Changing China through its Youth – Part 5/5

February 3, 2011

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.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

China Changing through its Youth – Part 1/5

January 30, 2011

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.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.