“Frame style” fashion is a new trend in China’s strained economy

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In the fall of Harry Wang’s final year at Tianjin University of Foreign Studies, the French major was set for a bright future in China’s private economy. He has received job offers from global companies, including pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and TikTok owner ByteDance. But one afternoon last September, he rejected them to pursue a career as a Chinese official.

The 22-year-old said his decision helped him feel “determined and confident” for the ultra-competitive written test to become a bureaucrat. His sense of purpose also came from having already dressed for the role: Wang is into “executive style” fashion, an online trend in China in which young men wear the outfits of Chinese Communist Party apparatchiks ( PCC) that they aspire to become.

Long considered uninspired, the Chinese politician’s simple attire has gained new appeal in recent months for those who want the security of official jobs. “As private companies announce mass layoffs due to the pandemic, the popularity of the executive style reflects the desire for a life within the system with stable employment and income,” Wang said.

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Rising unemployment and an uncertain economic outlook have made seemingly stable careers in the party and its sprawling bureaucracy increasingly attractive for the roughly 11 million Chinese university graduates who entered the labor market this summer.

Economic turmoil threatens to undermine an important moment for Chinese leader Xi Jinping as he prepares to take up an unprecedented third term at the 20th Party Congress this fall. Top leaders signaled last month that their previous target of 5.5% economic growth this year would be unachievable, due to China’s strict adherence to a “zero covid” policy and a sharp slowdown in the labor market. lodging.

Adding to the pain, unemployment among 16-24 year olds hit a record high of 19.9% ​​in July, amid almost uniformly weak economic data released this week. The causes include coronavirus restrictions and a regulatory crackdown that has hit the tech industry and private education. As a result, more Chinese university students than ever are turning to the party-state in search of reliable careers.

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

“For young graduates, stability has become the priority,” said Wang Yixin, public relations director of online recruitment platform Zhilian Zhaopin. He said the rise in unemployment was caused by coronavirus outbreaks that affected domestic production and the cancellation of job fairs just as foreign students returned to China during the pandemic. “Many have started to believe that by working as a civil servant, their life can become more stable.”

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On Instagram-like platform Xiaohongshu, or Little Red Book, frame-style hashtags on photos of young men mostly dressing as government officials have millions of views. Many of the posters call themselves “boyfriend from within the system,” implying that men in coveted government jobs make good marriage material.

A widely shared post on social media app WeChat described the fascination as reflecting the power wielded by officials and the respect they command, especially among parents who pressure their daughters into marriage.

“Unlike branded clothing to show off, the core of executive styling is… to discreetly show that a 20 year old has the capabilities of a 30 year old and the resources of a 40 year old” , indicates the article. explain why parents hope their daughters will find a partner in the system.

Not everyone is impressed with the trend. Online influencers said it was just bad dressing. Chinese media reported on a 25-year-old man who was often mistaken for a middle-aged official because he dressed like one. On the Weibo microblog, one person said, “Why say something ugly is beautiful, use old looks to gain seniority, and turn lack of personality into ability?”

At a time when Xi has reasserted party leadership over all aspects of society and clamped down on perceived excesses in the private economy, there is also increased pressure on young people to publicly report what the party calls the “core socialist values” of patriotism, dedication and integrity.

To the casual observer, the frame style is unremarkable, because being understated is part of the point. A common choice is the plain dark suit with an inexpensive white shirt and reasonable leather shoes. Another is the unbranded polo shirt. The iconic windbreaker jackets worn by major party leaders are particularly popular.

For Wang, the recent graduate, the CCP badge is essential. Raised in Hanzhong, a city of 3 million people in Shaanxi province, by two civil servant parents, Wang applied to join the party in his first year of college. Uploading photos of himself dressed in dark suits with the party’s bright red emblem pinned to his lapel “makes people feel like you’re mature and serious,” he said.

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Party membership has long been a common choice for ambitious young Chinese people, regardless of their political beliefs, in part because it can help them apply for jobs. But Wang says he is a true believer, drawn to the administration by a school trip to Zhengding county in Hebei province, where he was inspired by the example of Xi Jinping, who at 30 became the local party leader in the 1980s.

“Of course, there are a lot of uncertainties, but I wish that through my efforts, I could become the senior cadre of a department or office,” Wang said. “Or even a director.”

But not everyone is able to work for the government. And the troubled job market has led many people to compromise on their dream jobs. A May survey by Zhilian Zhaopin found that 55% of recent graduates said the economic situation has caused them to lower their expectations for future jobs, with their expected average salary around $930 per month, down from 6% compared to the previous year.

After graduating from a second-tier university in Wuhan last year, Linn Wang spent months trying to find a job, before deciding to move to one of China’s most populous cities, Guangzhou. , after several unsuccessful attempts in his hometown.

Wang – who is not related to Harry Wang or Wang Yixin – has not considered taking the civil service exam. “It’s too competitive. I wouldn’t stand a chance,” she said, adding that only one person she knew had made it.

“The different situation for my year’s graduates is that everyone is now applying for jobs that previously weren’t attractive to top university students,” said the 22-year-old business graduate. “There are a lot of competitors. Those who have been laid off by big companies are also in competition with you.

With the savings from her previous internships as a cushion, Wang said she had not reached the point where she would need to apply for unemployment benefit, but decided not to aim for an ideal job. “Before, I wanted to find a job with two days off a week, but now I can handle just one day off,” she said. “You have to face reality.


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