China's 'Gen Y' NOT Western


Want to be cool in China? Try taking on some family values. According to an article published Monday in BusinessWeek, ‘Reckoning with Chinese Gen Y,’ while younger generations in the country (aged roughly between 15 and 30) are becoming more ‘modern,’ they are certainly not Westernizing, and in fact seem to be becoming more ‘traditionally Chinese.’

The business magazine suggests that despite this demographic group, Gen Y, (an increasingly important one at approximately 240 million people and making up nearly 50 percent of the current workforce), on the surface embracing Western trends more and more-like an affinity for Starbucks coffee-their values and behaviour remain ‘deeply Chinese.’

Their assertion is based on ‘200 data points’ collected from interviews and surveys. One of the more interesting points that caught my attention was:

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– When researchers asked young Chinese respondents to make a wish that if granted, would make them happier, 82 percent chose to do something for their parents, often saying they’d like to ‘provide them an easy life.’

This piece actually reminded me of a photo essay published by Foreign Policy magazine ten days prior titled ‘Anarchy in the PRC,’ featuring photos of members of the Beijing underground music scene, by Matthew Niederhauser. At first, it seemed that the subjects of these photos totally contradicted the BusinessWeek piece. Take, for example, the anarchical lyrics of a song called ‘Bastard of the Nation’ by one of the featured groups:

‘Why the f— am I loyal to you/ We don’t wanna be your victim of greed/ Sick of you, no future for us/ How many people die in famine/ No way, no control … We are just bastards of the nation.’

This sort of lyrical rebellion, characteristic of the punk music genre that originated and was popularized in the West, seems to indicate that at least these particular modern Chinese youth are following suit. But, then consider what another subject, Yang Haisong of popular group P.K.-14, actually has to say about it all: ‘What’s happening in China is not simply an appropriation of Western musical tastes, he says, but an eclectic and original fusion of styles and traditions.’


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