China’s Youth, A Lost Generation?
Read this New Yorker story on the confused, uncertain attitude youth in China have on life in a swiftly evolving period in their history.
Which picture from the China project stays with you most? How did you meet?
It is hard to pin down the one image that made the deepest impression on me—as many of them did. But if I had to pick one, I would say the photograph of Avril Lui (above) taken in Guangxi Province. Avril had recently graduated from university in Hunan Province, and I met her when my translator and I went to a place teaching English as a summer course. Her statement was: “We are the lost generation. I’m confused about the world.” This photograph seems to have struck a chord with many of the young Chinese who have viewed it. I think the pace of change has been so rapid in China in these last two decades that many of the young are in a spin which has left them somewhat confused. Their parents’ generation had a clear idea of what their identity was and the better life they were struggling for. Now that that better world has arrived it can be argued that life for the Chinese youth might have more opportunity but has in turn become more complicated with difficult career decisions, an increasingly materialistic society, and a complex relationship with the West. All this contributes to a sense of confusion. Avril is also referring to the fact that her parents generation rarely talks about or acknowledges the Cultural Revolution that had so much impact on Chinese society at the time—or for that matter any history, particularly, of more recent times. There is a sense amongst some young Chinese that they have arrived; but, where from, and has it been worth it? I also like this photograph because of the classic building in the background and the traditionally dressed man in blue on the bicycle. These visual keys are a nod to the world from which China has so recently arrived from.
The contradictions and intricacies of modern culture in China are enough to make anyone’s head spin. Simultaneous rebellion and conformity – modernity pulling minds in one direction and traditional values leading them in another. What do you make of this story?