In the days of China's imperial bureaucracies, there were always more qualified officials than there were positions available - a deliberate policy intended to keep officials in line. Now those days are being echoed as a flood of graduates applies to join the civil service.
Record numbers have applied to take the national civil service examination, according to the Ministry of Personnel. Some 310,656 applicants have qualified for the 2005 national examination to compete for 8,400 vacancies spread across 103 different central government departments - 37 candidates for each position.
Although the Ministry of Personnel insists that there is no officially approved textbook for the exam, five publishing companies have tapped the market, with at least 20 different books available.
Also proving popular are one and two-day courses that charge between 200 and 300 yuan (£13-£20). Some websites have also been charging for online test materials.
The national civil service examination, which was introduced in 1994, is held at the end of November. It is considered one of the best choices for university graduates because it is open to everyone and has few limitations.
Among other benefits, civil servants receive housing subsidies and medical allowances. They also enjoy a higher social status than those following other careers.
But an academic member of the examination committee said: "University students' preoccupation with government posts may spread the admiration of power and has a negative influence on young people's attitudes in seeking jobs."