China’s beleaguered “balinghou”

20 Mar

China’s young (urban) people, the “balinghou”, face a lot of pressure, possibly more than their counterparts in the West, Hong Kong, or Taiwan, but are also criticized by their elders for being soft and unwilling to endure bitterness (chiku). This enthralling article, very long but well worth the time, will open your eyes about the problems that 20-somethings face, especially the huge generation gap between them and their parents. This is directly a result of the wildly contrasting societal shifts and shocks that have rocked China in the last several decades, from the strict austerity and turmoil under Mao to the economic reforms and liberalization under Deng Xiaoping. What this means is that, surprisingly, it is the parents who are often more materialistic and money-focused than their offspring. This then passes down to their children, who grow up without substantial values or goals other than to pursue money and richness. I’m not sure I fully agree with this implication, but the article is very informative and has some interesting stories of young Chinese. I’m always wary of articles (even one as long as this) that claim to cover entire issues that affect the whole nation, because I feel China is too big and vast. The author admits he’s talking about the young urban middle-class and not rural or lower-income folks, but even then, it’s a big group. I wonder if he mainly focused on Beijing and Shanghai, or did he also cover Sichuan, Guangdong, Henan, the Northeast, and other regions to write this story.

In Taiwan, a similar sentiment can be found among older people regarding those born between 1981 and 1991- so much so that there’s a widely used pejorative nickname The Strawberry Generation (which even has its own Wikipedia page).

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