‘Executive style’ fashion is the new trend in China’s strained economy

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By the fall of his senior year at Tianjin Foreign Studies University, Harry Wang’s French major was poised for a bright future in China’s private economy. He had received job offers from global companies such as pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and TikTok owner ByteDance. But one afternoon last September, he refused to let them pursue careers as civil servants in China.

The 22-year-old said his decision helped him feel “determination and confidence” for the highly competitive written exam to become a bureaucrat. It was born from being Wang is interested in “executive style” fashion, an online trend in China.

Long considered uninspired, the simple dress of Chinese politicians has gained new appeal in recent months for those hoping for stability in public office. Amid announcing mass layoffs, the popularity of executive style reflects a desire to live within a system with stable jobs and income,” Wang said.

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Rising unemployment and an uncertain economic outlook have made seemingly stable careers within the party and a sprawling bureaucracy increasingly attractive to the nearly 11 million Chinese university graduates who entered the job market this summer. target.

Economic troubles threaten to undermine a crucial moment for China’s President Xi Jinping as he prepares to reach an unprecedented third term at the 20th Party Congress this fall. Leaders suggested last month that China’s strict adherence to its “zero-coronavirus” policy and a sharp slowdown in the housing market would make it unlikely to achieve its earlier target of 5.5% economic growth this year.

Adding to the pain, the unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds hit a record high of 19.9% ​​in July amid mostly uniformly weak economic data released this week. Causes include coronavirus restrictions and regulatory crackdowns that have hit the tech industry and private education. As a result, more Chinese college students than ever are turning to the party state in search of credible careers.

In November, a record 2.1 million people signed up for China’s annual civil service exam in search of the “iron bowl” of state-guaranteed employment. With just 31,200 openings, an average of 68 people were competing for each position. In Tibet, one postal service job has attracted nearly 20,000 applicants, according to the state-run Global Times newspaper.

“For young graduates, stability has become a top priority,” said Wang Yixin, director of public relations at Zhilian Zhaopin, an online recruitment platform. He attributed the rising unemployment rate to the coronavirus outbreak that affected domestic production and the cancellation of job fairs just as overseas students returned to China during the pandemic. said. “Many people are beginning to believe that working as a civil servant will give them stability.”

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On Xiaohongshu, or Little Red Book, an Instagram-like platform, a photo of a young man dressed like a government official with executive-style hashtags has been viewed millions of times. Many of the posters refer to themselves as “boyfriends in the system”, implying that men who work coveted government jobs make good marriage material.

An article widely shared on the social media app WeChat described its appeal as reflecting the power wielded by civil servants and the respect it earns, especially among parents who pressure their daughters to marry. .

“Unlike branded clothing that shows off who you are, the core of executive style… is to individually demonstrate that a 20-year-old has the capabilities of a 30-year-old and the resources of a 40-year-old,” the article said.Parents Please explain why you want your daughter to find a partner in the system.

Not everyone is impressed with trends. Online influencers say he’s simply badly dressed, Chinese media wrote about him, a 25-year-old man often mistaken for a middle-aged official. On the microblogging Weibo, one person said, “Why call the ugly beautiful, look old to build seniority, and turn lack of personality into competence?”

As President Xi Jinping reaffirms the Party’s leadership over all aspects of society and cracks down on what it sees as excesses in the private economy, it will make public what the Party calls the “core socialist values” of patriotism, devotion. There is pressure on young people to speak up. and completeness.

To the casual observer, executive style is unremarkable. One of his popular choices is a plain dark girlfriend suit with a cheap white shirt and utilitarian leather shoes. The other is a no-brand polo shirt. His windbreaker jacket, worn by top party leaders, is especially popular.

For Wang, a recent graduate, the CCP badge is essential. Raised by civil servant parents in the city of Hanzhong, a city of three million in Shaanxi province, Mr. Wang applied to join the party as a freshman in college. By uploading a photo of him in a dark suit with the party’s bright red crest on the lapel, he “gives people the impression of being grown up and serious,” he said.

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Party membership has long been a popular choice for ambitious young Chinese, regardless of political beliefs. But Wang is a true believer, having been drawn to bureaucrats on a school trip to Zhengding county in Hebei province, and in the 1980s he said he was inspired by the example of Xi Jinping, who became the leader of the local party at the age of 30. rice field.

“Of course, there are many uncertainties, but I hope that my efforts will allow me to become a major executive in the department or bureau.”Or even a director.”

But not everyone can work for the government. And the difficult job market has led many to compromise on their dream jobs.A May survey by Zhilian Zhaopin found that 55% of recent graduates said their expectations for future jobs were down due to the economic situation. has declined, and the projected average salary is about $930 per month, down 6% from the previous year.

Lin Wang, who graduated from Wuhan’s second-tier university last year, spent months looking for a job and after several failed attempts in her hometown, eventually landed in one of China’s most populous cities. I decided to move to Guangzhou.

Wang, who had nothing to do with Harry Wang or Wang Yixin, did not think of taking the civil service exam. “There’s too much competition. I don’t have a chance,” she said, adding that she only knew one.

“The different situation for graduates of my grade is that everyone is applying for jobs that were previously unattractive for top college students,” said the 22-year-old business graduate. There are a lot of people who have been fired from big companies who are competing with you.”

Wang said he hasn’t had to apply for unemployment benefits, cushioned by his savings from a previous internship, but has stopped trying to find his ideal job. “I used to look for a two-day work week, but now I can put up with a one-day work week,” she said. ‘We have to face reality’

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