Posted by: Lotus Light | September 5, 2010

Social Evolution

Tradition

The rapidity of economic development in China is pushing social change faster than the majority of people can comprehend or react to. Today millions of students leave their home towns and villages, pushed by their parents to enter university, find a good job and make money.  The consequence of this is that many of these students will only ever return home for holidays.  Those with ambition want to study and work overseas. No longer will they live with their parents and work on the farm or factory together.

The easy access to television, movies and the internet has broadened the horizons and created new ambitions, increased consumer desires and introduced alternative living patterns.  The impact on the generation of students now at university is strong.  They have the most opportunity ever given to the young in China to study, travel and craft a life for themselves.  And yet the majority of them are deeply conflicted. 

Traditional values, handed down from their parents and society,create enormous tensions.  How can they study and work overseas with elderly parents still in towns and villages across China? Even moving to big cities in China, far away from their homes, causes problems.  Once they become workers, there are few opportunities to return home and many parents do not want to leave the safety and familiarity of their quiet lives to live in Beijing, Shenzhen or Shanghai with their son or daughter.

The welfare system in China provides little in the way of support for the elderly.  There is little funding for home-care, no programs such as Meals-on-Wheels or Blue Nurses. Even if parents are healthy and energetic, once they retire there is not a tradition of travelling, or taking on other roles in the community.  Frequently there is not enough money for this.  People still need to save for emergencies. The focus, therefore, remains on their son or daughter.

The one-child policy has meant that children are required to care for 2 sets of elderly parents when they marry, as well as a child of their own. Housing costs skyrocketed and parents feel they must help their son or daughter buy a house.

The pressure to marry is enormous.  So many young people, still studying and just beginning their careers, are pushed into marriages to meet the traditions of an old society. The freedom to choose a life partner is theoretically there, but the pressure to marry by a certain age means that many do not feel as if they can wait for Mr or Ms Right.  The extension of ‘childhood’ into mid-twenties by higher education is in conflict with the norms of marrying in the early 20s and having a child quickly.

Parents have encouraged, pushed and fought for the chances for their children,but without realising the outcomes.

This generation has to break away from the traditions or they have wasted the sacrifice and efforts of their family and themselves, and they will have wasted the years of study and skills development, but the cost of this, personally and socially is high.  Their children will have a much more independent life.

Chinese society is in the process of developing a new paradigm and the evolution of this is so rapid that few can mange it well. 

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Responses

  1. Very brilliant observation


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