Since the eighties, the Chinese central government has called for lower-level bureaus to reduce their headcount. But these cries for reform have seldom yielded the desired result. Because officials seldom get fired, older or incompetent ones typically are moved laterally but kept on the government’s payroll. As new officials are hired to take their place, the system gets larger, more expensive, and less efficient.
It is likely that applicants have stagnated, despite a dearth of good jobs for university graduates, because becoming a Chinese official has become a lot less cushy in recent years.