‘China’s new new youth’ … in Chinese

Last week, The China Beat ran a post by me about the new generation of young Chinese students – like those I follow on this blog. Here, courtesy of Anastasia Maximchuk, is a longer version of its introduction translated into Chinese.

Oh, if you’re reading this in an RSS, the below might appear (as it does in my RSS reader) as a series of exclamation marks and odd squiggles which looks like a rather beautiful alien language. If you click through to the site itself it should work.






我承认自己具有相同的征兆:我在北京大学过了一年,在危险的、可以传染的这代年轻人中(可能因为自己是西方人,所以对我来说跟本来照样的环境)。“老虎庙”,请原谅我的无礼,让我介绍一下。我同意 – 最新一代隔离国家历史的程度比别的一代高,即使不是最高的。跟以前的一代相比,特别50年代的人,现代的青年更会得到具体信息和资料多得多。要说可乐代替水或者看西方电影变成一种时尚的问题,我本人看不到这中消极影响。尽管文革之中的童年可以给一代的人带来各种各样的精神变更严厉冷酷无情,但是这个压力也可以让人们的思想对某个新的建议更开发。



And for those of you to whom the above, despite displaying correctly, still looks like a series of odd alien squiggles, here is the original English:

China’s New New Youth

In 1915, in Shanghai, Chen Duxiu founded a magazine called qingnian zazhi (青年杂志), or Youth Magazine. Soon after, it was renamed xinqingnian (新青年): New Youth. Perhaps Chen came to feel that the youth of the times had something new to offer China, or that his writers had something new to offer China’s youth. Either way, the magazine and the name captured the spirit of the New Culture Movement which led to May 4th. New Youth aimed to call China out of its Confucian slumber with plain, angry writing by the likes of Lu Xun, and essays promoting democracy. Later, it more heavily promoted Marxism and eventually provided an intellectual base for the Communist Party which Chen co-founded in 1921. The name was iconic for a China fresh out of imperial rule, standing up for a new and fairer future.

The next ‘new youth’ to publicly embody this spirit was the Tiananmen students, who with the same fighting words challenged the very new China which the magazine had helped to create. They failed. But now, thanks not to protests at Tiananmen but the slower crawl of global integration, there is a ‘new new youth’ of around my age: in or just out of university. Zhang Shihe (a.k.a. ‘Tiger Temple’), a 56-year old blogger and political activist quoted in the Los Angeles Times, gives them a less flattering but possibly catchier moniker: “the stupid generation”.

“They were raised on Coca-Cola and Western movies,” Zhang enjoys himself, “and they’re very isolated from their country’s history”. I wonder, Mr Zhang, at the extent of your interaction with this youth. Are you really dismissing nearly a hundred million young people from the future of China? Surely your understanding of this generation is deep, but I only worry if in your immersion amongst them, some of their stupidity has rubbed off?

I must admit to the same symptom in me: I studied in Peking University for a year, in dangerously contagious proximity to this generation (possibly due to it being my own). So forgive my rudeness, Mr Zhang, and let me explain. I agree that this newest generation is isolated from their country’s history, relative to other – but not all other – nations. But relative to the generations before them, including that of current 50-somethings, they have more access in their youth to accurate information than ever. And as concerns Coca-Cola for mother’s milk and a diet of Western movies, I don’t see where that comes into it. A childhood in the thick of the Cultural Revolution can harden a generation, and it can embitter or confuse it. A fizz and Die Hard childhood can open minds to different ideas and places, just as it can turn them into mush.

I’m discussing here only the students who reap the positive benefits of what’s available to them. These, after all, are the ones who matter: change in China, like everywhere else, has only ever been started by a few before it is followed by many. The ‘new youth’ of Chen Duxiu’s magazine weren’t all of the new youth. So if you meant to exclude from your pithy tag, Mr Zhang, the exceptional young Chinese passionate to bring China forward into a new millenium, I’ll retract my complaints and accuse you of irrelevance instead.