China’s Youth Confident in their Future
Note: this article appeared in a slightly edited format in Global Times on 8th May 2022: https://enapp.globaltimes.cn/article/1265055
China’s young people face many challenges, they need to finish school in a highly competitive environment, but it’s designed to place the best of them into an increasing number of university places, those that don’t enter university have options of vocational college or going to work. Despite these challenges, there’s an increasing and palpable confidence in China’s youth.
The current life expectancy in China is 77.3 years, but there are two highly impressive points to make about this. One is that China’s life expectancy increased through two years of a Covid Pandemic while others decreased. For the first time in history, China has overtaken the USA at 77 years. The other is that a person born 77 years ago, would only have had a life expectancy of only 43 years. Given this, and some other factors, it’s hardly surprising China’s youngsters have confidence in the future.
A person born in 1945 is 77 years old and has seen incredible changes. China was one of the poorest countries, it had been humiliated through colonisation by, and concessions to, Western powers, the removal of a dynasty, an invasion, occupation and international war, it was wracked by internal divisions and a civil war, beset by corruption and massive taxes with huge numbers in poverty, there was a complete lack of modern infrastructure, barely any education and healthcare was, at best minimal. Until the mass urbanisation of the 1980’s, most of the rapidly growing population lived on farms that barely sustained their lives. China’s suicide rates(9.1/100K) before urbanisation were among the highest in the world and have now dropped to among the world’s lowest, lower even than Australia(12.5/100k) and The United States(16.1/100K).
Fast forward to today, China’s improvement has stunned global observers. Neither a child born in the year 2000 or their parents, have experienced war. This child is much more likely to receive higher education than his or her parents with tertiary education now hitting 54%. Whilst the US has a similar rate at 57%, their numbers have declined over the last 10 years as people realise they can’t afford further education. US universities include a range of fees amounting to around $64,000 per year of study compared to as low as $2000 a year in China.
On leaving college or university, China’s unemployment rate is currently a Covid-driven high of 5.8% but more importantly, 2.85 million new jobs were created in the first quarter and an additional 11 million will be created by the end of the year. Compared to Western countries employment is much more stable with real jobs as opposed to part time or zero contracts and minimum wages.
As the youth of China enter adulthood, they’re entering a society with a great deal of stability and positivity. Western media will always decry China’s nationalism as being driven by the Communist Party of China’s propaganda (CPC) or “brainwashing” but it’s hard to imagine any government anywhere which could invoke a passion in young students to have over 400,000 of them leave their city homes and travel to the countryside to assist in Rural Revitalisation and Poverty Alleviation schemes, yet this is what happened in 2019. What’s more, their values and loyalty are hard to underestimate when as many as 73 million of them (40% aged 21–30) choose to visit the former CPC headquarters in Yan’an. They do this out of respect and an innate sense of pride in the past which has led them to their more stable, comfortable and confident future.
Many in the West declare how they love China and Chinese people but just as rapidly denounce the CPC as being authoritarian or dictatorial and accuse them of being the cause of misery for 1.4 billion Chinese people they’ve never met; nothing could be further from the truth.
The CPC currently has 95 million members and, within a year, will top 100 million. About 1 in 14 are members, almost as many as the population of France and Spain combined, with 4 million new applicants a year; there are 103 countries in the world that don’t even have populations this large.
The youth of 50 years ago yearned for opportunities the West had to offer, they dreamed of being like America but this has changed for the Chinese youth of today. What were once seen as admirable qualities are more confusing now. Despite allegations that the “Great Firewall” prevents Chinese people knowing what’s going on, Chinese people are very well aware of the world outside. Annually, 155m Chinese tourists and 700,000 Students depart China, they all return with stories of what they’ve seen. They know 120 Americans die from drug overdoses or alcohol every day, they know that every single day 106 people die and another 210 people survive gunshots. They know that, like everywhere, there are drug problems in China but they are minor and decreasing yearly. Also, China has no gun deaths.
In fact, by measurement metric imaginable, China has improved but there’s a great deal more to look forward to in a very confident future.