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Maturing Overnight
Special> Aftermath of the Quake> Maturing Overnight
UPDATED: February 3, 2008 NO.9 FEB.28, 2008
The 'Me Generation'
The mindset of China's generation born after 1980 is a far cry from their parents. Self-centered and equality-driven, they chase the golden dragon

But he said the bright side of the avant-garde individualism is that this equality-driven generation, more than ever before, cherishes their individual rights and is eager to protect their interests through the law. "They are officially the first 'Me Generation' in China, which is so different from the previous generations, " he said.

Sun also called this group a "depressed generation" that is more cynical about society compared with people born in the 1970s and people born in the 1990s. He explained that their strong sense of rebellion came from the chasmic generation gap between them and their parents. It comes as no surprise that post-80s youth's inflated individualism and diversified values meet with strong resistance from parents and teachers, which does much to promote cynicism and depression. Sun said compared with the parents of the post 80s, the parents of the post 90s youth are more opened-minded and used to the different values of their children.

"In the publishing world, many post-80s authors describe the environment around them as hell, totally renouncing their school education. By comparison, works of most post-90s authors are full of optimism," Sun said.

Professor Zhou Xiaozheng, a famous sociologist at Renmin University of China, said at an interview with Shanghai-based Oriental TV in January that this is a "Lonely Me Generation," whose lack of experience of playing games with siblings had hindered the formation of their sense of rules, sense of self-fulfillment and sense of shame and even caused psychological handicaps.

Spoiled children

In 1993, Sun wrote a resounding criticism of Chinese education from his experience during a summer camp participated in by Chinese and Japanese children on the pastures of China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. In this frequently commented on and quoted article, Sun described the outstanding differences between 77 Japanese teenagers and 30 Chinese teenagers during the 50-km trek with 20-kg backpacks. While Chinese teenagers gleefully threw their backpacks onto horse-drawn carts following them, even sick Japanese teenagers insisted on carrying backpacks the entire trip. When a Chinese father told his son to give up the trek, a Japanese grandfather encouraged his grandson, who had a fever, to complete the hard journey. Japanese children were able to cook meals with food and camping utensils they carried while some Chinese children ate all the food before half the path was covered.

At the end of the story, Sun pointed out after the summer camp Japanese people had overtly claimed that this generation of Chinese were no competitor to their peers in Japan. Sun urged Chinese educators to give up excessive protection of children, nurture children's sense of responsibility and morality and give them training on how to take care of themselves.

Sun told Beijing Review that the failed education on some post-80s children has produced a new social stratum of youths who live off their parents. This group, although only a small proportion of this generation, overspends their own salaries then turn to their parents for living allowances and use their parents' life savings for deposits on their apartments. Sun, who runs a complaint hotline, said he had received many calls from parents complaining that their children just won't grow up.

According to a survey of China Research Center on Aging, around 30 percent of working age people in China are supported by their parents. Predominant in this group are the young NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) who have university degrees, but chose to drop out of the labor market because the jobs offered to them were either too poorly paid or too boring.

Future builders

In the same interview on Oriental TV, Professor Zhou said the mantra of the post-80s generation is Deng Xiaoping's famous slogan in the 1980s that "some people must get rich first." He said the identity of this generation as builders of society is conspicuously different from older generations whose lives were characterized by wars or political campaigns.

"The post-80s generation wants to be the first group of people getting rich first. They have strong motivation and drive for making money and society has given them plenty of opportunities," Zhou said.

The post-80s generation has already become a dominant force in China's entertainment world and IT industry. In the 2007 Forbes annual China Celebrity List, of the top 30 celebrities ranked on annual income, 13 professional athletes and entertainment stars were born in the 1980s, raking in an annual income between 8.8 million yuan ($1.2 million) and 260 million yuan ($36.1 million). Young geeks ruling China's IT include technopreneurs PCPOP's founding CEO Li Xiang, Comsenz founding CEO Dai Zhikang, Mysee co-founders Deng Di and Gao Ran and MaJoy founding President Mao Kankan whose companies have attracted millions in venture capital and have been collectively valued at over 100 million yuan ($13.9 million).

"As enterpreneurs, the post-80s generation as a whole has the advantage of daring to overthrow traditions and challenge old ways of doing things, which has made them better entrepreneurs compared with the post-70s generation," human resource expert Zhang Jianguo told China Business Post. As far as I am concerned, the only barrier on their way to success is that they are more self -centered and the lack of team spirit could harm the way they manage their own companies in the future, he said.

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