In China, Nepotism And 'Guan Xi' On The Rise As Meritocracy Takes A Hit

 @mflorcruzm.florcruz@ibtimes.com
on August 20 2013 12:19 PM

Finding employment in China is becoming increasingly difficult. It means having a great education, excellent work experience, a little bit of luck -- and a lot of connections.

Over the weekend U.S. authorities announced an investigation into the China branches of American bank and financial services company JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE: JPM) over reports that it hired the sons and daughters of powerful Chinese officials to help its business. The practice, which the Chinese call “guan xi,” translates roughly to "schmoozing and keeping good connections," and many in China said that using your parents’ good guan xi, the way the U.S. bank did, is the way things are often done.

A recent online survey conducted by the Social Survey Center of the state-run China Youth Daily and published on Sohu.com found that nearly 84 percent of 3,809 respondents said they would prefer using “pin die,” loosely translating to “powerful daddy,” and which also refers to using a family’s personal connections to get ahead at work. In addition, 80 percent of respondants said they believed that most young people already relied on these family connections to land their current jobs.

And that isn’t the only extent to which some are willing to use their parents’ connections. The survey also found that when a problem arises, 36 percent of people surveyed said they would blame it on not having better family connections, while 25 percent said they would ask their dads for help in tackling the issue. Only 35 percent of those surveyed said they would choose to solve the problem themselves, and only 10 percent said they value hard work as the path to becoming successful.

Reactions to the statistics were mixed on Weibo, China’s most popular social media platform, which is often used to gauge the voice of the masses. On one hand, many bloggers weren’t surprised by the news, and some said that nepotism has storied roots in China. “This is hardly surprising, it doesn’t make sense to reject connections if they are there for you,” one Weibo user said. “Is anyone surprised? If so, that’s rather naïve,” another said.

“There’s a misunderstanding I think,” another user chimed in. “Just because you have connections, doesn’t mean you have the right not to perform well. Honestly, many who find their way into banks can’t be terrible at their jobs just because of their dads. They can still be fired, no?”

Others were less forgiving of the statistics, blaming a societal shift that is completely contradictory to the traditional Communist Party values of meritocracy. “This is horrible,” one user said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “An overturning of the value system.”

Evan Osnos, columnist for the New Yorker and China watcher, says that this shift in blatant nepotism is a threat to the Party as whole and threatens the soundness of the Communist government. “The credibility of the Chinese political and economic system has always rested partly on its assertion that it is a well-functioning meritocracy,” Osnos wrote. “In effect, the Party says, You don’t need to vote if the system is designed to promote and reward the nation’s top talent.”

While those who use family connections may not have written the rules, they certainly are playing by them to their advantage. Unfortunately for those without connections, those with no guanxi are finding it increasingly difficult to even get a chance to play.

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