Chinese university graduates are struggling to find work in the country’s worst job market in years – unless they have degrees in Marxism.

Despite being China’s dominant ideology, Marxism was for decades an obscure major for students. But it is enjoying a revival under President Xi Jinping, who has urged Chinese Communist Party cadres to “remember the original mission” as he prepares to begin an unprecedented third term in office this year.

According to Yingjiesheng, a leading job search website for college graduates, there was a 20% increase in openings requiring a degree in Marxism in the second quarter – peak hiring season – compared to the last quarter. same period last year. Experts in Marxism are sought by employers ranging from government departments to private conglomerates.

Analysts said the popularity of Marxism graduates underscores Xi’s efforts to bolster ideological education as China’s rivalry with the United States intensifies, with the powers adopting starkly different approaches to everything from Russian invasion of Ukraine to the management of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The purpose of the major is to form a thought police to brainwash the entire population,” said Ming Xia, a political science professor at the City University of New York.

Chinese universities offering degrees in Marxism instill in students the philosophy developed by Karl Marx as interpreted by Xi and his revolutionary idol, Mao Zedong.

A three-year master’s program in Marxism at a university in central Henan province includes a module on “principles and methods of thought education” and 18 hours of study of Xi’s speeches on education.

Tourists take photos in front of a statue of former Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong in central China’s Hunan province © Jade Gao/AFP/Getty Images

Before Xi came to power in late 2012, Marxism courses struggled to gain traction in a country that emphasized economic prosperity over ideological correctness during the three decades of reforms launched by Deng. Xiaoping in 1978.

Under Deng, the party popularized slogans such as “it is glorious to get rich” and assured entrepreneurs that it was acceptable for “some people to get rich first”. Deng’s successor as party leader, Jiang Zemin, has formally invited businessmen and women from the private sector to join the party.

Xi, however, has made clear that he intends to preside over an ideologically stricter “new era” that will prioritize “common prosperity”, tighter regulation of private sector conglomerates and less division. net of rich and poor in what is one of the countries of the world. most unequal societies.

Xi’s government has cracked down on young people who apply Marxist analysis too critically to the abuses of labor permitted by China’s system of state capitalism. But it has spurred demand for Marxism professors, who now play a vital role in educating the public about why China’s communist regime is superior to the West.

In a circular issued in 2018, the same year the party eliminated the previous two-term limit on the presidency, the Education Ministry told universities they should hire at least one Marxism instructor for every 350 students.

A talent acquisition boom soon followed, with the number of university lecturers in “ideology and politics” increasing by two-thirds over the next four years.

The degree seems recession proof. Youth unemployment is at an all-time high of 18.4%, limiting the number of opportunities available to other majors. But Yingjiesheng’s records show that Marxism professors’ salaries and benefits are catching up with those offered to job seekers in previously more popular fields such as business administration.

In northern Shaanxi province, where urban workers earn an average of Rmb52,000 ($7,760) a year, Xi’an University of Science and Technology offers doctors of Marxism an annual base salary of Rmb200,000. Rmb, a signing bonus of 20,000 Rmb and housing.

“This is the golden age of students of Marxism,” said a university official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to foreign media.

Other educational institutions, ranging from kindergartens to high schools, are also actively hiring Marxism graduates in line with guidelines requiring students as young as 10 to study “Xi Jinping Thought.”

In southern Hainan Island, an elite high school offers Marxism teachers annual salaries of 150,000 Rmb, high by local standards.

“The study of Marxism and Xi Jinping Thought should start from an early age,” said an official from PKU Haikou High School, affiliated with Peking University in Beijing. “This creates a high demand for tutors.”

Private sector companies are also hiring Marxism majors in a bid to show their party allegiance following the crackdown on tech and real estate entrepreneurs such as Alibaba and Ant founder Jack Ma and China Evergrande Chairman Hui Ka Yan.

“It helps to have someone who speaks the party language working for us,” said David Tong, owner of a machine tool factory in the eastern city of Ningbo, near Shanghai. “The government will trust us more.”

Tong recently hired a Marxism expert to help his company improve communication with local authorities. The hiring had an immediate impact.

Shortly after he began, the in-house Marxist showed Tong an “inappropriate” article in his company’s in-house magazine that had criticized China’s draconian film censorship regime.

Tong showed the Financial Times a message from the hire that read, “It’s good that someone has their own opinion on how the government controls the media, but the publication of such opinions in our corporate magazine will lead to a misunderstanding that we support ideas contrary to the official line.

Tong said he appreciated the advice and quickly removed the article.

Additional reporting by Tom Mitchell in Singapore