Passing out into the real world
The passers-by in a bustling Chongqing shopping district were not sure what to make of the three young men in business suits sleeping in the middle of a public square.
Were they performance artists?
Fliers with resumes scattered in the square next to puddles of fresh vomit were a clue to the mystery.
It turns out that the young men were trying to impress a prospective employer with their drinking prowess at lunch on Monday after being interviewed for a sales job.
Their capacity for liquor falling short of their ambition, the trio ended up so drunk that police had to call an ambulance to take them to hospital.
Photos of the young men made their way to popular news sites on the internet - which was soon abuzz with heated discussions about the lack of job opportunities for school-leavers, the poor education they receive and the kind of skills that are really needed for success in business.
By 6pm yesterday, the news had attracted 3,775 postings to a discussion on the Netease website.
'It's a tragedy to judge a job-seeker by how much he or she can drink,' one internet user wrote.
Another said: 'A grasp of basic etiquette could [make the necessary favourable impression], and those who pay too much attention to so-called social skills in wining and dining or playing are actually less competent, because they aren't good at communication.'
Mainland job-seekers are increasingly required to exhibit 'grey skills' - binge drinking, playing mahjong and even ballroom dancing - to provide them with an edge in the job market.
In a China Youth Daily online survey of 2,298 people last week, 70 per cent of respondents said acquiring 'grey skills' was important, with 20 per cent saying it was extremely important, and 64.6 per cent said they had worked at honing such skills.
The sighting of the drunken job-seekers in Chongqing coincided with the start of a campaign by the municipality's Communist Party chief, Bo Xilai , to send up to 750,000 college students to farms, factories and army barracks to gain practical skills - though it is not clear if such grey skills were on his mind.
Peking University sociologist Professor Xia Xueluan said the incident was a reality check for future college graduates whose campus experience was infused with idealism. Two of the trio are reportedly students due to graduate next year.
Xia said job-seekers had no choice but to conform to the mainland business culture, where wining and dining are part of the protocol.
But he warned other job-seekers against emulating the drunken trio and believing 'social skills are more important than professional skills'.
'That would be extremely dangerous and totally wrong,' Xia said.