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UPDATED: February 25, 2008 NO. 9 FEBRUARY 28, 2008
Being Myself
People born into the post-80s generation in China are pursuing a meaningful life, in their individual ways

China's leading Internet search provider Baidu.com recently unveiled its first cover man, basing its selection on the frequency a person has been searched for on the engine. Surprisingly, Baidu's choice Xu Sanduo is not a celebrity in the real world, but a soldier in Soldiers Sortie, a popular TV series recently aired in China. A young soldier growing up in the countryside, Xu is by no means an immaculate hero. Clumsy and naive, Xu often makes stupid mistakes. His stubborn perseverance and nearly foolish honesty have captured the heart of fellow soldiers and the audience.

"Xu has an optimistic and persistent spirit, which is inspiring," explained a Baidu officer. Research by netizens revealed that most of Soldier Sortie's fans were born in the 1980s. No small surprise that China's pampered generation would be fascinated with such an ordinary soldier in the TV shows.

China's 20-somethings today are called the post-80s generation. They were born after the implementation of the one-child policy. Once nicknamed "little emperors," they enjoyed unsparing love from their parents and grandparents and have grown up in the era of reform and opening-up, rife with opportunities as well as intense competition, and a thirst for material wealth. They have not been tempered by a hard life and they are often stereotyped as not being tough.

"The post-80s generation is usually portrayed as being self-centered, materialistic, irresponsible and lazy. Xu helps to correct the bias against us," said Hao Xin, a civil servant born in 1985. Xu's famous line in the TV series is "to live well is to do meaningful things, and to do meaningful things is to live well." Hao said that living a meaningful life was also the goal of the post-80s generation, and he added, "We like Xu because he is positive about life. He tells us that as long as we do not give up, we will be able to achieve our goals and get recognized."

"Where there is a will, there is a way"

Wang Baoqiang, the actor who plays Xu belongs to the post-80s generation. Like his character, Wang is also from a farmer's family and persevered in the pursuit of his own dream. His performance in Soldiers Sortie and a number of other movies has made him a movie star. In a survey conducted at the end of last year by pcpop.com, a well-known website in China, Wang was at the top of the list of the 10 most influential people born in the 1980s, ahead of Liu Xiang, men's 110-meter hurdle world record holder and Olympic gold medalist.

In fact, Li Xiang, the multi-millionaire who owns pcpop.com, is also a 20-something. Li fell in love with computers at the age of 12, and launched his own blog while he was in high school. Back then his dream was to become a reporter or editor. After graduating from middle school, Li did not enter university, but rather started a website specializing in IT products in 2000. In 2002, he left his parents in Shijiazhuang City, Hebei Province and opened his own company in Beijing. The advertisement revenue of his company has grown at an annual rate of more than 100 percent. In 2005, pcpop.com raked in 20 million yuan ($2.8 million) in revenue, with a net profit of 10 million yuan ($1.4 million). The total market value of pcpop.com reached 200 million yuan ($28 million), of which half was owned by Li. At that time, Li was 24 years old.

The biggest barrier to success is not failure, but not trying, Li said. "If one does something correctly, one will get 5 points; incorrectly, 1 point; but if one does nothing, one will not achieve anything." Li said, disclosing his formula for success. He added, "Sometimes an additional 5-percent effort will bring an extra profit of 200 percent."

Li frankly admitted that in 2003, his personality was typical of that of the post-80s generation. "For instance, I was self-centered and did not care much about others' feelings. I have learned some lessons from life and have gradually changed myself. I began communicating with others, not using my brains but my heart," he said.

Good communication has helped Li to overcome difficulties. "A good team is important. I am on good terms with my staff, many of whom are older than I am. Some successful entrepreneurs born in the 60s or 70s have treated me as their younger brother and have helped me. Treating others with sincerity and respect is important to business success."

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