same thing. Do not simply quit a job after a few weeks or months. Too many young people are doing that in China today. They are not happy with their first jobs. More than that, they are looking for the ideal jobs, the ones that would pay them lots of money. No way, I told them, unless your father owns the bank. Or your fathers or his friends own the companies. I had seen many reports on the national news on TV about many companies disappointed with the new breed of college graduates, ones who were more concerned with how much will I get paid instead of showing interest in the jobs they are offering to them. Or jobs available to them. The conclusion each time after a big job fair? More jobs are available. We cannot find the students interested in what we have to offer. They are always looking for jobs that are not there. What most students do not realize is that when a new employer looks at their resume, nobody will hire you with this kind of work history, going from job to job within a short period of time. The trouble is most today’s young people are not using their brains. They do not realize the consequences of jumping from job to job, bad for their resume or curriculum vitae (CV). Anyway, Benny did listen to me and he tried to fine another kind of work in the same company. But he did not find anything to suit his taste or personality or ambition. Finally he decided to quit the job. He did not like the job with Xiamen Airlines. That was it.
“I want to sit for the civil service exam,” Benny told me one day.
One of my former students who also graduated from Xiamen University told me recently why he wanted to work for the government. “You don’t have to work very hard,” he told me with a very casual voice. “Not only that, you can get a lot of money for doing nothing. And you are guaranteed for life. You do not have to worry about anything, now or later. It is the best job in China if you can get in.” The sad thing was many people agreed with him. Mothers would pick these men to marry their daughters because of job security. The money he was talking about is the amount of bribery and corruption that is going on in China. Ordinary people believe with money you could get any government official to do anything for you. Bribing government officials to get things done for you has become a norm or common practice in China. Not long ago, people attacked doctors and nurses in hospitals because they felt these doctors and nurses were not taking good care of their relatives or loved ones. But if you could bribe them with hongbao, you could expect better care for your loved ones or relatives in the hospitals. No hidden secrets in China. And this is why Mr. Xi Jinping,
– 93 –
the new President of China is trying to clean house, so to speak. Since becoming the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and automatically the President of People’s Republic of China in 2013, he has launched the biggest anti-corruption campaign in China, to expose and get rid of all top government officials accused of dereliction of duties, violation of basic laws, and corruption and bribery.
You are there to serve the people, not to make money. That is why you are working for the government, he would say to all government servants and officials. Citizens and Mr. Xi are curious how a government worker, with an average pay check, could amass so much wealth working for the government. Like wearing expensive watches. Driving expensive cars. Owning a number of apartments. Eating at fancy restaurants. Traveling overseas for their holidays. And Mr. Xi wants to put a stop to this rampant corruption within the government from the top to the bottom. And so many of them tried to flee the country. And now many are brought back to stand trials. According to the Ministry of Public Security, more than 800 fugitive criminals, officials suspected of corruption, former employees of SOEs (State owned enterprises) and those in the financial sector, have been extradited back to China to face trials the past 8 years, to face justice.
And this has an impact on young college graduates, discouraging them to work for the government. So the civil service examination is going through a crisis, affecting just about every major city in China, with visible decline in the number of university graduates who once were eager to enter government service.
Still, the civil service examination to work for the government is not easy. In fact thousands will take it for a few openings here and there all over China. The competition is fierce. But if you have guanxi or connections, the road to the government office would be easy smooth sailing. Not what you know, but who you know, is the saying all over China. And all young people know that by heart. Not what you know, but who you know, or guanxi.
This is China.