Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Gen Y

Qian and I just moved into an apartment on Saturday. We've been really busy preparing for and executing that. Adding my new job into the mix and things have been crazy. It's all good though. I'll happily take hectic over unemployment.

I haven't had internet access for the past several days and haven't really kept up too much with what's going on in the world.

My friend, Taylor, sent me this interesting article on China's "Generation Y" the other day though.

Here are some of the sections from the Business Week article:

Image from

Visit a Chinese city today and you would assume that China is Westernizing. Young people sit in Starbucks (SBUX) drinking lattes, texting friends, and playing online games. However, don't be fooled. In China, 240 million young people are certainly modernizing, but they're also holding tight to Chinese values like responsibility for the extended family, adherence to the middle way or harmony, and care of relationships. Despite surface appearances, China's Generation Y is not becoming Western.


Gen-Y Chinese have high expectations for their careers and expect to work diligently to achieve these. However, despite their popular image as the "Me Generation," we find that they hold up traditional family values. Asked "what is really important to you," 45% said "family," with "friends" following at 17% and "career" at 12%. Gen Y feels keenly responsible both for their nuclear family and their grandparents, even for aunts and uncles. They feel responsible despite the fact that there is little personal communication; most say they cannot ask about details of family history or discuss personal subjects with their elders.

We also asked young Chinese to choose one wish that would make their life happier. Surprisingly, 82% chose to do something for their parents, most commonly to provide them an easy life.


Our research shows that Gen Yers remain deeply Chinese in their values and perceptions. They do not look like their grandparents, but their motivations and priorities are very similar. Chinese Gen Ys modernize, they do not Westernize.

Our research results show that Gen Y is the first group in China to seriously question one of these core values, as they challenge the preeminence of hierarchy. While they take for granted that hierarchy exists, Gen Yers are less willing than earlier generations to accept it. Hence some of the issues that employers raise about their young staff: "How do we get good results from someone who won't do what we say?" "How do we win their loyalty?" "Why don't they trust us?" These difficult questions demonstrate the area in which Gen Yers are least like their parents: unquestioning acceptance of hierarchy and authority.

For many Western China-watchers, it has been a question of when, rather than if, the Chinese young will claim the right to personal freedom in the wake of economic growth. Looking closely at the Chinese Gen Ys makes us wonder whether this assumption makes sense. Chinese Gen Ys want to keep their society built on collective harmony and effective relationship management. At the same time, their refusal to accept authority unquestioningly indicates a new level of critical thinking.

Read On
I agree a lot of what this article has to say. Family remains at the forefront of nearly all young Chinese people's lives.

I'd like to write more about this but only have a few more minutes right now and want to link up to another article I read a few months ago about America's Generation Y. It, too, paints a nice picture of Gen Y's thinking:
Generation Y is fundamentally conservative. Not politically. But in terms of their lifestyle choices and aspirations. This is a generation that loves their parents. Over 65% of college grads move back in with their parents, and they are not particularly unhappy about it because they have a great relationship with their parents. Adults have been helping Gen Y their whole lives. They are used to their parents' friends helping them, their coaches and tutors, and every time there's a problem, a parent talks with an adult involved and fixes it. So Gen Y loves authority—it has always been good for them.

Think about it: Baby boomers protested Vietnam by taking to the streets and violating laws. Gen Y protested Iraq by playing by the rules and electing Obama. Gen X invented grunge music and jeans at work. Gen Y is making the Beatles hip again—and they love to dress up for work. Gen Y is conservative, kind-hearted, and they follow the rules. Of course they are like this: The world has treated them well.

Gen Y just wants what their parents want for them: a good job, a stable family life, and a life that has meaning. Baby boomers told Gen Y that the most important values were contributing to the greater good and always learning. And Gen Y believes that.

So here's what they want at work: Stability. The only reason Gen Y job hops is keep their learning curve high. No one wants to change jobs all the time. It's scary and difficult and tumultuous. But Gen Y knows that there are no lifetime jobs any more, and we're each responsible for our own careers. The best way to keep yourself employable is to always be learning. So when the learning curve flattens out at work, Gen Y jumps.

This is, of course, exactly what their parents told them to do: "Get off the sofa and do your homework! Don't watch TV! You're wasting your mind! The most important thing is your education!" These kids were overprogrammed after school so they would be exposed to new ideas and learn lots of new things. So of course they expect work to be this way as well. And, just like their parents, when things start looking slow, they panic.

Read On
I've been talking with my parents and some other Americans recently about the Baby Boom generation. No one has said it explicitly, but I'm gathering from people in the generation that they've been a failure. The current state of the world, and particularly America, seems to suggest that they have indeed done a very poor job.

I hope that these two Business Week articles have some truth to them. They paint young people as well-balanced with good heads on their shoulders.


Anonymous said...

Pretty much confirmed a lot of my assumptions about China's current youth. Its encouraging that the familial ties in China are still so strong.

A bit off topic, but Hessler just came out with a new book

Thought you and the regulars might want to have a look. Its on kindle as well.

Mark said...

From my experience with Gen Y Chinese people, this article is spot on. And you're right, Hopfrog, there is a lot to admire about them.

Thanks for the heads up on the new Hessler book. He is the man. I actually just ordered Oracle Bones off of Amazon. I figure I should read that in the mean time until Country Driving officially comes out.

Sara said...

Perhaps the west cld learn a thing or 2.