The Annual Chinese Public Service Exam once again stirred the restless heart of young Chinese people. 20,000 jobs, over 1,8 million candidates, an average of 90 candidates per job, and rumour has it that some popular jobs have over a thousand candidates. At the same time, the nation’s media add to the confusion, and seems to lead every Chinese citizen into applying for the public service. Among the nearly two hundred countries in the world today, few or very few experience such fever as China around public service exams. In some countries, some national media don’t even understand where that fever came from. Why has ‘public service fever’ flourished in China? Why are Chinese youths, and especially the brightest of our youth, so eager to apply for the public service? Is such fever good or bad for the country and the nation?
Two expressions which widely circulated on the web recently are very representative. Ou Zhenzhi, from Guangdong, director of the Social Council Chamber, said: “It is a good thing that so many university students are taking the public service exams, this will help further improve the quality of the public service.” But the former Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau Deputy Director Du Shao Zhong said: “A good man cannot be a public servant, it spoils the good in them; and a bad man cannot be a public servant either, because they spoil the people.” These two diametrically opposite statements both come from the mouth of public servants, both leading cadres in the public service, one working, one retired, one working with people, one with technology – so what does this reveal? Neither of them sounds wrong, both seem to make sense, but if you think of it carefully, this is a national tragedy.
What is a public servant? Simply put, it is a person who takes charge of public affairs, a so-called public ‘servant’. According to the introduction on Baidu, “a public servant is an employee who executes their duty according to the law, is part of the national administration, and receives wages and benefits from the State. ” The expression of “public servant” is an exotic import to China, but as it entered China, it transformed, and turned into “public servants with Chinese characteristics”. The greatest manifestation of these characteristics is the use of the word “official” 官. The ‘fever’ we’re observing is precisely a result of these ‘special characteristics’. One, “public servants” with Chinese characteristics are both in charge of making public policy and of implementing it, and so these public servants are in a position of inherent privilege; Two, for “public servants” with Chinese characteristics, there is no distinction between politics and skills, therefore, to be a government official, first you must be a public servant; 3, “public servants” with Chinese characteristics receive little supervision, and so once in power, opportunities for rent-seeking are endless; 4, “public servants” with Chinese characteristics have their own custom-made policy, and therefore receive better benefits than workers in other industries. Considering these factors, it is very natural that our country should experience ‘public service fever’. And we can say that if these characteristics occurred in any other country, then it would face the same “fever” that China is experiencing, because this is what human nature dictates; the only difference is that no other nation gives so many “privileges” to its public servants.
The development and progress of a country and a nation come from creativity, it comes from continuous innovation in the political, economic, scientific, technological, cultural, and other domains. Creativity and innovation rely on talented people, and therefore, talented people should go to the industries that most contribute to development and progress, and should be in positions which are at the forefront of social development and progress. Developing innovation is a characteristic of young people, and also an area where young people have expertise. If outstanding young people cannot use their wisdom and talent in positions at the forefront of social development, if they cannot, and therefore cannot make a contribution in the most creative and innovative sectors, it is the greatest waste of talent, and also a crime against humanity. According to statistics, 76.4% of Chinese graduates are willing to work as public servants, whereas the number is 3% in the United States, 5.3% in France, and 7.2% in Singapore. In Japan, fewer people want to embrace the public service than bakery or carpentry; in the UK, the public service is considered as one of the 20 most disgusting professions. Human nature will inevitably lead people to choose their profession based on appetite for profit. Based on this principle, since the benefits of a public service career in China are far greater than they are in market-oriented and developed countries, this also results in a large number of talented people entering the public service, and leads to a lack of talented people going towards creative and innovation sectors, which is also the primary cause for the lack of creativity and innovation in our country. The civil service, to put it bluntly, is just a service industry, and its essence is to provide service for all of society, to oversee the market according to legal regulations, to prevent monopoly in accordance with the principle of fairness, and to maintain order in accordance with economic laws. In order to be a public servant, you do not need creative talent, you do not need creative ability: you just need to mind the public good, to be warm hearted, and caring, and you qualify to be a public servant, you can take on the duty. The public service does not require genius, and it should not employ genius; even less should it do everything possible to recruit genius. Otherwise, it is wasting talent, and socially irresponsible.
The Chinese public service application fever has also attracted some criticism, but they’re mostly targeted at the young people applying: some say they do so out of vanity, some say they’re just looking for comfort, some say the high pressure in the job market gives them no other choice, and others insist that the role of government official should be taken seriously, etc. etc. Strictly speaking, all of these phenomenons occur, but these problems are not the root of the public service fever in China. People are animals with desire: when people choose their career in a particular environment, they first consider the absolute ideal, but if society at that time has blocked the roads that should lead them to that ideal, then the only path left is the one people must follow. I remember at the beginning of the reform and opening up, China’s political and economic reforms went in leaps and bounds, and at that time, public service was seen as an insignificant career. In the South of China, this joke circulated to motivate children to study more: if you don’t work hard at school, then you’ll be a public servant when you grow up. Today’s young people caught in the public service fever couldn’t understand or imagine that these words reflected actual social conditions, and would not believe that the scene is real. All over the world, this is a universal phenomenon, when a country is politically just, economically prosperous, and culturally developed, the civil service career is one that few talented people care for. People with lofty ideals go for high-paid, creative, innovative and challenging industries, they go towards industry that can most contribute to social development and progress, they flow towards industries that will make them immortal. But when a country suffers from political corruption, abuse of power, with no fair justice, and no entrepreneurial environment, people will flock to the public service where power is concentrated. Not long ago, Harbin in Heilongjiang was recruiting sanitation workers, and applicants where literally breaking doors in, and more than 65% of them had a degree and even a Master’s degree. Do Harbin graduates really have nothing better to do than sweep the street? But the answer is actually that most of them just think of this job as a springboard. When the educated youth of a country has reached this point, shouldn’t the country carefully think about the situation?
For the national public service examination, 1,8 million hot blooded young intellectuals competed. According to statistics, if we add up the number of candidates for the public service at regional and local level, there are nearly 5 million young educated people competing for the public service exams, and year after year, they fight a bloody war, wasting their own youth and consuming it for a worthless cause. a direct consequence of the public service fever is the lack of talent in national innovation-oriented, entrepreneurial and creative industries. The blood of the country’s innovation is drying up, the country’s innovation forces are failing, and the country is facing a final collapse.
The current ‘public service fever’ is the result of a problem deep-rooted in the structures of our country, it is the result of a deep-seated contradiction, and to resolve it, we need a reform of our political system. There must be a relaxed and orderly entrepreneurial environment, there must be fair competition at the social level, and the country’s public service system must be redesigned; otherwise, our nation will never become an innovation oriented country, and never be able to stand among the countries of the world.