The Evolution of Career Guidance and Counseling in the People's Republic of China

Article excerpt

Although China has a long history of vocational guidance, it is functionally at a beginning stage in career development and counseling because of the historical vagaries of its political leadership. Vocational guidance and career counseling services, as a professional field, are now rapidly being developed to meet the growing need of Chinese society. M. Pope's (1995, 2000) social transitions stage model is applied to the development of career counseling in China. In particular, this article addresses historic and current trends in the economy and labor market in China and their profound impact on the development of career counseling.

In an emerging global era, high technology and new information systems promote a new economy, bringing a revolution in education, the labor market, and lifestyles throughout Asian and Pacific Rim countries. The People's Republic of China (China) is no exception. China is now going through a total transformation, with remarkable achievement not only in its economic development but in all aspects of society. The new market economy has created a new critical condition for career development of the masses as well as openings for career professionals. As a response, vocational guidance and career counseling services as professional fields are being rapidly developed in China.

Although communication technology has transformed separate countries into a global village, it is important to look at the changes taking place in the People's Republic China as well as the impact of the social conditions in China on career development in the country.

Pope (1995, 2000) advanced a social transitions stage model to describe the development of career counseling in the United States, with stages identified from the third author's historical research. In an extension of this social transitions stage model, W. Zhang and Pope (1997) applied this model to the development of career counseling in China and Hong Kong. The current article expands on that analysis and discusses the present system more in depth. The purpose of this article is to increase the understanding of career development in China by highlighting the current trends in the economy and labor market in China, their profound impact on the development of career counseling, and their potentially significant professional implications.

Cultural Context for the Development of Career

Counseling

Although the founders of China's vocational education system were visionary in their views of individual career choice and the role of vocational guidance in that process, the road to the development of career counseling has been rocky and has been strewn with political landmines (France, 1990; Hu, Chen, & Lew, 1994; W. Zhang, 1994; W. Zhang & Pope, 1997). It has evolved from a vocational education model, to a political/ideological education model, to a guidance teacher model, to its wholesale demise, to its rebirth during the last decade.

Within the last decade, China embarked on a new program to reform its economy. In 1992, the 14th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) stated that the goal of China's economic reform was the construction of a socialist market economic system, and since then, steps have been taken to promote the transition from a planned economic system to a market economic system (Hu et al., 1994).

The market-oriented economy brought a dramatic revolution to the Chinese employment system, which affects nearly the entire population in all urban areas of China. The first revolution to appear among education institutions was a change in student placement systems. Under the ideal Marxist system, there would be a job for all citizens, and, for nearly a half century, the Chinese government, through a national economic planning policy, undertook the responsibility of finding a job for all graduates, including college students and high school students.

During this time, career was defined by the state and was introduced to younger generations as an individual's total contribution to communism and social improvement. …