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Wednesday, June 13, 2001, updated at 08:01(GMT+8)

Chinese Officials Better Educated, More Competent Professionally

Zhu Zonghan, the 59-year-old director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Health, is a medical expert who always keeps an eye on the world's medical front lines.

The first time he heard of the news about dioxin, Zhu immediately searched the English websites of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) of the United States before directing his subordinates to map out countermeasures.

Zhu is a typical example of contemporary Chinese officials, who are better educated than their predecessors and often handle their routine work as professionals do.

Since the early 1980s, China began fully implementing the policies of making officials more revolutionary, younger, better educated and more competent professionally.

The rapid development of China's socialist market economy, as well as the descent of the knowledge economy era, also helped improve the general educational level of Chinese officials, observers here said.

According to the latest statistics from the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, by the end of 2000, Chinese officials at and above the county level with at least a two-year college education background stood at more than 92.2 percent.

But in 1978, only 18 percent of Chinese officials had a two-year college education or better, while 50 percent of the country's officials just had an educational background of junior middle school.

In Beijing Municipality, for instance, there are more than 2,000 officials like Zhu and some 74 percent of the officials at and above the prefectural level have received four years of college education. Among them, there are 509 postgraduates and 48 doctors.

Of the 10 mayors and deputy mayors in the municipality, seven are postgraduates, according to Beijing Mayor Liu Qi.

"In such a city as Beijing, which is not only a political and cultural center, but also a center of international exchanges and a key base of knowledge economy, officials without a good educational background cannot get by in their daily work," Liu said.

While stressing on officials' educational background, China also attaches great importance to on-the-job professional training, which is normally focused on the country's socialist market economy.

Over the past five years, more than 37 million officials, or about 90 percent of the country's total, have attended training courses. Among them, more than 460,000 attendants are officials at or above the county-level.

Wang Jiping, now director of the Beijing Municipal Administration for Industry and Commerce, had been a salesman. He finished his college and post-graduate studies entirely by going to part-time schools.

"He loves reading as does his life," said Wang's wife referring to her husband's habit of reading before going to sleep.

Wang initiated the computerization drive of the municipal administration's daily affairs, shortly after his appointment as director, and helped establish a three-level network which connects the administration at the municipal, the district and the station levels.

"Knowledge changed my life, but it's the Party's opening up policy that makes it possible," said Zhu Zonghan while recalling the past.

Zhu first began learning English in the "Great Cultural Revolution" (1966-1976) period. What's incredible is that while he did not know how to say "table" and "stool" in English he could read English medical books. This is simply because his colleagues, professor-turned-laborers, dared not to teach anything except medical knowledge for fear of political persecution.

In 1978, 36-year-old Zhu was luckily enrolled as a post-graduate student, one of the first batch after the "Great Cultural Revolution", when China resumed the national examination system for post-graduates.

With the further opening-up of China to the outside world, Zhu got the opportunities to further his studies in Britain and the United States.

In 1989 when Zhu completed his study in Harvard University, he immediately returned to China where "respecting knowledge and talented people" had already become an unshakable national policy.

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Zhu Zonghan, the 59-year-old director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Health, is a medical expert who always keeps an eye on the world's medical front lines.

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