Chinese youth File Photo: CFP
The May Fourth Youth Day is an annual festival for young people from ages 14 to 28 in China and is also a special day commemorating the patriotic historic event known as the May Fourth Movement that took place in 1919. As this year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Youth League of China (CYLC), despite the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic continuing to be severe in some major cities of the country, the relevant commemorations, celebrations and discussions still went viral on Wednesday.
The topic “What is the spirit of the youth in this era?” received more than 15 million views on the Chinese Twitter-like social media platform Sina Weibo Wednesday, while another hashtag “Strivers in their prime” received 370 million views as of press time.
Analysts said that in recent years, although there are some voices in social media platforms trying to give the youth of China labels like “the lying flat generation” – denoting a negative attitude toward challenges and difficulties, not believing in working hard and striving, and intending to give up and run away from competition – and “boomerang kids,” the facts and research proved that the vast majority of Chinese youth continue to believe in working hard and striving for their own future, and now they are playing key roles in the tough fight against COVID-19 as well as in all fields and industries relevant to the country’s development, and also they are a generation that the whole nation can count on.
The young people in China, or Generation-Z born in the late 1990s and early 2000s, have grown up in a period of rapid development in the country and have witnessed multiple miracles the nation has created. They also have a more global vision with more direct and clear understanding of other countries, so they are much more confident and optimistic in the face of challenges, and the Chinese government today also attaches great importance to the work of solving their problems and unleashing their full potential.
Zhang Yiwu, a Peking University professor, told the Global Times on Wednesday, “The youth is the force with the most hope and vigor. Discussions about young people having a ‘lying flat’ attitude are actually a call for them to have faith and determination. This requires young people to combine their personal development with the development of the whole of society.”
In his speech addressing a ceremony celebrating the CPC’s centennial on July 1, 2021, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), emphasized that “In the new era, our young people should make it their mission to contribute to national rejuvenation and aspire to become more proud, confident, and assured in their identity as Chinese people, so that they can live up to the promise of their youth and the expectations of our times, our Party and our people.”
Anxieties and striving spirit
There are 69.8 percent of young Chinese internet users who face varying degrees of anxiety mainly caused by their studies, work, appearance and health, but 75 percent of them have expressed a desire to strive for their own future and encourage themselves to keep working hard and oppose the “lying flat” attitude, according to the recently released Survey Report on the Social Mentality of Young Internet Users in China (2009-2021), the People’s Daily news app reported on April 28.
The report, jointly released by the Center for Communication and National Governance of Fudan Development Institute, the Information Security and Social Management Innovation Laboratory of Shanghai Open University, and the Bilibili Institute for Public Policy, covered 4,556 respondents aged 17 to 32. The survey was based on nearly 10 million blogs published by respondents from different regions, age groups, and education levels on Sina Weibo from 2009 to 2021. The survey also took into consideration 189 indicators, including income, employment, marriage, fertility, “circle” culture, and environmental and animal protection.
Just over 73 percent of young netizens generally believe that “working hard is useful, will deliver” and 62.8 percent of them had confidence and optimism in their own development.
Bradley Blankenship, a Europe-based US journalist, columnist and political commentator, said in an article published in the Global Times on Tuesday that good governance by the Chinese government has inspired the Chinese youth.
After comparing the views of US and Chinese teenagers, he found that US teenagers are reporting the highest levels of depression on record, driven by “social media use, a decline in sociality, stressors in the world (and news about it) and modern parenting strategies.” But in China it is clear that these stressors are absent or at least improving, while the Chinese government has enacted policies on each of these issues.
For example, “China’s housing and zoning policies are more favorable to socialization and community. The US stands alone as a very anti-social country thanks to its suburban configuration and the widespread use of automobiles. On the contrary, much like most of the world, China has walkable cities and accessible transportation – though in China’s case, these are of exceptional quality and convenience,” Blankenship said.
“On global stressors, sure, China is struggling with climate change and the threat of global conflict just like every other country… But China’s dynamism and growing influence in the world infuses young people with a certain optimism that you don’t find in other places like the US,” he said.
About 49.4 percent of respondents said they are anxious about their current studies or work status and 8.6 percent are anxious about their appearance, while 8.4 percent are anxious about their health. Women, youth from overseas or cities along China’s eastern coast, and respondents with higher education face the most pressure in this regard, according to the report.
Analysts said this is a normal trend due to the fast development of urbanization in the country in the past decades and the economic challenges brought about by the pandemic in recent years. And it’s not only Chinese youth; young people around the globe all share similar pressures and anxieties, but the key is whether their countries can effectively solve their problems and activate their potential in a difficult era.
Dissatisfaction with their current situations is a source that encourages Chinese youth change, compete, create and make efforts, while the key is that the country needs to provide them an environment conducive to development, said experts. They noted that the data just proved that more and more anxious young people in China have found opportunities and they don’t want to “lie flat” and let others surpass them.
Duty of the time
About one month ago, the CYLC posted six pictures on its Weibo accounts covering the histories of the Red Army’s Long March in the 1930s, the War to resist US Aggression and aid Korea in the early 1950s, the Down to the Countryside Movement in the 1960s-1970s, the rescue and relief operations during the 1998 floods and the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake, and the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The caption said, “Every generation has their ‘Long March’ and duties. The relay baton is now in our hands.” Analysts said this reminded the young people in the new era that their predecessors, who fought for the independence of the nation and the establishment of the country, were also as young as they are today, and every generation has faced different difficulties and great challenges during their lifetime, and there is a tradition of this country that calls for the youth to strive for not only their own lives but also the nation.
According to official data, under the leadership of the CPC, 100 years after its founding, the CYLC now has more than 3.67 million grass-roots organizations and 73.71 million members. It has already become the core force in guiding and leading the Chinese youth to follow the leadership of the CPC.
In the past 100 years, generations of Chinese youth have made endless efforts for the nation and they have seen the results. The young people today have received the relay baton or torch from their predecessors, and need to consider some questions seriously, such as “Has China already won? Is the race finished?” Shen Yi, a professor at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
China is still facing many challenges, problems and difficulties, and the nation needs the youth of today to provide correct answers to let the nation continue marching forward, Shen noted.
Fortunately, they have already given their answers through their actions. Those young medics who have been fighting on the frontline against the pandemic since 2020 proved that although they are used to being protected by the older generations, this time, they are protecting others. In the border regions, some young soldiers in the Chinese military have already given their lives in the fight to protect the country’s sovereignty. Analysts said the Chinese youth are not “lying flat,” but striving for themselves with full efforts and marching forward to the goal of national rejuvenation at full speed.