Beijing promotes low-paid college grads to startup CEOs

Sun Oct 18, 2015 1:42am EDT
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By Pete Sweeney

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Quitting her job as receptionist, joining rock bands and chancing her tattoo-sleeved arm at small business ventures would once have branded college graduate Ding Jia as a rebel in China. Now she can claim state endorsement as a "creative".

"I haven't had a formal job in years," said Ding, 31, sitting in her tiny coffee and cocktails bar on a trendy Shanghai street.

She has no regrets, but no illusions either.

"Entrepreneurship can be a really hard experience," she said. "Profits can be so thin."

In the week she spoke to Reuters, she and dozens of nearby businesses were forced to close temporarily by city officials on a regular sortie to enforce regulations.

While most parents might warn their children off high-risk, low-reward self-employment, preferring jobs in government or state-owned enterprises, Ding says her Shanghai nurse mother and cab driver father were supportive.

That attitude finds an echo in high places; recent graduates who start their own businesses are being hailed in state media as a new creative class that will build China's Silicon Valley.

"Creatives show the vitality of entrepreneurship and innovation among the people, and such creativity will serve as a lasting engine of China's economic growth," Premier Li Keqiang said in January. "I will stoke the fire of innovation with more wood."   Continued...

Young entrepreneurs work at an office area inside the University Students Venture Park, in Shanghai, China, July 29, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song