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12.8.09

Shanghai and Beijing are becoming new lands of opportunity for recent American college graduates who face unemployment nearing double
digits at home.

Even those with limited or no knowledge of Chinese are heeding the call. They are lured by China's surging economy, the lower cost of living and a chance to bypass some of the dues-paying that is common to first jobs in the United States.

''I've seen a surge of young people coming to work in China over the last few years,'' said Jack Perkowski, founder of Asimco Technologies, one of the largest automotive parts companies in China.
''When I came over to China in 1994, that was the first wave of Americans coming to China,'' he said. These young people are part of this big second wave.

One of those in the latest wave is Joshua Arjuna Stephens, who graduated from Wesleyan University with a bachelors degree in American studies. Two years ago, he decided to take a temporary summer position in Shanghai with China Prep, an educational travel company.

''I didn't know anything about China,'' said Stephens, who worked on market research and program development. ''People thought I was nuts to go not speaking the language, but I wanted to do something off the beaten track.''
Two years later, after stints in the non-profit sector and at a large public relations firm in Beijing, he is highly proficient in Mandarin and works as a manager for XPD Media, a social media company in Beijing.

Jonathan Woetzel, a partner with McKinsey & Company in Shanghai who has lived in China since the mid-1980s, says that compared with just a few years ago, he was seeing more young Americans arriving in China to be part of an entrepreneurial boom. There's a lot of experimentation going on in China right now, particularly in the energy sphere, and when people are young they are willing to come and try something new, he said.

And the Chinese economy is more hospitable for both entrepreneurs and job seekers, with a gross domestic product that rose 7.9% in the most recent quarter compared with the period a year earlier. Unemployment in urban areas is 4.3%, according to government data.

Grace Hsieh, president of the Yale Club in Beijing and a 2007 graduate, says she has seen a rise in the number of Yale graduates who have come to work in Beijing since she arrived in China two years ago. She is working as an account executive in Beijing for Hill & Knowlton, the public relations company.

A big draw of working in China, many people say, is that they feel it allows them to skip a rung or two on the career ladder.

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