In China, young people are dissatisfied with their lives, according to the media

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In China, the youth are unhappy with their lives, – the media

It didn't look like the crowd was happy about appearance of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. When Wham! became the first Western pop group to perform in Communist China, the audience was ordered to stay in their seats. It was 1985, and despite what it looked like on the outside, the young people at the concert were actually rejoicing.

The country they lived in was by no means free, but it was beginning to reform and open up. Over the next three decades, the economy will grow at a rapid pace, creating new opportunities. More and more Chinese traveled and studied abroad. Even the Communist Party was showing signs of relaxing (a little). Those who grew up during this period had high hopes for the future.

Today, reality does not live up to those hopes, – writes The Economist. A dark cloud has hung over Chinese people born in the 1990s and 2000s. Since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, the government has become more repressive and society less vibrant. Censorship has turned the internet into a dark place, allowing nationalist trolls to interfere in public debates. In universities, students are forced to fight against the ban on personal ideology introduced by Xi Jinping.

«For some, the worst thing is that China's economy is stagnating. The unemployment rate among young people aged 16 to 24 in cities exceeds 21%. The figure is so disappointing that the government stopped publishing the data earlier this month pending a review, The Economist writes, adding that last week its reporters spoke to young Chinese residents about how they feel. p>

The publication writes that many of them still believe in the party and support Xi Jinping's calls to make China strong. But many suffer from a deep sense of anxiety. University graduates suddenly find that the skills they have spent years developing do not meet the demands of employers. A shortage of jobs and high real estate prices destroyed their hopes of buying a home and starting a family. In Chinese social networks, the mood is becoming increasingly gloomy. Disillusioned youth talk about tangping (to wallow) and bailan (to rot) – synonyms that mean "give up".

China is hardly the only country where young people seem gloomy. Nearly half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 say they lack confidence in the future. Perhaps Gen Z and millennials around the world are prone to grumpiness.

«But in China, home to some 360 ​​million people between the ages of 16 and 35, something more serious seems to be going on. The stairs to a better life have been taken away. In response to this, many decide to abandon the rat race and delve into themselves. For a country that Xi Jinping promises to turn into a great power by the middle of the century, their boredom poses difficult questions» – writes The Economist.

One of them is whether their apathy carries political risks. Disillusioned youth have rocked China in the past, most notably in 1989 when students marched on Tiananmen Square to demand more freedom and less corruption. Last year, tired of the government's tough measures to combat COVID-19, young people gathered in cities across China. Some called for Xi Jinping and the party to step down.

No one can rule out the possibility of new riots. But last year's protests were few and far between, and reports suggest that China's youth are not burning with revolutionary fervor. They have grown up on an Internet restricted by a large firewall that limits their access to uncensored news and information. Raised on the propaganda of the party's achievements, many continue to support it wholeheartedly. Even hip young urbanites say the government should curtail some freedoms.

The real issue facing the party is more prosaic. And it is not about the threat of revolution, but about the quiet rejection of ambitions.

«To achieve his goal of restoring China's greatness, Xi Jinping needs young people to marry, have children and stop the country's demographic decline. To reorient the economy to manufacturing and away from consumer internet technology, he wants them to study hard sciences, not dream of video game development. And he wants more young people to work in factories, including those that can produce weapons for China's growing military. "Endure difficulties" and “swallow the bitterness,'' Xi Jinping urges the Chinese youth. But many people don't understand why they should do it, the article says.

The party remembers their disappointment. Politicians have taken measures to curb speculation in the real estate market in the hope of lowering prices. Firms are forced to treat their overworked young workers better. Under the slogan of “general prosperity” Xi Jinping sought to increase social mobility and reduce inequality. But a lot of it turned against him. By going after real estate developers, tech firms and the tutoring industry, he has hurt the most reliable employers of new graduates.

This leads to the biggest question of all. Chinese leaders like to contrast their one-party rule with the “imperfect and dysfunctional West.” And this opinion is heating up, but it is not completely fabricated by the official media. The plight of young people clearly delineates the strengths and weaknesses of each system. This comparison is not in favor of China.

In America, dropouts have alternatives. The country offers many ways to a fulfilling life. Some ambitious people have even been able to use their disagreement to create great art, music or a multi-billion dollar company. Xi Jinping would like young Chinese to also find enlightenment in their hardships, but not in this way. Development must take place exclusively through the Communist Party. Chinese artists are under the yoke of her messages. Tech entrepreneurs have been branded as party rivals and humiliated.

«A small but growing number of well-educated young Chinese with high potential appear to be leaving their country. Politicians in the US and the West often say that they are on the side of ordinary Chinese. They could prove this by making sure that Western universities and economies accept young people who feel that their opportunities at home are limited» – advises The Economist.

However, most young Chinese will stay at home. When Xi Jinping downplays their individual aspirations in favor of collective interests, he only makes them bleaker. It also ignores the role that the dreams and choices of hundreds of millions of people have played in China's growth over the past 40 years. The party must offer disillusioned youth new paths to peaceful prosperity. The alternatives, including inflaming angry militaristic nationalism, will pose a threat to China and the world.