The highly educated chengguan might be no better than the neighborhood committee auntie

Chengguan stopping a vegetable seller on the street. Image source

The Beijing Youth Daily recently reported that the chengguan (the para-police force who are responsible for "cleaning" the streets in cities) in Hefei, Anhui province, are recruiting university-degree level employees.

Commentaries about this appeared in The Beijing News and Beijing Youth Daily: both writers were from ordinary non-media backgrounds, describing themselves as "Employees" (职员) rather than "Editor" (编辑) or "Media worker" (媒体人).

The writer of the editorial from the Beijing Youth Daily, like in the The Beijing News remains skeptical that a change in the education requirements will signal a change in the improvement of chengguan activities. The Beijing Youth Daily comment is translated below.

“Highly-educated chengguan" seems to be for engineering an image

by Wu Longgui (吴龙贵) / Anhui province

At the end of February this year, on every big portal website in the city of Hefei appeared an examination application notice: the Hefei chengguan department had released their recruitment notice. After the initial selection process, over 3,000 people were awarded with a chance at a written examination. The rejected applicants, rejected because they did not have a college degree, left in a huff. In the end, 100 people with a degree were lucky enough to enter the gate of the Hefei chengguan department. There were 11 postgraduates. Their academic professions were mainly from the fields of Law, Computer Science, Advertising, Municipal Engineering etc. (November 23, China Youth Daily)

The highly educated members of the chengguan have become a focal point in the city, they've caused a wide spread debate. There are two types of questioning, one is based on the depreciation of learning, they think that "getting postgraduates to be chengguan on duty on the street is akin to using a 'bull knife to slaughter a chicken, it's a typical waste of talent'; the other is a debate about their realistic ability, "the highly educated chengguan's work ability at the lower levels might be no better than the ability of the neighborhood committee auntie." We can't say that these queries don't have their own reasoning, from an objective point of view, there is definitely the suspicion that they are only taking a part to make the whole.

Actually, the phenomenon of the "highly educated chengguan," the question to ask isn't "Why choose to be a chengguan if you're highly educated." From the reports we can see that the city of Hefei's recent recruitment of chengguan set a "minimum standard" of "an undergraduate degree." These qualifications are even higher than the qualifications of many government departments recruiting civil servants. It's hard to deny that the aim of these rational requirements is to improve the characters of the chengguan team, but on the other hand, could it also be that the powerful are just being vain?

From a realistic angle, elevating the entry requirements in order to motivate talented people of a higher character is indeed a way to improve the image of the chengguan, and an effective method for regulated law enforcing. But the question is, high character is not the same as higher education. The special qualities of the chengguan shows that this is a profession which needs a comprehensive range of character-qualities. Another thing that shouldn't be ignored is the highly educated chengguan's professional stability and loyalty. For the chengguan department, highly educated people have been recruited as talented workers, but for most of the highly educated chengguan, the job is only a professional springboard. As an employee of the city of Hefei chengguan department pointed out, certain graduates are curious therefore they tried out for the department, to follow the crowd. But most of them came because of the pressure of unemployment, and wanted a steady job. Once they've experienced hardships, or if they've found a better job, how enticing would the job of a chengguan be to graduates and postgraduates?

If we say that the queries which the people have for highly educated chengguan is judgmental, then the requirements for chengguan recruitment to be university degree and above is on the other extreme end of the spectrum. It's saying that only those with a higher education degree can handle and triumph in chengguan work. From this angle, the purpose of the "highly-educated chengguan" seems to be for engineering an image. In a short amount of time the external image of the chengguan can be improved, but in terms of the law enforcing abilities and the cultivation of the chengguan, its significance is limited.

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