As PBS’s Frontline started its fourth year of filming in China, the subjects of their documentary were still restless rethinking their lives, their ambitions and values.
One Chinese woman (not identified) talks about a survey called the “Happiness Index”, which is practical. It has nothing to do with the individual and society. She says, “When Chinese talk about happiness, it’s about affording the things they want to buy, the housing they want, and if they like the work they do…”
Lu Dong, who started an Internet tailoring business, says, “China is a country with no beliefs and there are no role models. All the models are materialistic.”
Although Lu Dong’s opinion may be true for many Chinese in the rising middle class, I disagree that it means everyone in China. There are role models in China’s history, and even today, there are others who will look to them as an example.
He says, “Chinese are very hungry now and hard to satisfy,” which may be a better way of stating the situation today and goes a long way to explain why rural Chinese are willing to sacrifice so much to migrate to cities and work long hours in factories for low pay.
Lu Dong says, “The water is still dirty. What I can do is make the water in my company clean… Although when I deal with the outside world I still have to deal with business the way others do. That’s another reason why I became a Christian.”
Then Ben Wu, who launched the Internet cafe, says he won’t be in the Internet cafe business for the rest of his life. His real passion is renewable energy. His father’s expertise in is solar cells. He wants to start a factory to build this product.
Dr. Zhang Yao works in a large hospital and feels an obligation to do public health work. He thinks residents in large urban hospitals could provide training in rural ones.
Zhang Jingjing is a public interest lawyer. She represented more than a 1,000 families over a power line built for the (2008) Olympics. She wants to protect China’s environment and natural resources. However, she wants to meet the right man too.
Meanwhile, the rapper, Wang Xiaolei, is achieving his dream of becoming a star. He says he has 20,000 fans. He wants to be the head of a record company. He says he firmly believes that if you work hard your dream will come true.
Wow! That sounds like many of the American children I taught during my thirty years in the classroom. How many do you believe actually achieve their dreams?
In conclusion, this PBS Frontline documentary shows us that there are no stereotypes in China. Even in a collective culture such as China, there are individuals.
Return to Changing China through its Youth – Part 4
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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