Cultural Musings: Does the young generation know it is ageing?

Once again – not a criticism here.

The younger generation – ages 18 to 28 or so – in all countries could be accused of ‘not realising that they are ageing’.

When young, people simply accept, or take for granted, that they are “a young person”, and almost accept this as their permanent status and raison d’être.

Is this situation amplified in China?

What many people do not realise is that this is essentially China’s first generation to do many – or even ALL – of the things that we simply take for granted in the West, and have done since around the late 1940s.

A shopping mall is new

If a foreigner is in China and in a shopping mall, nothing of note is to be observed by him or her.

Yet take the perspective of someone whose parents had absolutely nothing of the sort when they were growing up.

The simple act of going to shops, walking around on the flat, constructed floors, sitting with friends and ordering food or drink – these are all NEW experiences for the new generation here.

And, there are still those of all ages which come to Shanghai (or other main cities) and see these for the first time in their life.

The migrant workers are from remote towns and villages are used to living in self-built brick homes, not having paved roads or pavements.

So, this means that all of these very simple and basic pleasures are something that the young, urban generation take as something of their own.

They feel as though they have a national and cultural ownership of the situation of development, ‘the new’, and modernisation.

Not that there is anything wrong with that. Again, not a criticism, just a musing.

Young Chinese women shopping

How will they adapt to ageing?

The acceptance of being ‘the first generation’ to not only experience but also define modernisation in China, comes out in may aspects of their life.

They are the first to enjoy a plethora of city nightlife.

They are the first to enjoy a compass of global cuisine and Western restaurants and food experiences.

This could be a long list of firsts. (use a credit card, own a car…)

Yet – the change is inevitable.

Whenever I see young women here revelling in their youth, I wonder what will happen when it is gone?

Defining oneself by youth is a rather dangerous action for the mind.

‘I am not ‘one of China’s old’ (the old generation, those who stay traditional, do not experience any of these ‘new’ things mentioned) – I am one of ‘China’s young’ (obsessing about fashion, brands, luxury purchases)’, such people may think.

That is defining oneself by youth – not defining oneself by having a personality, a clear knowledge of one’s mind and soul as a unique human being.

However – what is going to happen to such a person’s psyche when they do age?

Will they still be desperately clamouring to keep up with the demands of branding and luxury purchase age 50? Age 70? 90?

Are we set to see, in a few decades, large teams of elderly and wrinkly women strut around in high heels, waving LV bags and faces covered in Lancome cosmetics, as their muscles shudder while they try to get the last drop of Starbucks coffee into their painted lips?

Again, this is not a criticism.

The image is a harsh one because the musing or question is genuine and valid: where is this current young generation going – and is it able to veer away from it’s current path of defining itself merely by a current age?

Stuff! Queue up and buy stuff!

Stuff! Queue up and buy stuff!


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Categories: Play


Foreigner in Shanghai


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