от Яна Шишкова и приятели на Китай
by James Palmer
Chinese parents bemoan the laziness and greed of their children, but this generation of young people has had enough
In 2004, fresh off the plane in Beijing, I was asked to judge an English competition for high-school seniors. My two co-judges were pleasantly cynical middle-aged sociologists, both professors at Tsinghua University. After listening to the umpteenth speech about how China used to be poor, but was now rich and powerful, I remarked to one of them that the students seemed a little sheltered.
‘They don’t know anything!’ she spat. ‘They don’t have any idea about how people live. None of this generation do. They’re all so spoilt.’
It’s a view I’ve heard time and again over the past eight years, and one of which the Chinese media never tire. The young get it from left and right. This January alone, the jingoistic Major General and media commentator Luo Yuan condemned the young for being physically and mentally unfit, ranting: ‘Femininity is on the rise, and masculinity is on the decline. With such a lack of character and determination and such physical weakness, how can they shoulder the heavy responsibility?’
Meanwhile the writer and social critic Murong Xuecun blasted them in the US magazine Foreign Policy because ‘fattened to the point of obesity with Coca-Cola and hamburgers [ …] the young generation only believes official pronouncements; some even think contradicting the official line is heretical. They do not bother to check the details’.
There’s a measure of truth in these criticisms. The year I arrived, when I was going through the near-obligatory expat period as a teacher before becoming a full-time writer and editor, I had to forcibly drag a 19-year-old out of a classroom after he threw a temper tantrum, drummed the floor and refused to leave.
Murong’s claims that the young unwittingly swallow government statements doesn’t stand up in an era where official credibility has been shattered by social media tools, but one can see where Luo’s claims are coming from.
Ironically, the children of army officers seem especially pudgy. The teachers at a senior academy attached to an army base described their bullet-headed charges to me as looking like ‘stubby wobbling penises,’ and held private competitions as to which student was the most ‘sausagey’.
Food metaphors are telling — older Chinese want to know: ‘Why do they have it so easy, when we had it so hard?’ The main target of this slating has been what the Chinese call the balinghou — young people who were born after 1980, who never knew food rationing and were raised after China’s ‘reform and opening’ began.
I’m talking here of the urban middle class, who dominate Chinese media both as purchasers and consumers. The raft of criticisms being levelled has very little to do with the actual failings of the young, but is a symptom of the yawning, and unprecedented gulf between young urban Chinese and their parents.
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