Until the 1980s, China had never seen a generation with so few siblings and so much material desire. They are the result of the country's population-curbing one-child policy, often dubbed Little Emperors sitting atop a family pyramid of two doting parents and four eager-to-please grandparents. They're a generation breast fed on the economic milk and honey of China's reform and opening-up policy that came into operation at the end of the 1970s, which has significantly enriched their families. And they are China's future.
As far as most aspects of life are concerned, the post-80s generation, totaling 200 million according to China statistical yearbooks, has broken the conventional mould of how Chinese are traditionally seen. In the eyes of Chinese sociologists, the character of this generation is mixed with numerous contradictory elements. They are reliant and rebellious, cynical and pragmatic, self-centered and equality-obsessed.
As teenagers, they were China's first generation of couch potatoes, addicts of online games, patrons of imported fast food chains and loyal audiences of Hollywood movies.
When they graduated from middle schools, this generation has been given the best opportunities to get a higher education, something reserved for elites in the past. China's college entrance exam, once one of the most competitive in the world, admitted only one of every 20 students to colleges or universities in the early 1980s. The Central Government started a massive enrollment quota expansion in 1999 when most post-80s generationers began taking the exam. College enrollment quotas have since seen a five-fold increase to nearly 6 million over the following 10 years.
The Flowers, an extremely popular four-man rock band with three post-80s members, released a parody song in their 2007 album, called Everyone Loves Post-80s. The sharp lyrics cry out about how they see themselves-"never tasted hunger, rarely focused attention in classes and failed to find a job after graduation."
Han Han, a gifted writer and high school dropout who published his first bestseller novel at the age of 18, has made himself a controversial figure for firing criticism and provoking online debates against China's senior authors and movie directors. Born in 1982, Han is probably the most read novelist among China's post-80s generation. He is famous for his saying declaring a war on Chinese orthodoxy, which read that "in this country, it is silly and painful to be a scholar worrying about the nation and the people all the time. I want to be a playboy adored by young girls when I am 60," Han said.
Lonely and cynical
Sun Yunxiao, Deputy Director of China Youth and Children Research Center and veteran scholar on youth education, said the failure to deal with human relationships has bothered this generation more than any previous generation since they are more self-centered. "They highly value their own voices and interests, rarely care about other people's feelings and lack a sense of responsibility," Sun said.