Essays

Chinese, DreamingThe collected thoughts of China’s Millennials

China’s over three hundred million Millennials remain relatively unknown internationally. They are the wellspring for the Chinese Dream. Chinese, Dreaming is a collection of writing and cultural observations about modern China selected from thousands of university students. Their lives are integrated with the digital realms of the Information Age. But China’s younger generation remains a mystery outside China.
While working in China at two top universities for twelve years, I tried to inspire this amazing generation to find their voice and express their ideas by merging ancient literary traditions with digital native cyberspace sensibilities, such as in the following:
…We hang ourselves on a web called “www”. Social networks boom into our life. We must control it, or be controlled. We are eager to be unique, but also to assimilate. We harbor big dreams either out of ambitiousness or ignorance…
The older generations often view the post-80s/90s Millennials as spoiled and egotistical calling them “strawberries” – pretty but easily bruised; many in their grandparents’ generation go so far as to call them mí làn – rotten and debauched. Over one third are supported by their parents after they graduate as they search for their modern identity. In their own words:
…We are decadent, because society never admits, what we do is well done. We feel depressed, so we choose silence. We are degenerate, because we do not know how to be accepted by society. So we choose to disintegrate…
China’s Millennials are a societal bridge between the interconnected worlds of Chinese traditional culture and westernized global culture, and readers will be fascinated with their prose and poetry from their halcyon days as university students, such as:
…Time passed soundlessly. We have already experienced a quarter of our lives. We were born in 1989, when the student unrest happened…
This is the bohemian generation, and this is the madness generation,…this is also the self-fulfilling generation. Our country, our world is suffering from difficulties and hardships, believe in our generation. We can change the world; we can create a new world.
…Most of our generation’s heroes are just students. In the Yangtze River, the waves behind drive the waves that roll on before. We are the emerging power. Chinese society awaits our creativity and intelligence to continue progressing…
This collection contains the writing of well over five hundred of China’s Millennials. Now, more than anytime in history it is critical for the world to try and understand the thinking of China’s future leaders. The incredible aspirations and life stories revealed in Chinese, Dreaming offer unique insights into China’s unfolding relationship with the world.

Introduction to China’s Millennial Generation

Post-80s and Post-90s Generations are terms used in mainland China to classify China’s Millennials. There are roughly a quarter of a billion members of China’s Millennial Generation. These are the youth who grew up after the “opening up” of China, with ubiquitous Internet and cellphone access. The vast majority are single children, born after the One Child Policy, which was most strictly enforced in large urban areas. The older generations often view the post-80s/post-90s as spoiled and egotistical. According to my students some of their grandparents’ generation went so far as to call them – Mi Lan the rotten generation (mí dissolved; wasted; 爛 烂 làn overcooked; rotten; soft). They have also been called “strawberries” by their parents because they supposedly look pretty, but are fragile, bruise easily and spoil quickly. In fact, due to the complexities of their modern society these so-called strawberries are subtly resilient overall

Each semester I respected my students and tried my best to understand the stresses of the modern Chinese culture they are now helping to create. They are unlike any generation from the country’s over five thousand years of history. As they have matured that uniqueness carries an ever-expanding level of social accountability.

I would like to introduce you to this new generation of young adults as they now have entered the workforce as: teachers, editors, administrators, parents and so much more. They believed then and now in a brighter range of possibilities. One of my constant drives for all the years I taught in China was to help my students understand America better and for me to better understand modern China. In this way we can see the common narrative threads of our lives. It is my continuing hope for us to understand one another better and shape our shared future into the peaceful world we dream it can be.

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