They are tall, beautiful and well-mannered, and they stand out in the sea of grey suits that fills the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Some men ignore them, while others can't resist asking for their name cards in the hope of getting a date. Dressed in matching green suits and white gloves, the troop of attendants serving delegates to the NPC and CPPCC are no ordinary waitresses - they are the best of the best. It takes a special type of person to win the honour of serving tea to the most powerful people in China, as well as leading overseas politicians. With a minimum height requirement of 168 cm, the successful attendants are mostly teenagers. Applicants are put through a rigorous screening process, and only a small fraction of those who apply are accepted for the two-year contracts. One attendant revealed that only 10 girls had been chosen from a field of 500 hopefuls. 'We are all very young. I am only 18,' said another. Valued as much for their discretion as their social skills and beauty, the small group of elite attendants is not allowed to speak to the media. Many of the recruits come from the coastal provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu in eastern China, where the women are famous for their good looks and soft voices. The female attendants make up an important part of the 1,000 staff members on the payroll of the Great Hall of the People. Other workers include security guards, maintenance workers, management staff and male attendants. The girls' male counterparts, dressed in bow ties and black suits, are also mostly teenagers who are screened and carefully chosen to represent the different provinces in China. The attendants' jobs put them in close contact with many of the nation's most important and powerful people. When state leaders hold panel discussions with NPC delegates, young attendants can be seen standing nearby holding trays of white towels, serving tea to guests or walking through the corridors in the labyrinth of conference rooms inside the Great Hall. The job also has its financial rewards. The attendants have their salaries and bonuses pegged to the income of the venue, a small part of which is open to the public when there are no meetings taking place. In good times the attendants can earn up to 3,000 yuan (HK$2,830) a month, a good wage for a teenager in Beijing. The downside is that their careers are extremely short. Most of the hard-working youngsters do not have their contracts renewed, and have to look for other work when their two-year stint is up.