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Youth in China optimistic, inclusive on nation and the world

LIU DONGJIAN | 2018-09-21
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Contemporary Chinese young people are growing up in an age when their country is ascending closer to the center of the world arena, an age when their country is striving to realize the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation. It can be said that contemporary youth will completely experience the great journey of China’s realization of its goals in the new era. Growing up in such an era with new characteristics, the group’s understanding of history, their country and the world has demonstrated many new features.


In the past, some young people might have been pessimistic about China’s basic political system. They have even prophesied the end of the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics due to the influence of the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent upheaval in East Europe. But today, the new generation of youth can perceive their country’s development from a more elevated historical point of view and with a more objective, rational conception of history.


It can be said that each bit of improvement and progress of the individual is in part attributed to the infiltration of history and culture, as well as practice through daily life. Cultivated by the cultural wealth accumulated over the Chinese nation’s five thousand years of civilization, their outlook on life and the world embodies the values, ethics and wisdom of the Chinese nation, which comes to constitute their personal ethos.


A national view is not something vague or empty, but is the perception and feeling toward national destiny. On the whole, Chinese youth hold a confident national view, which is derived from both the achievements made by the Chinese path and the positive comments from the international community on their country.


The political scientist Shi Tianjian from Duke University conducted a survey on youth groups in five Asian countries in 2002, according to which more than 80 percent of the youth from China’s mainland considered the degree of democracy in China to be at a high level, ranking second among the five countries investigated. As to their understanding of what democracy is, only less than 12 percent of young people considered democracy equal to having an election, 6.3 percent maintained that democracy is having a counterbalance to the holders of centralized power, and to 22.9 percent of the group, democracy is freedom. Nearly 55 percent considered democracy to be when the government thinks for the people each time it conducts decision-making, seeking opinions from people and serving the people.


In addition, a new survey conducted by Ipsos from France showed that China is the world’s most optimistic country, of which 87 percent of the respondents believe that their country is on track in the right direction.


It can be seen that China’s contemporary youth are increasingly confident in the system and path that their country has adopted. They will not adhere to the Western democratic system as a frame of reference but keep a foothold in the native political and cultural base of their country in viewing the national direction.


This confidence is neither overblown nor arrogant, but encompasses the cultural consciousness of the Chinese nation and rational cognition about the basic national conditions of China in the current phase of development.


Having developed through the time of the internet boom, youths’ world views have been impacted by the open and free internet environment. With long-term immersion in the new media environment, many of them have gradually established open, inclusive international views. Through the internet, youths are able to acquire the most updated information on the politics, economics and cultures of countries around the world in an all-dimensional way. They can see the democratic, free and equal aspects of the Western world, and also get to know the wealth gaps, gun epidemics, race conflicts and other social problems existing in the West.
As the most dynamic and resilient social group, the contemporary youth in China are a generation that will be more capable of accomplishing their own missions in the future. Their opinions on the external world will also profoundly affect the future direction of China and the advancing process of world civilization.

Liu Dongjian is a professor and the deputy dean of the School of Marxism at the Communication University of China. This article was edited and translated from People’s Tribune.

 

​(edited by BAI LE)