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China's post-80 generation is finding its voice

By Renee Haines (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-12-01 08:09
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There's a powerful story being told right now with the medium of the post-80 generation - The Internet.

It is a story that is funny, poignant, hopeful, insightful and smart. China's under-30s are finding their own voice.

"The changes we experienced are different from those of our parents. We've been in a transition period. We are experiencing huge changes, not just in China but all over the world with the Internet, new technology, new lifestyles," said Zhang Xiao, 25, an Internet video director in Beijing.

"No previous generation has experienced what we have experienced."

Zhang works in the multimedia department of a newspaper and he has been telling the stories of his own generation - those born after 1980 under China's family planning policy - through a weekly series of English-language documentary videos called Post-80s in China.

He already had posted two episodes on the Internet before I began watching, and I quickly became addicted. There is music, plays, art and, best of all, ordinary post-80 voices expressing what they miss about their childhood, how they see their own lives and what they want for their future. The series will have six episodes.

"Most of the time, others consider us kids, and I thought, 'I am still a kid.' And one day, I realized I'm no longer a kid. People stopped looking at me as a kid. This is a huge change for us post-80s," Zhang said. "A lot of my friends and people around us got married and have kids."

They are now old enough to look back to the music, school days and friendships of their youth, according to Yu Shaohu of Beijing, director of the play, The Past Days. The play is about a group of post-80s sharing funny memories about their past and hopes for the future. Zhang videotaped parts of the play for his series and interviewed Yu.

"How come you got such a low score? Didn't you copy my answers?" asks one actor playing a young student in Yu's play.

"Your handwriting's so tiny. How was I supposed to see it?" complains the other actor.

Yu, born in November 1984, described himself in one of Zhang's videos as "a standard post-80" in Beijing. Actors who are also members of the post-80 generation make up the characters in his play.

This is a generation under enormous pressure to find employment, affordable housing and a way to chart their own future, he told Zhang.

"We all had an easy life growing up, so it just made it harder for us," Yu said. "By remembering the old times, it kind of gives us the strength to carry on."

Zhang's videos also describe the popular 2008 TV series, Fighting, in which post-80 characters play out their daily lives in a modern era.

In another of Zhang's episodes, this year's hit music video, Post-80s, Wake Up, by Shou Junchao, describes the challenges faced by his generation.

"In the elders' eyes, we are a lucky generation and masters of our fate who live a happy life. But what exactly can take control of our time? Is it power and money or a code of brotherhood?" Shou asks with his lyrics.

"We are the happy generation who can't see where this happiness lies, but have to fight our way, looking for our future. Post-80s, wake up!" the rapper sings on the video.

Zhang's video series has showed him that while there are many frustrations among his fellow members of the post-80 generation, "we are dealing with it positively," he said.

Young, confident and positive are the words he uses to describe his generation.

As we read more about the post-80 generation, we also now have the opportunity to see and hear them through the multimedia skills of a generation that has grown up with computers and the Internet.

Their future will decide our future, and not just in China. In this global economy, the choices they make in a country with the world's largest population and such a fast-growing economy will have an enormous effect far beyond China's borders.

Through the work of post-80 artists such as Zhang, Shou and Yu, they are sharing their voices with us. We should listen.

China Daily

China's post-80 generation is finding its voice

(China Daily 12/01/2010)