The job choices of graduates from China’s top two prestigious universities, Tsinghua University and the Peking University, are often seen as an indicator for the direction of the whole country. According to the latest job reports on graduates from both schools, China’s top students are reconsidering their employment destinations, in a similar fashion to US students picking Silicon Valley over Wall Street. In one noticeable change last year, finance lost favour. At Tsinghua, only 12.2 per cent of graduates landed jobs in banking, securities and insurance in 2021, about half the 22 per cent who opted for information technology and software businesses. ‘Everyone is frustrated’: international students wait in limbo for China to open It is the first time finance has dropped out of the top three sectors for Tsinghua graduates, according to data compiled by the school, which started tracking such trends in 2013. The situation is similar for Peking University graduates. Students from the top schools are also less willing to study abroad or join the private sector. The percentage of new graduates seeking further education abroad has plunged amid Covid-19 travel disruptions and worsening China-US relations. Only 6.9 per cent of Tsinghua graduates, or one in 15, chose to study abroad after their 2021 graduation, compared to 9.6 per cent in 2020. Last year’s figure is sharply down from the average figure of 16 per cent from 2013 to 2019, or one in every six new graduates. At Peking University, the share of new graduates studying abroad dropped to 8.2 per cent in 2021 from 13.3 per cent in 2020 and 14.8 per cent in 2019. A particularly worrying trend is that China’s best educated young people are showing a preference for job stability and career predictability over entrepreneurship. At Tsinghua, nearly 70 per cent of graduates chose to join government agencies, publicly funded institutions and state-owned enterprises, or traditional “iron rice bowls”. One eye-opening trend is that many graduates want to become teachers at public middle schools, and even primary schools. Beijing remains the top destination for the country’s best and brightest, followed by Shanghai and the Greater Bay Area in southern Guangdong province. The proportion of graduates from the two elite schools is tiny when compared with the country’s total – about 20,000 graduated from Tsinghua and Peking with bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees, while China had 9 million fresh graduates in total. However, the choices made by this small group always receive more attention as they are perceived to be the leaders in determining the country’s future. The preference for tech is a sign that they are better aligned with government priorities, while the shift to state jobs may point to a rigid social structure in the future.