Big cities no longer a bright prospect
Many mainlanders believe that all the big opportunities and big money are found in the city.
Liu Yuhang graduated from a nationally known university and works in Guangzhou, a rapidly developing city. His family and friends look up to him as a model of success.
But in reality he struggles every day under the immense financial pressure of life in the big city.
Sky-rocketing property prices have hit Liu hard, and he calls himself a mortgage slave because so much of what he earns goes to pay the interest on his housing loan.
On the other hand, Cai Dazhao, one of Liu's classmates in university, chose to return to his hometown, Zhongshan, a second-tier city in Guangdong, after graduation.
Now he owns a suite, has a respectable deposit in his bank account and is a manager of a company with Hong Kong investors.
'The opportunities in first-tier cities are like a big cake. It is nice, but you can only get a small piece, as there are too many competitors,' Cai said. His annual salary is more than 150,000 yuan (HK$180,000) just five years after he graduated.
Cai said: 'It's better to reign in hell than serve in heaven. As long as you have a competitive edge, it makes no difference whether you live in a first-tier or second-tier city.'
The glittering lights in the big cities are tempting, but the soaring prices of food, housing and transport and the ever fiercer competition in the job market are driving more fresh graduates to small and medium-sized cities.
Cai is just one of the thousands who choose not to develop their careers in 'BSG' - Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The mainland's three top cities used to be the prime destinations for new job-seekers.
Though the reason behind the decision varies from person to person, young people have come to appreciate the fresh air, hospitable environment and modest house prices of the mainland's second- and third-tier cities.