It sounds to me that the author doesn’t feel comfortable with the fact that young Chinese interviewees were enjoying their leisure time and holidays. I agree with some points in this article: there are more young people not concerning about politics than those who do, several historical events are popularly understood in the story government provides by the young (perhaps also the older) generation, and consumerism is arising.
However, I have three disatisfactions. First, what he seems to pathologize as a new generational Chinese ‘consumerism’ here seem to me just leisure activities widely practised in the West. Diving, holiday by the beach – these are not exclusively ‘upper-class’ or elite activities in the West. Why would it sound so wrong in this article once the Chinese are doing these? The author provides a link between ‘holiday’ ‘consumerism’ and ‘political apathy’. I think there are some slipperages in between these notions. Second, the author has an over-concern with a particular kind of politics – the voting system. Whereas actually he ignores that quite a number of grassroot NGOs and publications are sprouting in China now as well. They might not be a great number of people. They might not be exclusively concerned with so-called democratics, but they cover a lot of issues that the government is impotent in taking care of. From volunteering to work with the Tibetans in Kekexili in protecting the local environment to various AIDS organisations, to issues as trivia (but similarly important) as sheltering the abandoned cats, a lot young people autonomously involve in alternative politics. This insight also pushes me to my third disatisfaction – just because those people who he interviews have good purchasing power, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are ‘representative’ to the young generation. Nor does that mean they are the ones actually make political effects. There are other young agents as well. Many post-1980s generation I know are deeply political and very creative. They are just not radical.
Apart from these three disatisfactions above, I do share the awareness that we need to acknowledge the possible ‘numbing down’ effect of excessive consumerist practice and its possible outcome of political power concentration.
I also share P’s discontent and punch my head to ask whether I belong to this Me generation. The answer is obviously Yes when the timescale is so demarcated which varies from mid 70s to 80s. However, relating to our discussion about the vast demographical differences, I can’t quite agree that these people are the mainstream (though the author definitely holds so) or representative of the emergent middle class. As this class is emergent, it should be multi-layered and -voiced, not to be restricted to one or several social groups. Competition, contention, negotiation, and comprise are necessary and inevitable leading the way to (momentary) class stability.
I agree with P. There are just a few things I’d like to add.
First, the overall tone of this article, at least, seems to me, is “Democracy is good! Only democracy can save China. But Chinese people, esp. those so-called Me generation ignore this important thing unconsciously or even deliberately ”. It also seems to indicate that Communism ruins China, so Chinese people, especially peasants, are suffering, living in a miserable life. Young Chinese people have no soul, what they care is themselves, fashion, good life, etc.
2) I agree with P that the writer narrows down the concept “democracy” into “voting system”(P has already explained this point, so there is no need for me to reduplicate the comment);
3) Since I am obsessed with statistic analysis recently, I found some interesting numbers: the nominal word “democracy” has six occurrences in the whole article. It occurs 4 times in direct and indirect quotes from a LIFESTYLE magazine publisher, unnamed sinologists in the west, James Mann, Vicky (a girl under writer’s interview).My question here is why those people’s sayings are selected?
The LIFESTYLE magazine publisher says “On their wish list, a Nintendo Wii comes way ahead of democracy.” —- Really? How could he know that? Obviously, as a lifestyle magazine publisher, he is more familiar with Nintendo than with politics. Why could he make the claim so definitely that lifestyle magazine consumers are not interested in politics? Who consume lifestyle magazines? Can those lifestyle magazine consumers represent the Chinese youth? I don’t think many young Chinese can afford to consume lifestyle magazines and Nintendo.
As to those sinologists in the west, and James Mann, I recommend a reading from the FP website, which documents a toe-to-toe debate between Lampton and Mann: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3837
As for Vicky, I agree with P’s comments, one girl’s voice cannot represent the whole.
The term “democracy” occurs twice in writer’s own statement. One is the first sentence of the fifth paragraph; the other is the last sentence of the article, is “China’s future will be defined by whether they realize that democracy can help China, too”. The latter set the tone for the whole article. —-
My question to the writer here include “what is “democracy” in your sense?” “Whose democracy? The U.S.A.’s ? ” “Why “democracy” can help China?” Please do not just make a big claim, please also explain why you make this claim? Why do you act as a prophet, declaring so affirmatively “China’s future will be defined by….” Please, when you talk abouth something in the future, use some modal verbs like “may”, “might”, etc instead of the affirmative “be-verb”.
Whenever the writer mentions China’ s Communist party, he always talks about the Cultural Revolution, how horrible it was, how Chinese young are terrified by it; and Tian’anmen Square event, and how young Chinese are ignorant and indifferent about it; and how young Chinese are satisfied with the status quo.
I’d like to say that the writer underestimates the young Chinese, their power, their political sensitiveness, their bravery and their critical thinking capability. The writer is obsessed with the U.S.lead so-called “democracy” or DEMOCRACRY FANTASY, and dreams about imposing this hegemony-based “DEMOCRACRY FANTASY” onto other independent coutries, and at the same time, ignors the dark chapters in the American or western history, and fatal effects this DEMOCRACRY FANTASY has already brought to the whole world. The writer is very cynic about the Communist Party, ignoring all the efforts and achievement the Party has made. I just feel lucky that I am Chinese not Iraqi or American. Otherwise, I have to face and suffer the horrible things that the U.S.-lead “democratic violence” or “violent democracy” brought to Iraq and the innocent American citizens!
Secondly, this article is written on writer’s own intuition or impression. The arguments he claims are too subjective to be reliable.
1) I agree with P that the interviewees cannot represent the whole young generation. The young Chinese the writer met in Shanghai Park in 1981 cannot represent the young generation at that time, nor can the interviewees like Vicky represent the youth in current China: a) all the young people described in this article are quite rich, but those rich young Chinese cannot represent the young in general; b) all the young people described in this article are those from urban places, but urban young cannot represent rural young and Chinese young in general.
2) The writer wrote in the second paragraph “Survey young, urban Chinese today, you will find them drinking Starbucks, wearing Nikes and blogging obsessively”. I doubt the reliability of this survey. Why can’t the writer provide the name of the survey, and also show us the statistics? Don’t tell me it is the writer himself who did the survey and estimation with his own observation. Well, as far as I know, Starbucks and Nikes are still a symbol of luxury in many young Chinese people’s eyes. Moreover, young people in the whole world are interested in blogging, but whether they are obsessed with it is really hard to know. Many of my friends tell me that they have no time for blogging. I think the appropriate verb for this sentence is “Look at” not “survey”, and the term “some” should be added in front of the term “young, urban Chinese”.
3) The writer claims that young Chinese are not interested in politics. This claim is really ridiculous. Well, I think the writer has never heard about “强国论坛” (Powerful Nation Forum). If he could take a look at that, I am 100% sure he will feel or even be terrified by the overwhelming political passion of the young Chinese. There are also numerous blogs, online chatrooms, bbs concerning political issues. Blogs, online chatrooms and bbs are young Chinese’s playground, since the majority of internet users are young Chinese (Cf. China Internet Survey 2004/2005/2006).
4) I would like to know a)how many young American/ British/Australian people are really interested in politics? b)How many of them have ever thought about improving the so-called ‘democratic’ system in their own country? c)And how many of them talk about their own ‘democracy’ and politics in their leisure time?
The writer has little knowledge about the young Chinese, but made his big claims and arguments based on interviews with a small number of unrepresentative young Chinese, and his own observation. Inevitably, the article he wrote is subjective, unreliable and biased in a deliberate manner.
There might be a Me Group in China, but no Me Generation!
Aha, it’s getting heated up. I’d like to add questions. First, what is the discourse of the US-fashioned democracy if we have to start critiques? Second, is consumerism a step to democracy? For example, between the increasing varied accesses to consuming pornography in China and the Party’s prohibition?
Simon Elegant was born in Hong Kong and since then it seems that, one way or another, China has pretty much always been at the center of his life. Though he lived and worked in Taiwan and Hong Kong and had visited mainland China many times, he never had the chance to spend more than a few weeks at a time there until the Spring of 2006 when he and his family moved to Beijing. Now it’s full on, 24/7, in-your-face China, China, China.”
This brief introduction seems to construct the writer as a China expert, or at least, a person who knows China very well. For example, “born in Hong Kong”, “China … at the centre of his life”, “lived and worked in HK and TW”, “visited mainland China many times”, etc.
A close reading of the introduction of other Time Asian staffs listed on the China Blog could tell that the Time Asian tries to construct an image that all the staff are familiar with China, or have China experience. For example, most of them have completed a degree or course related to Asian studies, some were born in HK, some married NATIVE Chinese, etc.
All these introductions seem to persuade the Time readers to believe that all the staffs are right and experienced people to write about and comment on China-related issues.
My questions are “Are these people really know very well about China? Can their writings represent China-related issues in an unbiased way? Why does the Time bother to construct an image of so-called Chinese expert instead of employing a real NATIVE Chinese? ”