Foreigners Can Be Model Workers in China

Posted 2020/3/15

The Chinese capital is allowing expatriates to be elected as "model workers" for the first time.

"You don't have to be a Communist Party member, a Communist Youth League member or even a member of the trade union in your company," said Wang Yonghao, director of the marketing department of the Beijing municipal federation of trade unions, the authority that selects the role models. "We are simply looking for people who have the potential to become leaders in society."

For decades, model workers in China have been cast as a political symbols emulating selflessness among the working class. The title is awarded every five years. Winners of the title, many of whom are recommended by employers eager for public exposure, are often forced to endure media bombardment in return for the recognition.

But the federation of trade unions is taking a different approach this year.

"We welcome everybody in Beijing, be they foreign staff or migrant workers. Even nannies with excellent records and good personalities can be nominated," Huo Lianming, vice-president of the union, said on a morning radio show.

The federation said there is no quota of expatriate winners but said at least some will likely be selected.

The move to include expatriates is part of Beijing's ambition to become an international city, officials said.

Elyse Ribbons, an American actress and playwright who has been in Beijing for seven years, said she understands what it means to become a model worker in China and that she would be honored if chosen.

"I didn't know that there are still model worker nominations now," said the 29-year-old from Detroit. "It's still part of a socialist-style propaganda campaign, but it would definitely be fun to be elected."

The only criteria for Beijing's candidates this time are three years of work experience in Beijing - not necessarily at the same company - and making exceptional contributions, the federation said.

There will be about 1,200 winners altogether, but what the winners get has not been decided, said the federation.

But the federation is unlikely to grant winners Beijing hukou (Beijing permanent residency).

"We have never granted hukou to previous awardees," said Wang. "We believe the issue of hukou has little to do with honoring model workers," Wang told METRO.

Five years ago, more than 100 model workers were selected in Beijing and each got 15,000 yuan. Some even got increased subsidies for education, medical services and housing, because their employers had to treat them well after their public appearance.

This is also the first time that migrant workers in Beijing, most of whom don't have hukou, can become model workers.

The federation said that accepting migrant worker nominations promotes social equality.

The federation has started accepting nominations on March 15 and will stop on March 20.


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