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Youth Feel Attached to Country, Aware of Social Issues

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Born in the year 1990, Bi Jia has a career plan different from most of her classmates, who dreamt of becoming career diplomats after graduation from the elite China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU).

"I want to go to a multinational after graduation, where my competitive mind and adaptability would enable me to get chances." said the 19-year-old college student, a native from China's east Anhui Province.

Grew up with easy access to Hollywood movies and pop music, Bi Jia, sporting Spanish fashion wear Zara and a Swiss-made Swatch on her left wrist, said her generation could choose to live pretty much the same lifestyle as their American counterparts.

By the time Bi's generation was born, China's decade-long fast economic growth since its 1978 reform and opening up made them a generation "born with a silver spoon in the mouth." They were born in an information age, fed on material abundance, and equipped with delicate digital apparatus.

Bi said her generation was patriotic, competitive and conscious of rights despite China's increased economic strength allowing them to ward off difficulties typical to her parents' generation.

The 19-year-old, who grew up in Wuhu, a city about 400 km from Shanghai and home to a well-known China-made economical automobile manufacturer Chery, said local high school students were enthusiastic about interpreting for foreign buyers in the streets when they ran into difficulties.

"They were not only interpreting, most of them, as I know, also helped foreigners understand local culture and Chinese customs, and they did a lot to help promote car sales," she said.

The young people told her that they felt it was part of their responsibility to build a positive image of China and by doing so they were displaying their love for the country.

Bi and her friends denied stereotyped accusations by both some Chinese and foreigners that the "Post-90s" (a term to refer to those born after 1990), a generation in which a majority are single children, were self-centered.

Huang Qiaoying, Bi's friend who is 21, said they also paid attention to social issues despite a busy academic schedule.

"Social issues are not always on our lips, but it does not mean that we don't care about it," she said.

"Our generation perceives things differently from our predecessors. The ways for us to show our concern over social issues are different from our parents. Just take a look at the numerous online postings by young people in forums and BBS (Bulletin Board Service)," she said.

She said she and her peers would do more instead of talking more.

Last year, Huang joined tens of thousands of young people to provide volunteer service during the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics. Their selfless contribution including information services, interpretation and first aid were widely applauded by the international community.

Zhang Jianguo, editor-in-chief of a popular magazine the China Campus, said today's college students have concerns different from those of 20 years ago.

"College students paid more attention to the ideological sphere and political system 20 years ago, but today's students start to address human rights, ecological protection and welfare of the disadvantaged. They have also paid specific attention to college student serving as village officials and democracy in grassroot communities," he said.

Bi Jia said she and her friends all thought that China still needed improvement and could learn from the Americans in many areas.

"There were also areas for the United States to make improvement and learn from China. No country is perfect," she said.

Bi said she was a feminist and cared about women's inequalities in the job market. And some of her classmates and friends chose to have their own ways to show their concern of the country and the society.

Now there's a trend of studying Chinese ancient literature on campus and some college students started to pick up Chinese calligraphy, a traditional art with waning influence as computer input becomes more popular, according to Bi.

The students did all these out of their wish to better promote Chinese culture. Bi said that's her generation's way to show care about social issues.

Whether the critics like it or not, Bi's generation has already won some approval from the public since last year, when a relay of events in China drew worldwide attention

In the wake of the March 14 Lhasa riot, during which at least 18 innocent civilians and one policeman were killed, many young Chinese organized online autograph campaigns to denounce irresponsible and distorted media coverage on Tibet.

Rao Jin, a then 23-year-old graduate from Tsinghua University, soon set up a Web site called to especially point out the alleged media bias with reference to Tibet.

Right after a magnitude-8.0 earthquake shattered southwest China, thousands of college students across China donated their allowances to aid people in the quake-devastated region. There were also media reports about Internet addicts who beat their habits to go to work in quake-stricken regions.

The upsurge of patriotism and responsible images of the Chinese young people almost took the public by surprise.

Zhang Jianguo, the editor-in-chief who has also been paying attention to young people's ideological thinking for more than 20 years, said China's remarkable achievements in economy, social affairs and sports was one of the reasons behind the success of this generation.

The achievements helped shape the pride of modern Chinese youth and make them feel more attached to their country, he said.

Some western media trends have stoked the young people's repulsion to the West and in turn aroused the patriotic passion of the young people, he said.

Yang Mei, a 21-year-old college student majoring in international economy and trade, said her generation could think for itself.

She said her generation was saturated with information, giving them the opportunity to make their own judgments.

Yu Kejie, a professor of ideological and recent history studies at CFAU, said today's Chinese college students have an "active mind" and "are politically sensitive."

Despite the improved image of the Chinese young people during events such as quake-relief and Olympics, there were unquestionably suspicions and doubts.

The input of "90hou"(Post-90s) in search engines would present a lot of links to pictures showing explicit sexual images of young people and floods of information about their alleged lax attitude towards sex.

Many Chinese still label "Post-90s" as a self-centered generation that have tenuous family bonds.

"They have never run into any trouble as their parents did and have not felt the pain and frustration of life. They are less disciplined than their predecessors," Yu Kejie said.

"But they have a flexible mind and are not pedantic about rules and formalities," he added.

Bruce Humes, an American book reviewer who has been in the Chinese mainland since the mid-1990s, wrote in an e-mail forwarded to Xinhua that "Patriotism is on the rise in a big way in today's China, and young people are proud to be proud of their country."

Yu Kejie said young people's patriotism and self-confidence reflects the overall national confidence of the Chinese, and would serve as a spiritual treasure in their growth and development.

Huang Zhao, a interpretation postgraduate at Beijing Foreign Studies University said, "We do not have a starving stomach, but we have a mind with much pressure; We live in rented cramped rooms, jammed in crowded buses, but we are optimistic and confident to live on."

(Xinhua News Agency May 24, 2009)

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