A pampered generation not so spoiled

AFP/Getty Images

Li Xueguang spent much of the summer standing in a Beijing square between historic towers, her blue Olympic-volunteer polo shirt a magnet for tourists in need of a map or translation.

“When I see someone go away happy, I feel proud,” said Li, a 23-year-old graduate student in chemical engineering whose “job” ended last week. “We’re not looking for a reward.”

China’s pampered, 20-something “little emperors” surprised the nation with their hard work during the Olympic Games and the earthquake that killed an estimated 87,500 people in May, showing that they may, after all, be capable of leading China to superpower status instead of just to the mall.

Since the 1980s, China’s rapidly developing economy and policies limiting many families to one child created a generation of 200 million young men and women with unprecedented wealth and opportunities. In a nation with a tradition of conformity and a recent history of political radicalism, the “balinghou” broke with both, spawning visions of adults obsessed with money, unable to stay married and negligent in caring for aging parents.

Given another 10 to 15 years, the country will be in their hands,” said Chen Xingdong, chief China economist at BNP Paribas in Beijing. “Are they perfect? No, but actually they are far better than people’s original perspective.”

Worthwhile article. This happens to be a personal area of study – and the article confirms what I’ve learned from lengthier, heavier tomes.

The premise is simple enough and goes back to Deng Xiaoping: maintain, don’t turn your back on socialist ideals for your nation – earn and learn how to do this in a national and global market economy.

Now, that’s pretty much shrinking several volumes of [fortunately] mostly readable non-fiction from British diplomats who spent decades in the Far East. The kind of dedication to knowledge in service to diplomacy we haven’t touched in the U.S. since the 1930’s and 40’s. Something else we might consider getting back to in the 21st Century.