Cablegate: The Networking Party: Career Advancement,
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #3160/01 3271111
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 231111Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6923
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIJING 003160
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/23/2034
TAGS: CH PGOV PHUM PREL SOCI
SUBJECT: THE NETWORKING PARTY: CAREER ADVANCEMENT,
NOT IDEOLOGY, ATTRACTS YOUTH TO CCP
REF: A) BEIJING 905
Classified By: Acting Political Section Chief
Ben Moeling for Reasons 1.4 (b)(d)
1. (C) Chinese youth associated with Peking University pointed to career advancement and networking opportunities, rather than ideology, as primary reasons to join the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In addition to advantages in securing government positions, CCP membership now also helps recent graduates land private sector jobs, even at foreign firms operating in China. Young Party members were pragmatic, but all supported a more assertive Chinese foreign policy and expanded Chinese media presence abroad. One student in particular criticized the West for clinging to the Cold War notion that "communism is bad." Many felt China was unfairly maligned in the U.S. media and popular culture. Finally, most noted that studying overseas has lost much of its former allure among students of the post-Tiananmen generation, who are now able to find comparable or even superior career options at home. End summary.
AN ELITE GROUP
2. (C) PolOffs met November 12 with six university students and recent graduates, mostly from Peking University. The members of the group discussed their views about the United States and President Obama, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and China's place in the world. Chen Guang (protect), a CCP member and recent graduate of Peking University's international affairs program, organized the meeting. As Secretary of the Communist Youth League (CYL) Information Management Department Committee at Peking University's student counseling office, Chen is responsible for grooming future Party leaders. Chen said he expected to receive an entry-level position in a county or city government soon. (Comment: Although the students, who were selected by Chen, were sometimes critical of China's government and leaders, most expressed interest in joining the CCP or had already joined. The group was disposed to be more "pro-Party" than the general Peking University student body. End comment.)
STRONG ON SUPPORT, WEAK ON DOCTRINE
3. (C) Gong Ting (protect), a senior at Peking University's School of International Studies who said she hoped to join the Foreign Ministry after graduation, was the most avid CCP supporter in the group. Gong pointed to the Party's track record of driving China's economic success as a major factor in her decision to join the Party. Furthermore, Gong argued, there was currently no viable alternative to the one-party system and she criticized foreign pressure to democratize China rapidly. A "more open society" could materialize in due course, but at present there was no better political model for China, given that the country still had a long way to go in terms of economic development, she said.
4. (C) Chen characterized the CCP as "no longer communist" in the sense that it was no longer a party of peasants and workers since the Party agreed to admit urban business elites, technocrats, and intellectuals. (Note: This decision was publicized as a grand political theory called "the Three Represents." Asked about this, Yuan Yichan (protect), who graduated from the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE) in Beijing, confessed she was completely mystified by "Three Represents" theory, which she dismissed "as meaningless." End Note.) Yuan recalled that, as an undergraduate, she had passed up the opportunity to join the CCP because of the "tons of paperwork" and endless meetings required to join. However, Yuan noted that she has been impressed by the CCP's ability to implement a large stimulus package in response to the global financial crisis, implying that the ability to move quickly to address the economic downturn was an advantage of China's political system. Yuan concluded that, were she invited to join the CCP now, she would accept.
CHINA'S BAD RAP
5. (C) The students voiced support for Chinese government efforts to expand the PRC's media influence abroad (reftel). Gong said that such a program was needed to "counter the Falun Gong," which she characterized as having strong influence in the Western press. Gong said she had seen Falun
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Gong members demonstrating in Switzerland and Australia and believed they presented Westerners with a skewed view of the PRC. China must also counter the Dalai Lama's overseas influence, she said. Chen agreed, stating that the Falun Gong "did not represent Chinese culture." Gong also commented on unfavorable portrayals of China, such as jokes involving Chinese authoritarianism and human rights problems, in popular U.S. television shows and films.
6. (C) Gong had recently participated in an exchange program bringing together delegates of provincial-level National People's Congresses in China and state legislatures from the United States. She said that participants from the U.S. had seemed to criticize China for what she thought were mostly cultural differences. Gong urged Westerners, Americans in particular, to reexamine their Cold War assessment that "communism is bad," noting that China was essentially a capitalist country in most respects. She claimed that many CCP members encounter difficulty obtaining visas to the United States, asserting this was a form of discrimination.
MEMBERSHIP HAS ITS PRIVILEGES
7. (C) The students described the CCP application process as grueling but worthwhile, given the benefits and connections Party membership brings. Application forms and supporting documents must be filled out by hand to prove one's "sincerity," and there was a strict cap on the number of nominees from each university and program. Peer support was crucial to secure a nomination, they said, especially at a competitive institution like Peking University. It was also better to join at a young age since the full application process often took two years to complete. The group estimated student CCP membership rates at Peking University to be about 20 percent, though membership rates varied between departments. Roughly 70 percent of the faculty in social science departments were members, according to Chen. Sun Qiming (protect), a recent Peking University mathematics graduate and CCP member, said that, in contrast to the liberal arts and social sciences, fewer natural science students or professors pursue Party membership. "Science types are not so political," Sun said, noting he was one of only a handful of mathematics undergrads to join. Sun, however, said he had grown to dislike math and science and hoped to pursue a master's degree in international relations.
"Private Employers Prefer Party Members"
8. (C) Chen readily admitted that few young CCP members were driven by ideology and most joined the Party mainly to advance their careers. Private sector employers saw CCP Youth League members as hard-working, clean-cut, and obedient employees who would easily assimilate into corporate culture, participants said. Yuan claimed even foreign firms like Nestle now preferred to hire CCP members due to the belief that, in addition to being good workers, Party members enjoyed insider connections that could help the company. The students uniformly agreed that Party connections were advantageous when seeking a job in nearly any field. They also believed this represented a change from a few years ago when many graduates thought CCP membership might hinder their chances of landing a good private sector job.
9. (C) The students stressed that joining the Party had always provided an advantage in securing government positions or jobs at state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The students estimated that approximately half of government employees were Party members. The networking opportunities provided by the Party also improved Party members' chances for promotion.
ALLURE OF STUDYING ABROAD FADING
10. (C) The group also expressed changing attitudes about studying abroad, which was no longer viewed as the only path to success. Not long ago, Gong said, studying in the United States was a "glorious path," and those who stayed behind in China were considered unlucky. Gong explained that the generation born in the 1970s placed great emphasis on going abroad as college students largely because of the Tiananmen massacre. While that generation had generally sought to stay in the United States permanently, students born in the 1980's were less affected by Tiananmen and believed there were more opportunities in China than in the United States. Gong herself had considered applying to U.S. schools for her master's program, but in the end opted to stay in Beijing. Two or more years spent in the United States, she said, would
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have been detrimental to her career in China "where all the action is." The group agreed that for students aspiring to government or business careers, graduate programs in China offered more useful networking opportunities. Yuan said this was especially true of MBA programs. While an MBA from the United States might be better from a purely academic point of view, MBA classes at top-tier graduate schools in China were filled with high-level cadres, entrepreneurs, and other well-connected people, thus adding to the synergy among elites. This was even truer now, she said, given the current economic downturn and dismal job market in the United States.