Educational background: In 2010, he graduated from Tongji University, after which he attended a graduate program at Newcastle University in high-level international commerce management and received his Master’s degree.
Employment: Chengguan (Urban Management Authority), Songjiang District, Shanghai
Expecting to learn from work: I’m willing to do basic work, to encounter all sorts of people, and learn about all sorts of things.
Tall and fair complexioned with half-frame black glasses, and still a little shy when he smiles, it’s hard to imagine that 26 year old Meng Yanchao has already completed several years of mental preparation to work as a chengguan.
I once hesitated: work in government or do business?
Dongfang Daily: What influence did your two years of education abroad have on your future career choice?
Meng Yanchao: In 2010, when I graduated from Tongji University, I decided to go to England to continue my studies. I chose to study high-level international commerce management for my Master’s program at Newcastle University. Actually, this is in the same vein as the administrative management I majored in at Tongji University. If you match these subjects of study up to a corresponding position and organization, I think that being a chengguan, as well as industry and commerce, are both suitable.
When I received my undergraduate degree, I already had a plan to take the public service exam, so my studies abroad didn’t change my career aspirations. My time abroad helped me understand more about customs and living conditions abroad and broaden my perspective. My main objective in getting my Master’s wasn’t to go abroad.
In July of 2012, I graduated and returned to China, and I once again became conflicted about whether to go into government or business. Finding a job with a company, even those famous multinationals, seems like a pretty good path. But when I thought about it carefully, my dream all along was to return to my hometown and make a contribution to it with my abilities. I’m a born and raised Songjiang District native, so without another thought, I went and enrolled to take the public service test.
Testing to become a chengguan, the odds of success are higher
Dongfang Daily: Over the past few years, don’t Chinese who study overseas and return to China have some advantages when finding employment?
Meng Yanchao: I don’t really think so. Even if you’re a study abroad returnee, there’s a lot of pressure to find a job. Finding a suitable company is difficult, and taking public service exams isn’t easy either.
I started preparing for the public service exam basically from September of 2012. Even though I studied hard, my final written test score wasn’t great. It was only a few points above the passing line. Selecting a work unit that relatively fewer people were interested in was the best way of increasing my odds of success. So my first choice was the Songjiang District Chengguan. I mean, the subjective and objective factors aligned in making the choice.
The Songjiang District Chengguan recruited seven people out of twenty one interviewees this year. When they interview you, the interviewers don’t have any information on your personal background. It was the same for me as for the others, I had to rely on my performance to win the approval of the interviewers. “One resident’s external air conditioning unit is blocking the window of another resident. How should you handle the situation?” The four questions during the interview all required interviewees to consider real world situations to come up with answers. I felt a little slow at that time, and I had to take a minute or two to consider each question before answering.
Getting to know work responsibilities through the Chengguan weibo account
Dongfang Daily: What is the image of chengguan in your mind?
Meng Yanchao: Neither my parents nor any of my relatives work in the government. You could say I don’t have any public servants to take as role models. It’s worth noting that I do have a close friend who is a chengguan. In my mind, he’s a good-natured guy and friendly, and he’s nothing like those reports in the news and online about chengguan fighting with people or getting beaten up. But what I know about this job isn’t because of him.
While I was studying, I saw chengguan patrolling the streets many times, and I watched them enforce the law. There was one time when I saw a pile of construction rubble on the street and thought to myself someone should really go clean that up to clear the street. The next day, I saw chengguan cleaning that street.
This work is something like police work. The country entrusts us with the authority to enforce the law. But we have to deal with smaller matters, protecting the normal operations and order of the city. This is a very social service oriented job. I follow Shanghai chengguan on weibo, and I try to understand the responsibilities and scope of work more deeply in that way.
Future development: there’s no very specific plan
Dongfang Daily: Are you sufficiently psychologically prepared to get mixed up with street peddlers and unlicensed stall keepers after you start working?
Meng Yanchao: I’m willing to do basic work, to encounter all sorts of people, and learn about all sorts of things. Not everyone in this world is a successful and well-dressed person who spits in the right place. There’s still a mass of common people who are of low or basic social status. What attracts me to this work is its ability to give me a clearer understanding of society.
I did an internship in the neighborhood committee one summer during college. I talked with the elderly residents and the poor families. The little issues that occurred between those residents and families gave me a basic introduction to this kind of work. If there’s any difference after I put on the uniform, it’s going to mostly be about the application of legal authority to manage issues. This should be a civilized process, and a fair and lawful one. As for my future development, I don’t have a very clear plan. I just want to have my feet firmly on the ground, and move ahead one step at a time.
Original publication date: 5/14/2013