‘WE’RE FREE’

Post-mil­len­ni­als in Beijing have it all: romance, money, sup­port and a plan for the fu­ture

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - FRONT PAGE - By Katrin Büchen­bacher and Li Jieyi

2018 be­longed to China’s youngest gen­er­a­tion. It marked the year when the first batch of Chi­nese born af­ter 2000 en­tered adult­hood and uni­ver­sity.

China’s gen­er­a­tion Z, or lin­glinghou (post-mil­len­ni­als) coined in Pu­tonghua, is a hot topic in the lo­cal me­dia. Find­ing out more about them means get­ting a glimpse of China’s fu­ture through the peo­ple that will in­creas­ingly shape the coun­try. But what makes them dif­fer­ent from their pre­ced­ing gen­er­a­tions? Metropoli­tan headed out to Xi­dan, Beijing’s shop­ping par­adise and fa­vorite teenager hang­out, to find out how China’s ur­ban post-mil­len­ni­als tick.

Puppy love

While for­mer gen­er­a­tions fo­cused on aca­demics dur­ing their teenage years, this gen­er­a­tion seems to fall in love at an early age. Gan Cai­jia, a 15-year-old, counts her­self among those with the most rich dat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in her class, de­spite still be­ing in mid­dle school. “There’s noth­ing bad about dat­ing a lot,” she said. “Peo­ple who have no re­la­tion­ship ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore mar­riage are bound to en­counter a lot of prob­lems.” Xiao Jianqi, a 17-yearold, who goes to a high school af­fil­i­ated to the Cen­tral Academy of Drama, dates a girl from the same school. He said that the so­cial en­vi­ron­ment plays a big fac­tor in why dat­ing starts early. “When ev­ery­one al­ready has a girl­friend, there’s a lot of pres­sure to get one too,” he said. He sees no is­sue in it as long as it wouldn’t have a neg­a­tive im­pact on his stud­ies. Guo Xiai, a 16-year-old, who goes to a pro­fes­sional col­lege, thinks it’s very nor­mal to have a crush on the most “out­stand­ing” boy in the class. “I am jeal­ous about the girls around him and I want to be the one to shine next to him,” she ex­plained. How­ever, the teens ad­mit­ted that par­ents and school of­fi­cials would worry if they found out about their ac­tive love life. “My mother is not against dat­ing, the­o­ret­i­cally, but doesn’t ac­tively sup­port it,” 16-year-old Zhang Ziyao said. “But if I have a boyfriend, my mother will not be happy, and my teach­ers will also op­pose it.”

Pocket money

There’s no need to rebel or break free for a young gen­er­a­tion that gets the lib­er­ties fed to them on a sil­ver spoon by their par­ents. On Baidu Baike, China’s Wikipedia-like web­site, post-mil­len­ni­als’ most rec­og­niz­able char­ac­ter­is­tic is their ma­te­ri­al­is­tic free­dom. En­cour­aged to focus on get­ting good grades, and no part­time jobs, the par­ents of the post-mil­len­ni­als pro­vide for their chil­dren’s free time spend­ing.

Xiao re­ceives 3,000 yuan of ($437.86) “liv­ing fees” from his par­ents each month, which he mostly spends on shoes and clothes. In ad­di­tion to that, his par­ents sup­port him fi­nan­cially for his many hob­bies: Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy, ice skat­ing, skiing, and play­ing golf. With that much dis­pos­able in­come, he may be­long to the mi­nor­ity of his peers. But oth­ers also do not have to worry that their teenage dreams not be­ing com­plete.

“When­ever I want some­thing, I will talk to my par­ents. When

they think

it’s rea­son­able, they will buy it for me,” 16-year-old An Ji­ayu said, who en­joys listo ten­ing to mu­sic on high qual­ity ear­phones – a pas­sion she shares with her fa­ther. Zhang said that her par­ents will only give her money for lunch, but what’s left of it, she uses as pocket money. Some post-mil­len­ni­als have also started to seek their own fi­nan­cial free­dom. Gan makes a few hun­dred yuan on­line as a video-sell­ing agent, and Guo said that it’s com­mon among her class­mates in col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties to get a side job, such as wash­ing dishes at McDon­ald’s.

Bright fu­ture

The post-mil­len­ni­als in­ter­viewed agreed on one word de­scrib­ing their gen­er­a­tion best: free­dom. “We have our own way of think­ing,” Gan said. “We do not fol­low our par­ent’s and teacher’s ideals.” How­ever, when it comes to their plans for the fu­ture, most young­sters seem to be will­ing to lis­ten to their par­ent’s sug­ges­tions. Duan Xinx­ing, a psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor fo­cus­ing on youth devel­op­ment at the China Uni­ver­sity of Min­ing and Tech­nol­ogy, told Metropoli­tan in a pre­vi­ous re­port, “The post-mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion are young peo­ple who are be­ing en­cour­aged by their par­ents to grow up faster, and their par­ents have high ex­pec­ta­tions for them. Many of the post-mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion be­lieve that they should be pre­par­ing for life as early as pos­si­ble.”

Gan pre­pares to en­ter high school and pass the na­tional col­lege en­trance exam gaokao, to be able to study in the

US or Aus­tralia in the fu­ture. Even though she likes the thought of liv­ing abroad, she thinks that she will move back to China to be with her par­ents when they are older be­cause they would not like to see her im­mi­grat­ing to another coun­try.

Guo is study­ing to be­come a phar­ma­cist to please her mother, de­spite her own wish of be­com­ing a makeup artist.

Xiao en­tered the Cen­tral Academy of Drama’s high school thanks to his par­ents, and his dreams of study­ing art or busi­ness in the UK are also shared by his par­ents.

“There’s no con­flict of in­ter­est. I can be free and I want what my par­ents want for my life at the same time,” he said.

Photo: VCG

The youth of China likes to think that they are free to do what­ever they like to do.

Pho­tos: Katrin Büchen­bacher and VCG

Par­ents have am­bi­tious plans for their post-mil­len­nial chil­dren, who are happy to com­ply.

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