China Changing through its Youth – Part 1/5

There is a difference between the Chinese that lived through Mao’s time and those born around or after 1980.

Frontline says, “They are a new generation breaking from tradition and transforming China.”

The Mao generation suffered through the Chinese Civil War (1925 – 1949) between the Communists and the Nationalists in addition to World War II (1937 – 1945).

Then there was the Great Leap Forward and Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

From 1925 to 1976, more than sixty million died due to these events. The Chinese that survived were willing to sacrifice by working harder for less so their children would have a brighter future. Now those children are coming of age.

PBS’s Frontline went to China in 2004 and spent several years following nine young Chinese to see how they were changing China.

Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times wrote, “For an American viewer it’s interesting at first because of the ‘just like us’ factor … But soon it becomes clear that everything about them is just like us. …”

There is a businesswoman pressured to choose between motherhood and her career; an Internet entrepreneur thirsting for a more spiritual life, and a young woman searching for the mother she barely remembers.

Their stories are of love, of family, ambition and sacrifice and the conflict between the past and the future. These stories come from a society changing faster than any in history.

Watching this Frontline documentary caused me to question why anyone is pressuring China to change any faster than it already is.

The first person featured was Lu Dong, 32, who returned to China after a decade in another country. He returned because of the opportunities that China now offers.

The narrator says so many Chinese are returning from other countries that the Chinese call them Returning Turtles.

In fact, few in the west realize how many educated Chinese are returning home.

My wife and I know of one man born in China and educated in the US that became the department chair of a university mathematics department in America.  Today, he is a department chair in one of China’s most prestigious universities.

Another man, Ben Wu, also returned to Beijing where he spent his childhood. He was gone from China for more than a decade and has never worked there before.  Now, he’s back to learn. He works two jobs—one for himself starting a new franchise Internet cafe using the knowledge he learned from a business school in New York.

Learn of Foreign Entrepreneurs in China


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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