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American Grads Finding Jobs in China

Today’s New York Times tells how some recent American college graduates are finding better job prospects in Shanghai and Beijing than in Chicago and Birmingham. Chinese employers apparently value the Americans’ entrepreneurial attitudes and practices, which, they say, are not often found in Chinese workers.

China has so far weathered the global recession better than the United States, and the job market there is not nearly as dire. As China’s total economic growth rate (measured by the Gross Domestic Product or GDP) declined to 7.9% in the last quarter, the United States suffered through a 1% decrease in GDP. Unemployment in China’s urban areas is reported at 4.3%, less than half of the U.S. rate of 9.4%.

A Science Careers feature in December 2006 outlined many scientific opportunities in China, but according to the Times, it’s American business skills and attitudes Chinese employers now want to tap into. The story quotes a partner in the Shanghai branch of McKinsey and Company, an international consulting firm, who says that more young Americans are coming to China to take part in the country’s entrepreneurial boom, particularly in the energy sphere, a field where graduates with science and engineering degrees often have an advantage.

Americans, the article says, are more likely tan their Chinese counterparts to take initiative, a trait observers quoted in the article attribute to the differences in education systems. In the United States, students have more incentives to experiment and take risks, while Chinese students are encouraged more to defer to their instructors.

Jason Misium, a recent Harvard graduate with a degree in in biology, has started an academic consulting business that helps Chinese who want to study in the United States. Misium tells the Times he found it easy to start a business in China, financed with his own savings.

Apparently, Americans find career progression more rapid in China, compared to the more sluggish United States. A 23-year old graduate of Barnard College in urban studies, recently hired as program director of a dance company in Beijing, tells the Times, “There is no doubt that China is an awesome place to jump-start your career. Back in the U.S., I would be intern No. 3 at some company or selling tickets at Lincoln Center.”