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From campus to countryside
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In March, the government launched a five-year project to have 100,000 college students work in villages. They would be responsible for helping farmers with agricultural technology, raising health awareness and skills, promoting cultural activities and researching farmers' complaints.

Yuan Kaisheng, a sociologist with the Henan Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said the project is expected to help alleviate job-hunting pressure and upgrade rural governance.

"As living conditions are improving in the countryside, more graduates would choose to work there," he said.

In contrast to the compulsory relocation in Mao's time, the current project has attracted graduates with a series of preferential policies.

Village administrators like Shen are promised free medical insurance and will be looked on more favorably when they pass the national civil service examination and the national graduate school entrance exams after finishing their service in the countryside. Meanwhile, their salaries are above average among new graduates.

"It's no longer a shame for college graduates to work in the countryside, since we can get more than those who choose to work in the cities, in terms of both salary and experience," Shen said.

In the second year of his term, Shen wants to carry out an even more ambitious plan: to attract urbanites to the village, where they could enjoy a laid-back lifestyle and the picturesque landscape.

"It would bring more money to my fellow villagers and more sense of accomplishment to me," he said. "To feel needed by the villagers makes me feel happy."

(Xinhua News Agency May 7, 2008)

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