China and the world share the global generation gap – Opinion

Geng Shumin (third adult from left), who shot a short video of his family that has gone viral on the internet, poses in Puyang, Henan Province, on Saturday with other family members, gesturing of the hand meaning “heart”. ZHANG ZHAOMENG/FOR CHINA DAILY

China’s reform and opening up over the past 40 years has received a lot of media attention in recent months. The challenges China has overcome to emerge from poverty to become a modern society and the second largest economy in the world have been highlighted by domestic and foreign media.

The new challenges facing China were also discussed. Among these, the growing income gaps in the country have been the focus of concern. It is, however, a global phenomenon as widening income gaps have created social dislocation in both Europe and the United States.

What observers fail to notice in China is the huge generation gap. Like the widening income gap, it is also a shared challenge in Europe and America.

Are policy makers in contact with young people? Are the mainstream media in contact with young people? Probably not. Because they no longer speak the same language. Technology, which is now a global phenomenon, is widening the generation gap. It is to create a new language.

The language of young people today is very different from the language used in my generation. Just as all languages ​​evolve over time, the Chinese language over its thousands of years of history has evolved significantly.

English has evolved. Most people say they like Shakespeare, but they don’t really understand Shakespeare. To read and understand Shakespeare, you almost need to have a translation of every sentence, because the English language has changed so much over the centuries.

Technology is simply driving this language change everywhere – in America, Europe, Asia – and likewise, the Chinese language is changing as fast as any language anywhere.

But is this new technological language in China so different from the language of young people in America or Europe? No.

We currently live in a very competitive environment. In many ways, couples are thinking about their own livelihoods, how to get by and thrive.

In many cases, couples in China do not have children, but instead focus on their careers, travels and their own way of life.

It is no different from Europe. It’s a very similar trend. With this trend, we find that it is not something related to Chinese culture, but to global economy and technology.

The Chinese of old attached great importance to the perpetuation of the family line, but today’s young couples do not want to have children.

Is this a step forward or backward? I think this experience in China today, of couples who don’t want to have children, is very similar to what is happening in Europe.

Education is more and more expensive. And of course, you want your children to have the best education. For many young couples, in China as well as in Europe and North America, the costs of raising children are prohibitive.

In addition, technology has created the “i” generation. Young people are more focused on their own lives, living for today and happy to do so. They are less concerned with the concept of family, and even leaving a future generation to follow. Many might ask, “Why should they care? Robots will replace people anyway.”

In short, due to technology and social media communications, Chinese youth today have more similarities with American and European youth than differences. It is the language and the simplicity of communication through technology that makes the generational gap between young people in today’s world so distant from their parents.

One perspective is that reform and opening up has provided young Chinese with a foundation to go beyond the material.

It gives them the opportunity to be part of the rest of the world. It gives them the opportunity, in the next generation, to even be the leaders of a very integrated, dynamic and synergetic planet.

All the nationalism, populism, de-globalization and anger that is going on in Europe and the United States right now is polarizing our planet. Violence and anger are promoted on popular social networks. Polarization has become common.

I believe that at the heart of Asian values ​​is a belief in harmony and synergy. Yin and yang, black and white, are not opposites. They are part of an integrated whole. Can Chinese youth share this ideal with the world? Can they create the apps and social media videos to do this?

I think young people in China, India, Southeast Asia and South Asia have harmony and balance at the heart of their value system. It’s in their cultural DNA.

Can we combine this philosophy with technologies for the environment, communication, health and new areas such as space travel? I think we could have a very different planet in the future and move away from some of these adversarial zero-sum games.

Having one country as number 1 is a vision that will only set us back, not forward as a collective people on this planet.

Therefore, it is really up to us to reach out to the younger generation both in China and in the rest of the world. This generation is fully integrated through modern communications across the planet.

I hope they can look at their parents’ successes, as well as their mistakes, and work together for a much better world. In them, I have hope.

The author is Founding Director of Himalayan Consensus and International Fellow at the Center for China and Globalization.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and the China Daily website.