2020 has been a year of surprises left and right from Haoran, and yesterday came probably the biggest one yet as it sets the stage for how Haoran is approaching the next stage of his career after graduating from the Central Academy of Drama. A promotional video for a new play from the China Coal Mine Art Troupe revealed that Liu Haoran is now a member, and as it turns out, he applied for the position as a play actor back in September per the CCMAT’s website.
The topic “Liu Haoran has successfully tested for a public institution position” trended at #1 yesterday and is currently sitting at close to 800 million views, which is massive even for a #1 trending search, and there are a couple of reasons why that go beyond the China Coal Mine Art Troupe itself, but let’s start there.
The China Coal Mine Art Troupe was founded in 1947 and is the oldest performing arts troupe amidst the national A-level ones. It’s also one of the most prestigious in the country, having won a multiple number of industry awards with a number of well recognized names in their respective fields as members. Like other art troupes, the China Coal Mine Art Troupe isn’t limited to just plays, but also has vocal department, instruments, dance, xiangsheng/crosstalk, and more.
But most importantly, the China Coal Mine Art Troupe is considered a public, government-affiliated institution, which means their positions are 事业编制 (public institution/government affiliated employment). Because Haoran applied (and was accepted) as play actor for the art troupe, he is now officially a public institution employee, which means he’s salaried and regardless of how he does as a celebrity in the distant future, has a job essentially for life at 23 years old.
In China, there are two types of employment that are seen as equivalent to civil service jobs – 公务员 and 事业编制. For those who live in countries that have civil service/public servant positions (which should be most), you’re probably familiar with the fact that getting a civil service job essentially means that you have a job for however long you decide to work (as long as long as you don’t quit yourself or there’s a huge scandal). You might have seen many netizens and yxhs using the term “iron rice bowl” in regards to Haoran yesterday – in this context, it means a highly stable job with (little to) no risk of unemployment.
The first, 公务员, is essentially your traditional public servant position, where you are an official government employee. 事业编制, which is the status of the job that Haoran applied for, refers to being the employee of a public institution, which would be government-affiliated institutions specializing in the sciences, arts, culture, education, health, etc. These positions are highly, highly coveted among fresh college graduates (and are very competitive), because as mentioned, it would essentially guarantee a job for life, with a good retirement plan, etc. They’re not the highest paying jobs, but they’re seen as high status jobs because of the job security + how competitive it is, and the exams are also very rigorous (because yes, you do have to test for both types of jobs.)
(That’s also why so many netizens were joking about Haoran being the perfect son-in-law candidate, because for many Chinese parents, having a son-in-law who’s in the civil service/works for a public institution is seen as a dream come true, because it means long-term stability in terms of employment and income. Also, bragging rights.)
Taking the civil service tests for both types of employment is a topic that’s very relatable to young people, because for many, getting either is the ultimate dream, but it’s also a very difficult road, so finding out Haoran decided to go for public institution employment made huge waves on Weibo, as many found inspiration in what he did. Many of the top comments were essentially, “if a celebrity is working hard to test for pubic institution employment (despite super busy schedules), I have no excuse to not work hard for it too”.
Because here’s the thing – Haoran absolutely did not have to do this. There are many veteran actors and young, lesser known actors who are public institution employees and part of art troupes, but that’s because that was their job coming out of college. For the majority of performing arts students, both in the past and now, they’re not going to make it as celebrities. There are many who will eventually have to give up their dreams and find other work, but before they give up, they strive to get public institution employment after graduating, to pursue their dreams of performing even if they don’t become famous. For many in the past, this was the traditional path of an actor.
(China also has a government recognized certification/achievement for those who are recognized for their contributions to the performing arts called 一级演员 first tier actor, though singers, dancers, and those in other performing arts fields can also qualify. Historically, you can only obtain this recognition if you are officially employed by a public institution art troupe and have proven yourself in your field after a number of years – the China Coal Mine Art Troupe has 50+ ‘first tier actors’.)
The China Coal Mine Art Troupe, for example, has Zhang Hanyu, Fan Wei, Jin Dong, and Luo Jin as members (Zhang Hanyu and Fan Wei both hold the government recognition as first tier actors), but they all applied for and were accepted into the art troupe upon graduating from college, long before their careers took off.
It’s very, very rare (I actually can’t think of a prior example) where you have someone who is already considered a star, especially a young one, make this type of decision, because not only do they have to spend a lot of time preparing for the exams, being a public institution employee comes with real job responsibilities. You have annual obligations (number of stage performances, charity work, troupe events, etc.) you must partake in as a member, so if you’re already a celebrity, it means there will likely be some time sacrifices on your part.
That means Haoran, who’s had a crazy year filming back to back to back to back movies, plus movie promotions, the Hundred Flowers Awards, and everything else he’s been doing behind the scenes, also somehow fit in preparation for the public institution employment tests. Per the CCMAT’s website, the position that Haoran applied for in September (play actor) required three rounds of interviews and auditions, which would each require a lot of prep work, and there were eliminations of applicants in each round.
Essentially, as the top comment on Douban put it, it’s the equivalent of a normal college student getting into a top state-owned enterprise in his or her field after graduation – on top of already having a successful career.
So that leads us to…why did Haoran choose this path?
We probably won’t really know the exact answer until Haoran openly talks about it in a future interview, but there are a couple of reasons that are likely factors.
One which a lot of people keep bringing up is hukou, which, in very basic terms, is your residential status and especially in places like Beijing and Shanghai, having a local hukou means you have more rights, especially when it comes to purchasing housing, cars, etc. Haoran had Beijing hukou with the Beijing Dance Academy’s secondary school and later the Central Academy of Drama, but once he graduated, that would probably have converted back to Pingdingshan (his hometown).
However, a vast majority of celebrities don’t have Beijing hukou and it’s not really an issue for them, so it’s likely that isn’t his sole or even main reason for making this decision. Most likely, it’s because he truly wants to pursue acting as a performing arts. As mentioned before, this was the traditional path for actors back in the day – not celebrities, but actors. Stage acting in China is seen by many as the hardest platform, a place where you really get tested and have an opportunity to mold your skills.
He could also have chosen to pursue stage acting without joining a troupe – quite a few actors take some time every year for plays. But Haoran joining a troupe at 23 (and it’s essentially a lifetime commitment) is pretty telling in that he really wants to pursue the art of acting, to walk the traditional path of his seniors, to contribute to the performing arts beyond being a celebrity. It also means he really has a very clear plan on the type of actor he wants to be, and what he wants his future to look like (he just graduated in June!).
In terms of how this will affect his current career, currently, we honestly don’t know much, nor do we know how much time he’ll spend on stage performance, especially since he’s a new, junior member of the troupe. It theoretically shouldn’t affect the status of his studio though, nor his relationship with Chen Sicheng’s As One Productions.
It’s been an exciting year as we’ve gotten to see Haoran take on new kinds of roles and responsibilities, and fresh off relinquishing his college student identity, he is now adding both “play actor” and “public institution employee” to his ever-growing resume as he embarks on the next part of his career. Can’t wait to see stage actor Haoran!