Chinese millennials are “more likely to be more individualistic and protect individual rights,” said Jianhua Xu, dean of sociology at the University of Macau.

Macau Business | October 2022 | Special Report | Chinese Millennials

Associate Professor Jianhua Xu of UM’s Department of Sociology is also Adjunct Professor of UM’s Macao Research Center. He has worked as a police officer in mainland China (2004–06), was a Fulbright Visiting Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania (2008–09), and a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University (2017 and 2019). He is now a Book Review Editor. Asian Journal of CriminologyHis research interests include the sociology of crime and deviance, policing, victimology, urban sociology, and Macau studies.

It is widely agreed that people born after the 1980s are very different from their parents. What do you think is the main explanation?

Jianhua Xu – Different social environments shape the social characteristics of different people. This is true both at the individual level and at the generational level. People who grew up after the 1980s were in a very different environment than their parents’ generation. Before the 1980s, China was one of the poorest countries in the world. It also experienced many political movements and a great famine. Citizens were deeply embedded in the state because there was no free market in which people could survive. The country had a monopoly on almost all resources. People had to rely heavily on the state. This is the structural reason for the strong collectivism of the pre-1980s generation. After the 1980s, the state began to withdraw from many sectors and the market played an increasingly important role in shaping people’s work and lives. Background. Let me give you an example. When I attended his university in 1997, many of my relatives in rural China asked me if the university would give me a job after graduation.

Another important difference between the pre- and post-1980s generations is the material life they lived. Many parents of the post-80s generation have experienced material deprivation and absolute poverty, and some have memories of hunger. As such, it can withstand very poor and demanding working environments. The material life of generations since the 80’s has greatly improved. Of course, this means that they have different expectations of work and life. The global “Me Too” movement’s reverberation in China would have been unthinkable if it had happened 20 years ago.

‘Cautiously optimistic about gender equality’

Expressions such as “Millennials” and “Generation Z” [??? Millennials are Generation Y!!] It’s necessary in some cases, but it tends to generalize. For example, are there significant differences between boys and girls within your cohort?

JX- I think millennial boys and girls have more similarities than differences. Millennial girls, in particular, have enjoyed far more equal educational opportunities than previous generations. In traditional China, the preference for sons is strong. Limited educational opportunities and resources tended to be reserved for boys more than girls. But since the 1980s, urban girls have enjoyed unprecedented educational opportunities due to the one-child policy, which meant no siblings in urban families. For millennials, equal educational opportunities extend to China’s rural areas. Today, many Chinese universities have more girls than boys, a global phenomenon.However, millennial girls enjoy equal opportunities in the job market and career development We may still have a long way to go. Women are still far less represented in top politicians, business tycoons and academia. In the long term, I am cautiously optimistic about gender equality when millennials become the protagonists of Chinese society.

“People who grew up after the 80s were in a very different environment than their parents’ generation.”

Another convergence of gender roles is perhaps the phenomenon of the so-called feminization of boys in millennials. Unlike traditional masculinity, where boys pride themselves on being tough in terms of image and behavior, for many millennial boys the new fashion is gentle and soft, making them the idols of many young people in popular culture. The meaning of masculinity has changed.

(Xinhua News Agency/Zhang Long)

“Some people choose to give up desperately.”

If you were asked to pick the most differentiating and most aggregated characteristics of those under 40, what would they be? Perhaps technology and the Internet?

JX- The coexistence of abundance and anxiety is probably the most typical characteristic of the 40s. On the one hand, they grew up at a time when China was experiencing rapid industrialization and urbanization. They live in a society that is much more materially prosperous than previous generations. Also, they have much more exposure to the outside world. On the other hand, fierce competition among their peers makes their lives much more insecure. Opportunities for upward social mobility have been severely limited in recent years. In other words, social stratification is becoming increasingly institutionalized. Today, it is much more difficult for a child from a poor family to go to a prestigious university and climb the career ladder, even if they are lucky enough to attend college. is much more important than it used to be. Against this backdrop, the term “involution,” originally derived from the field of anthropology, has suddenly become a popular catchword. The term refers to excessive competition that has not really improved much. While most young people may have no choice but to participate in a highly competitive game, others desperately choose to give up and adopt the philosophy described in the popular phrase. tamping (“Lie down”). As a result, mental health problems among young people in China are much more serious than before.

“Since 1980, urban girls have enjoyed unprecedented access to an education, thanks to the one-child policy, which meant urban families had no sibling rivals.”

A master’s degree is a basic requirement for finding a decent job today. ”

they are rich They like shopping and luxury brands.” – Is this stereotype correct?

JX- The post-80s generation, especially millennials, clearly think differently about consumption. While their parents’ generation may have lived very frugally and amassed wealth for the future, younger generations are more willing to spend money. The whole society has changed. Once upon a time, austerity was a worthy value promoted by governments. Today, consumer culture dominates society. It’s no surprise that young people are more consumer-oriented.

Many urban youth have other reasons. When a goal is too far to reach, people tend to give up and instead focus on what they enjoy in front of them. For example, many of the first generation of migrant workers in China dreamed of building a house in their hometown after saving the necessary money. But the dream for the second generation of migrant workers is to stay in a familiar city, even if the urban housing market is out of their reach. As such, they may resort to more realistic but seemingly overconsuming behaviors such as shopping and using luxury brands.

“The coexistence of abundance and anxiety is perhaps the most typical characteristic of the 40s.”

Another trait that is probably obvious is that they are much more educated than their parents. Does this put more pressure on them in terms of obtaining higher education, and does it represent additional pressure in choosing a job?

JX- Today, the education level of Chinese youth has improved significantly. China’s overall college enrollment rate among young people has reached nearly 50% in recent years. About 10 million students enroll in college each year. In 2021, more than 40% of his university graduates participated in the entrance examination for master’s degrees in China. Jokingly, today it is said that a master’s degree is a basic requirement for finding a decent job.The younger generation is arguably far more educated than their parents. However, this can also lead to the problem of “degree inflation”.

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