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Communications of the ACM

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China's Internet Giants Are Losing Their Luster for Computer Science Grads

graduates at graduation ceremony

China's education system produces more STEM graduates than any other country's.

Credit: KrASIA

The big names that once attracted ambitious STEM talent in China are starting to lose some luster. An antitrust campaign and new regulations in the tech sector coupled with a toxic culture of overwork are prompting many young applicants to ponder whether a career in China's Internet industry is worth it.

More than 20,000 workers will join some of China's largest Internet companies this year, with firms like Tencent, Alibaba, ByteDance, Meituan, and Baidu once considered top destinations. Individuals from Chinese universities face additional competition this year from students who studied abroad and have returned from overseas. Partly driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of returnees applying for domestic positions in 2020 increased by 33.9% compared to the previous year.

Wang Xinyue, 22, a computer science graduate from Beijing's China Agricultural University, choose a state-owned enterprise in the communications sector over offers from ByteDance, NetEase, and Meituan. In her senior year, Wang interned at ByteDance for six months. "It was simply too tiring. Employees in my unit would compete with each other to see who would stay at work the latest," Wang said.

"All my life as a Chinese student, I've been told to study hard only to enjoy a life 'later,' and my intern experience made me realize there might not be a 'later' if I settle for a career in big tech," she said.

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