China Bridge (神州橋樑)_2015/Jun

Young people in China today

What are the young people in mainland China like today and what values do they cherish? These questions are frequently asked by those seeking to understand the present and the future of the People’s Republic of China. There are quite a large number of inquiries and publications that deal with this topic. All agree that Chinese young people are in a process of transition or transformation. The influence and interplay of local socio‐economic and cultural forces, as well as western influences is bringing about notable changes such as individualism, materialism and moral crisis, combined with superficial superiority-inferiority complexes and dislocation of cultural identities, manifested both as national pessimism and magnified patriotism.

Some sources try to provide more practical and detailed data about the psychology and concerns of young Chinese people.

On April 22, The Global Times, published the results of a survey on young people in rural areas in central and western China, based on interviews with over 500 principals and teachers from 88 primary schools:

The report said that children from poor regions generally suffer more psychological problems and health issues than those from cities and that nearly 60 per cent of students in those regions had problems with forming emotional attachments with others, while some 45.7 per cent had low self-esteem.

It added that about 30 per cent of students were unhappy with their lives and 47 per cent were unsociable. Some of them also had behavioural issues such as a lack of concentration, running away from home, or even theft. Another 35 per cent said they hate attending school.

The article pointed out several reasons for the situation: inadequate nutrition, insecurity arising from the fact that many of them are left alone because parents work far away, as well as insufficient care afforded to students living in boarding schools. The rise in juvenile delinquency can be traced to inappropriate family education, peer pressure and a lack of understanding of laws. About 35 per cent of the surveyed offenders were 16 years old, 31.2 per cent were 15 and those aged 14 increased to 20 per cent in 2014, up from 12.3 per cent in 2001.

Recently, the website published an article, What are our Young People Thinking: How to Witness to Youth of the Post 1980s, 1990s and 1995s, which collected the results of social research done by Ambassadors for Christ (USA) since 2012.

The article summarises the post-80s generation as one searching for intimacy, sincerity and reconciliation, while those of the post-90s are a generation of happiness, positive energy and discovery of self.

It points out that the post-95 generation grew up as China experienced its fastest economic growth, during a post-reform era age of globalisation and the Information Age. Moreover, this was a period marked by a significantly reduced birth rate and increasing per capita GDP.

The article points out that many were born in the city with parents who were too busy working to care for them and used material things to express their love.

“They also use a variety of methods to protect their children and insulate them from society’s realities. The result is that they appear very naive about the world, but at the same time are overly dependent on the virtual world to gain real-world knowledge, since the vast majority of them are growing up in a virtual fantasy world constructed by television, cartoons, the Internet and social networking sites.

“The Internet in China developed at a rapid pace between 2005 and 2010. This is precisely the time when they hit puberty and the critical period of adolescence during which time their psychological makeup was being formed. They look for a sense of belonging and a sense of existence on the Internet, and as a result, the virtual world is for them even more vital and authentic than real life. When they have to return to the real world, many of them seem to lack social skills. They are passive, wooden, anxious, tense and retreat into their own little world as if they suffer from a social phobia.

“The common perception of post-95s is that they just stay at home. When they go out, they prefer to fiddle with their mobile phones rather than talking with others directly. They do not enjoy participating in large group activities, and they don’t like to interact with groups. But, their world is even lonelier than that of the post-90s youth. This is because their parents are at home even less, more of them are only children and they have even fewer companions around because of the declining birth rate.

“Urban life already tends to be alienating and these children were born in the city. Therefore, it is even more difficult for them to learn how to interact with others. Their social circles are quite small… The most important thing in their online life is to show face. We have all noticed how crazy they are about taking selfies, even to the point of neglecting school work because they are so obsessed with taking photos of themselves…”

On May 4, the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily published 90s generation living ‘substantial’ lives.

The survey, conducted by Fudan University, randomly sampled the postings on the Sina WeiBo microblogging service of 1,708 students, born between 1990 and 2000 and attending colleges and universities.

The report said that the survey found that the post-90s generation is willing to pursue a comfortable life. About 27 per cent of the university students sampled indicated that the most essential factor in a successful life is comfort, while 15 per cent indicated that personal accomplishment is the most crucial factor, and 10 per cent believed having a happy family is most important.

It said that the survey also found that apart from the pursuit of a comfortable life, they value diligence in work and believe that work can lead to success. In addition, the research found that the university students surveyed paid little attention to public affairs or politics.

The report said that 80.9 per cent of topics discussed in the Weibo postings had nothing to do with politics. Regarding relationships, the post-90s generation places more value on personality than appearance or family background… They not only live sufficiently, but they also are more tolerant and benefit from China’s rapid development, which allows them to flourish.

The China Youth Daily published an article on April 28 about the online campaign launched by the Communist Youth League calling on its 88 million members to become “spokespersons of the socialist core values” – promoted by the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. The values are summarised as follows: progress-prestige, democracy, civilisation and harmony; freedom, equality, justice and law; patriotism, professional respect, loyalty and friendship.

The objective of the campaign is “to strictly relate the spreading of the socialist core values to the progress of society and personal growth. Youth are invited to spread and to implement the socialist values from knowing, to understanding and to implementing them in their daily life, in their work place, in their social contacts, with greater responsibility, effort, initiative and perseverance, gathering the spiritual energy for achieving the progress of the whole society.”

The Global Times published a survey on April 30 titled, 60 per cent of Beijing college students would like to join Communist Party. The survey, conducted by China Communist Youth League Beijing Committee, polled 7,466 students in public universities and 677 students in private colleges with additional interviews with 88 students.

It found that college students joined the Party as a way to gain recognition, or as a stepping stone to a decent job in state-owned enterprises, or as a requirement for many positions in Party and government organisations.

The survey also said that over 85 per cent felt proud of being Chinese while being mindful of other cultures and global events. Over half of the respondents said that they understand the Chinese Dream and nearly 75 per cent believe that it will be fulfilled.

On June 1, the president, Xi Jinping, spoke to some 3,000 members of the Chinese Young Pioneers organisation at its quinquennial congress in Beijing on International Children’s Day. First founded in 1949 and led by the Communist Party, it is a national organisation for Chinese children aged from six to 14-years-old.

Xi encouraged children in China to love their country, to be good persons and to contribute to social progress. He said that he hoped children could be role models by continuing to live within traditional and socialist values, being well mannered and showing gratitude and kindness to others at all times.

He said, “Being a good person is to live, first and foremost, with integrity and also with knowledge and responsibility.”

However, to complete the picture, an article in the Epoch Times on April 15 titled, Two Hundred Million Chinese Choose Freedom, reported, “Beginning in 2004, thousands, then tens of thousands, then over 100,000 Chinese people began detaching themselves from the Chinese Communist Party. The service that recorded these statements calls itself the Tuidang Centre. And now, it has recorded 200 million renunciations – about a seventh of the Chinese population.”

It quoted David Tompkins, a spokesperson for the centre as saying, “It’s a milestone!”

The article noted that the Chinese Communist Party claims it has 85 million members which would indicate that most of the renunciations don’t come from the ranks of Party members themselves. It added that nearly everyone who grew up in China once joined the Young Pioneers or the Communist Youth League.

Conclusion: The results of these surveys differ and at times are even contradictory and should be taken into consideration with prudence. Their positive function is to point out the general development trends of the younger generations in China and to provide a general knowledge of their concerns.

However, in dealing with individual young people, we have to consider their personalities, setting aside for a while the above mentioned generalisations.