More Chinese Workers Prefer Domestic Firms

In August, China's biggest job-search site released a survey of 200,000 Chinese college students, ranking their -preferences for employment. Only three non-Chinese multinational corporations made the list of the top 50: Google, Microsoft, and Procter & Gamble, all in the top 10. That's a steep decline from the 21 foreign firms that made the list last year.

The results are more evidence that, particularly since the financial crisis, big Chinese companies are seen as offering less-risky jobs with more growth potential. The top company on the list, China Mobile, "combines the best of both worlds for Chinese graduates," says Andy Mok, president of executive search firm Red Pagoda Resources. It provides "the stability of a state-owned enterprise in a rapidly growing industry." (Thirty-three of the companies on the list are state-owned.) There's also the sense that some of these Chinese companies, like the online giant Alibaba (ranked No. 2), "are on the verge of a breakthrough," says Mok.

Of course, it's difficult to know the extent to which the statistics may have been officially manipulated. "Many [young job-seekers] would say on the record that it is better to work for a state-owned enterprise because it's more politically correct," says one foreign business consultant working in China. Yet if there's a growing ethos among China's new college graduates that state-owned companies are the way to go, it's yet another bad sign for Beijing's beleaguered foreign business community, which desperately needs to recruit and retain all the Chinese talent it can find.