An editorial by Matthew Forney, former Beijing bureau chief for Time, entitled, China's Loyal Youth, explores some of the reasons why most young Chinese support their government's recent suppression of the Tibetan uprising. Forney's assessment of the next generation of Chinese-- those 30 years of age and under-- is interesting because it gives a cursory look at the future policy makers, lawyers, and businesspeople of the fastest growing economy in the world.
Forney points out that China's youth probably doesn't remember the events of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. They probably don't think of China as a police state since they've reaped the benefits of policies that have brought China more peace and prosperity than at any time in the past thousand years. All of this creates a strong sense of nationalism amongst China's youth, and Forney adds that Westerns are unlikely to find allies amongst China's youth on issues like China's human rights record.
Here is an excerpt from Forney's editorial:
Educated young people are usually the best positioned in society to bridge cultures, so it’s important to examine the thinking of those in China. The most striking thing is that, almost without exception, they feel rightfully proud of their country’s accomplishments in the three decades since economic reforms began. And their pride and patriotism often find expression in an unquestioning support of their government, especially regarding Tibet.
The most obvious explanation for this is the education system, which can accurately be described as indoctrination. Textbooks dwell on China’s humiliations at the hands of foreign powers in the 19th century as if they took place yesterday, yet skim over the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and ’70s as if it were ancient history. Students learn the neat calculation that Chairman Mao’s tyranny was “30 percent wrong,” then the subject is declared closed. The uprising in Tibet in the late 1950s, and the invasion that quashed it, are discussed just long enough to lay blame on the “Dalai clique,” a pejorative reference to the circle of advisers around Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Then there’s life experience — or the lack of it — that might otherwise help young Chinese to gain a perspective outside the government’s viewpoint. Young urban Chinese study hard and that’s pretty much it. Volunteer work, sports, church groups, debate teams, musical skills and other extracurricular activities don’t factor into college admission, so few participate. And the government’s control of society means there aren’t many non-state-run groups to join anyway. Even the most basic American introduction to real life — the summer job — rarely exists for urban students in China.
Recent Chinese college graduates are an optimistic group. And why not? The economy has grown at a double-digit rate for as long as they can remember. Those who speak English are guaranteed good jobs. Their families own homes. They’ll soon own one themselves, and probably a car too. A cellphone, an iPod, holidays — no problem. Small wonder the Pew Research Center in Washington described the Chinese in 2005 as "world leaders in optimism."
China's smartest and brightest speak fluent English, and they have probably studied abroad. It is more likely than not that anyone working in China will encounter China's loyal youth. When working with them, it is probably best to keep in mind their strong nationalistic pride, and when doing business in China, I'd avoid topics of discussion that will offend the Chinese party's sense of national pride. I've gotten into some heated arguments with people I've met outside of the office regarding China's "internal affairs" and it has taught me to generally keep my opinions to myself.