The Brightest from the Best:
Top Graduates Working in Poverty Alleviation
Authors: Wang Hong, Zhang Xiaolong
Price: RMB 108
Paperback, 347 pages
Published by Foreign Languages Press
In China, there is a group of young people who graduated from prestigious universities and are generally thought to be successful with promising careers. They chose to serve the poor and needy in impoverished areas, proactively participating in the hard-fought battle against extreme poverty and did their bit to make a difference in China’s rural areas. In their middle 20s and early 30s, they endured hardships and challenges rarely seen by their peers. Meanwhile, they have also discovered a great sense of fulfillment. These young people who are willing to devote themselves to the well-being of the public and to national development are a source of hope and pride for the nation.
The book The Brightest from the Best: Top Graduates Working in Poverty Alleviation tells the stories of 11 young people of this kind. They were sent by the central government to the front line of the fight against poverty in the poor counties of southwest China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Yunnan, and Sichuan provinces.
When these young graduates started their careers, the central government sounded the clarion call for eradicating absolute poverty nationwide. They then responded to the call of the nation and the people, devoted themselves to fulfilling their responsibilities and participated in the country’s initiative from start to finish, either as the first secretary of the Party branch of a village or as the governor of a township. The majority of them had little or no experience of living in the countryside, but have successfully completed their tasks, showing great resilience and perseverance in face of huge difficulties.
“The book is a record of the choices and growth stories of the young people and their incredible insights on life, their courage, confidence, and capabilities,” Wang Hong and Zhang Xiaolong write in the preface. Wang and Zhang, both graduates from the Department of Chinese Language and Literature of Peking University, are the authors of the book. They said that the idea of the book came from in-depth interviews made over a six-month period during their work in media.
The book presents its content in an engaging Q&A style. In its 11 chapters, interviews of the 11 young people chosen as the representatives of the public servants at the primary-level are conducted covering a wide range of topics, from their educational backgrounds and career choices, to their tough working conditions, daunting tasks they faced, and the skills and capabilities gained from performing arduous tasks. The questions vary according to their experiences.
Liu Mei, with a petite figure, served as the first secretary of the Party branch of a designated poor village named Zaoqing. Now she is the head of the Rural Division of Nanning Science and Technology Bureau. Born in Quanzhou County, Guilin City, Guangxi, in 1987, she received a master’s degree from the School of Life Sciences of Tsinghua University in 2013. Though small in size, her body seems to be overflowing with vitality and she is always ready to take on more responsibilities.
During her first visit to Zaoqing Village, she learned that the lotus root there is very delicious, possessing a powdery texture and a sweet flavor. So she encouraged villagers to plant more and helped them sell the products during the harvest time. Later she organized the Lotus Root Festival on the day of the traditional Qixi Festival, also known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day, which falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, just around the harvest time of lotus roots. The village has now become a popular destination for city dwellers to unwind and enjoy the rustic lifestyle. For them, tasting snacks made from lotus roots has become a must try experience. As a result, a production supply chain comes into being. She even cooperated with e-commerce companies to make the local brand visible online to customers across the country.
The other 10 chapters in the book narrate the stories of young people who opted for the same path of working at primary-level communities and serving in rural areas after their graduation, and in return their jobs provided them with opportunities to fulfill their passion for utilizing their knowledge and skills to deliver services to local communities. Their stories provide a convincing argument that in the current era idealism has not faded and idealists are never alone.
According to the white paper Youth of China in the New Era published by the State Council Information Office of China on April 21, 2022, by 2021, 470,000 college graduates had worked in rural areas on posts related to teaching, agriculture, medical service, and poverty alleviation, and during their vacations, millions of college students had conducted surveys or taken part in cultural and other activities to spread understanding of science and technology and information on health in the countryside. Through these efforts, young people have offered their support to China’s poverty alleviation and rural revitalization.
At the end of the book, the authors summed up some similarities between these young people: they were all born in the 1980s or 1990s, full of energy and eagerness to serve the country and the people; they all graduated from top universities in China, and most of them have master or doctorate degrees; all are members of the Communist Party of China; and more importantly, they are knowledgeable, confident, and ambitious.
The book then leads readers to the conclusion: When the youth of a society dare to dream big and choose to align their personal ambitions with the grand goals of the country and its people despite hardships they may encounter on the way forward, the country will be brimming with hope.