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Graduates boost villagers' lives

AS a heavily tanned Fu Yongxian picks ripe watermelons in the hot sun in central China, it's hard to believe he was once a Shanghai college graduate.

The 29-year-old came to Zaozhuang Village in Baofeng County of central China's Henan Province four years ago. He is now head of the village. "We college graduates are sent to villages to help farmers get rich," he said.

Fu is one of the 130,000-plus college graduates who now work as village officials in the vast Chinese countryside.

Chinese authorities have decided to send another 100,000 college graduates to villages in the next five years.

Five years ago, the idea that a college graduate would work as a village official was unheard of.

But while Fu was desperately trying to find a job in 2004, Baofeng County launched its college graduate recruitment plan and he took the opportunity.

With the animal husbandry knowledge Fu acquired in the Shanghai Institute of Technology, he has helped the villagers breed pigs.

Pig profits

Now, the villagers sell pigs in big Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Wuhan. Their average annual income leaped from 1,600 yuan (US$2340) in 2004 to 6,100 yuan last year.

In China, an increasing number of college graduates like Fu, frustrated by the keen competition in China's large cities, find their places in rural areas where talent is most needed.

In neighboring Shanxi Province, every village official post is competed for by 20 college graduates this year.

Statistics from the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China Baofeng Committee show that the county's Party members are 45 years old on average and 77 percent of them do not have college degrees. The average age of Party members in the Zaozhuang Village branch is 51.

Before Fu came to the village, the village's Party chief of the past three decades, Chang Qingji, was the most educated Party member. Chang finished high school.

"My generation is inferior to the college students in knowledge and skills," Chang, 58, said. "The villagers refuse to follow our instructions as we do not have the ability to lift them out of poverty - which sometimes makes the relationships between villagers and officials turn sour."


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