Beijing: China's young people are facing record-high unemployment as the country's recovery from the pandemic is fluttering. They're struggling professionally and emotionally, The New York Times reported.

The country's top leader Xi Jinping is, however, telling the youth to stop thinking they are doing manual work or moving to the countryside. They should learn to "eat bitterness," Xi instructed, using a colloquial expression that means to endure hardships.

Many young Chinese aren't buying it. They argue that they studied hard to get a college or graduate school degree only to find a shrinking job market, falling pay scale and longer work hours. Now the government is telling them to put up with hardships, according to The New York Times.

Gloria Li who graduated with a master's degree in June last year, is desperate to find a job. "Asking us to eat bitterness is like a deception, a way of hoping that we will unconditionally dedicate ourselves and undertake tasks that they themselves are unwilling to do," Li said.

People like Li were lectured by their parents and teachers about the virtues of hardship. Now they are hearing it from the head of state.

"The countless instances of success in life demonstrate that in one's youth, choosing to eat bitterness is also choosing to reap rewards," Xi was quoted in a front-page article in the official People's Daily on Youth Day in May, as per the New York Times.

The article talked about Xi's expectations from young people. It mentioned "eat bitterness" five times. He has also repeatedly urged young people to "seek self-inflicted hardships," using his own experience of working in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution.

An independent political commentator, Cai Shenkun, wrote in a Twitter post: "Why would he want young people to give up a peaceful and stable life and instead seek suffering?" He called Xi's proposal "a contemptuous act toward young people."

"What kind of intention is behind this?" he asked. "Where does he want to lead the Chinese youth?"

A record 11.6 million college graduates are entering the workforce this year, and one in five young people is unemployed. China's leadership is hoping to persuade a generation that grew up amid mostly rising prosperity to accept a different reality, according to The New York Times.

The youth unemployment rate is a statistic the Chinese Communist Party takes seriously because it believes that idle young people could threaten its rule. Mao Zedong sent more than 16 million urban youths, including Xi, to toil in the fields of the countryside during the Cultural Revolution.

The return of these jobless young people to cities after the Cultural Revolution, in part, forced the party to embrace self-employment, or jobs outside the state-planned economy.