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They were raised to believe in the revolutionary Maoism of the 1960s and ‘70s, and then told as young adults in the late 1970s that everything drilled into them in their adolescence had been a terrible mistake.
Then they were fed a trickle of socialism, rapidly belied by the rush to get rich, and finally offered the hint of a liberal counter-culture in the 1980s before Tiananmen snatched it away.
Last new year, I was home and my cousin was there too. What that means is that he sells fake or overpriced drugs to hospitals, with the collusion of the doctors, and they split the profits.
If you imagine the disorientation and confusion of many parents in the West when it comes to the internet and its role in their children’s lives, and then add to that dating, university life and career choices, you come close to the generational dilemma.
But Huang is a rarity, and cushioned by his own wealth; far more parents are concerned that their children aren’t doing enough to get on.
While immigrants dream of their children becoming doctors, lawyers, or professors, domestic Chinese ambitions mostly lie elsewhere.
In 2004, fresh off the plane in Beijing, I was asked to judge an English competition for high-school seniors. They’re all so spoilt.’It’s a view I’ve heard time and again over the past eight years, and one of which the Chinese media never tire. This January alone, the jingoistic Major General and media commentator Luo Yuan condemned the young for being physically and mentally unfit, ranting: ‘Femininity is on the rise, and masculinity is on the decline.
My two co-judges were pleasantly cynical middle-aged sociologists, both professors at Tsinghua University. With such a lack of character and determination and such physical weakness, how can they shoulder the heavy responsibility? The year I arrived, when I was going through the near-obligatory expat period as a teacher before becoming a full-time writer and editor, I had to forcibly drag a 19-year-old out of a classroom after he threw a temper tantrum, drummed the floor and refused to leave.