Storm clouds are boiling up over China's economy and Beijing's actions indicate the gravity of the situation that threatens jobs.
While it may have sailed through the 2008 financial crisis relatively smoothly thanks to a 4 trillion yuan (Dh2.3tn) stimulus package, the country is now facing a situation in which "downward economic pressure is increasing", the premier Wen Jiabao has warned.
Concerns centre on weak industrial output, which was up 9.6 per cent last month compared with the same month a year earlier but below expectations and only slightly above April's figure of 9.3 per cent, a three-year low.
Last month, HSBC confirmed the slowdown when it reported the deteriorating situation for exports "calls for more aggressive policy as inflation continues to slow".
"With external headwinds remaining strong, exports are likely to decelerate in the coming months," Qu Hongbin, an economist at HSBC, said last week.
"The sharp fall of prices and moderation of new orders suggest weak domestic demand, posing destocking pressures for Chinese manufacturers."
Amid sluggish retail sales, a sharp drop off in the number of new construction projects and concerns of a "contagion" effect from Europe's debt crisis, it came as no surprise the central bank recently made its first interest rate cut for four years to improve growth.
The days of double-digit GDP growth seem a distant memory.
"GDP growth in the second quarter could fall below 7 per cent if there is no significant improvements in economic data for June," Zheng Xinli, the deputy head of the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, a government think tank, told state media.
About six million young Chinese people are being thrown into the middle of this uncertain economic situation this month when they graduate from university, finishing bachelor's or master's degrees.
"For Chinese people, to find work is not difficult, but to find suitable work that you're pleased with is difficult," said Johnny Jiang, 23, who has just finished a degree in finance at Peking University and is about to take up a finance-related job with a multinational company.
Yet not all analysts are alarmed by signs that the wheels may be coming off China's economic juggernaut.
"The slowdown in the economy is somewhat expected. It's somehow planned by the leadership," said Frank Song, the director of the Centre for China Financial Research at the University of Hong Kong.
"Overall the trend is for a slowdown, which is controlled, which China needs at this moment."
Chen Yulu, an adviser to China's central bank, also believes the country's position will improve, pointing out that overall growth this year "should be able to hold above 8 per cent", a figure often cited as being the minimum necessary to create sufficient jobs.
"The second quarter should be the lowest point," he said.
One factor rarely suggested as being behind the slowdown in China's expansion is demographic effects. Yet a tailing off in the number of young people who reach working age is a reason behind the long-term trend of reduced growth, said Stephen Joske, the senior manager, Asia, for AustralianSuper, a pension fund, and a former director of the Economist Intelligence Unit's China Regional Forecasting Service.
Another potential problem is the housing sector. Its explosive growth in recent years is frequently cited as an area that could trip up China's economic ascent, with vast amounts of over-investment that has led to bad loans in the banking sector.
"A key measure is the dynamics of the housing market, and that's where a lot of the downward pressure [on economic growth] will come," adds Mr Joske.
The authorities' cooling measures over the past two years, such as limits on multiple apartment purchases and restrictions on lending, have been aimed at cooling the housing market without causing a crash.
Experts note that in the event of a severe downturn appearing to become a prospect, the government can stimulate the sector by loosening restrictions on the purchase of more than one home. For now, it appears unlikely officials will feel the need to strip away this cooling measure.
"They have made some very strong statements they won't change policy, so it will take quite a big change for them to do something [on the housing-purchase restrictions]," said Mr Joske.
Yet analysts do expect the authorities to introduce a range of measures to keep growth on track.
In a report, HSBC said policymakers were expected to increase efforts to keep growth on track through "a slew of measures to boost liquidity, public housing and infrastructure investment and consumption".
"As long as the easing measures filter through, China will secure a soft landing in the coming quarters," the bank said.
But under a "soft landing", will China still be the job-generating machine it has been in the past for new graduates?
"If the 7 or 8 per cent growth is mainly driven by investment, the answer is no. If the 7 or 8 per cent growth is driven by consumption, the answer is yes, it's enough to generate the jobs," said Wang Jianmao, a professor at the China Europe International Business School in Shanghai.
The "real change" to a consumption-driven economy, as opposed to one that relies on exports, will take place "in a few years", he adds.
In the current economic climate, many graduates will probably have to settle for jobs that would not traditionally be considered as suitable for those with a university degree.
"It's a question of whether they going to get jobs they want," said Mr Joske. "My guess is probably not. The restrictions on the finance sector [for example] really harm job creation in that sector."
Similarly, he said, red tape is stifling the development of the education and health sectors, with limits on foreign investment the latest problem.
"These are sectors that could create many better-paying jobs for graduates," he said.
Luckily for the Peking University students, they are managing to find the right jobs.
"From Peking University, it's not difficult because traditionally Chinese people think this university is good and the graduates are good quality, maybe higher than others," said Xu Donghui, 21, who this month completes a degree in aviation design.
For the rest it may be a more challenging time ahead.
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