In western societies, the Y generation is the product of the Baby Boomers: themselves being the outcome of the post-war demographic explosion. Y generation, also known as “echo boomers” came to the world in the 80s and 90s. On the other side of the globe, China welcomes its ‘one-child’ generation, mirrored in its thirty-year implemented policy. These children don’t know siblings, and won’t play with uncles and cousins. They are young, but their solitude has actually aged the country. China must soon support a large pension class, which will weigh significantly d on it pension funds. Though babied by their parents, only-children face a complicated task in regards to their societal role. Besides being individually successful, their growth calls for family-oriented prosperity as well.
Throughout Chinese history, children have never been so pampered and so educated as they are today. Nor have they been so mentally trained or so enriched: both in terms of height and weight. Even in the more remote areas, only-children’s conditions are improving at an unprecedented level. China’s companies and multinational corporations are researching their behavior, as it could lead to enormous economic growth and change. Figures show that only-children make-up a significant 240 million part of the population, which is almost half of China’s labor force. They are represented as the future consumers, and present themselves as a well-prepared and cultured generation with proficiency in the English language. Their parents probably remember the 1970s’ deprivation, and aim at two distinct elements of contemporary Chinese society: a modern house and a powerful car. Instead, the Y generation aspires to electronic consumption, traveling, music, and new technical reproducibility. It is inclined towards a more modern consumption, characterized by: rapid changes, an emphasis on quality, and openness towards innovative products (as opposed to traditional ones). Starbucks, McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken are just a few among many of these kinds of brands. Thanks to the Y generation, coffee – whether American or espresso – is now widespread in China as well. Wine is also emerging as a common product, especially since it’s now reputed as less luxurious and thus more accessible than before.
Yet, more detailed studies also show that understanding these changes as China’s adaptation of Western society is too conclusive. China’s new consumption trends convey the country’s socio-economic expansion, as well as its changing attitude. But this overall shift shouldn’t be interpreted as the beginning of a homogeneous world order, but as one of China’s national curiosity towards unfamiliar territories. For example, though a Chinese child may dress the same as their peers in New York, they are still culturally very different. The ideas in which Chinese “echo boomers” believe don’t diverge from their traditional beliefs. In fact, the majority of them consider family to be the most important value, followed by their friends and their careers. China’s young and emerging generation remained unchanged in terms of discipline, sacrifice and social reputation. The means with which they do so, and the tools they newly use do, however, differ. Keyboards now sit alongside old calligraphy utensils. The Y Generation thus presents a new China, reflected in its tradition and, for the first time, open to modernity: not through imposition, but through research, education and knowledge.