Post-90s not so different

15:56, April 23, 2010      

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There is a group of people in China who frequently come up in conversation accompanied by a resigned sigh or a dismissive "Oh, them." In the media, they regularly feature as a subject of discourse, as the public attempts to diagnose them, identify the causes of their malaise, and figure out what can be done to fix them. From the way they are talked about, you would think they were a colony of aliens.

But they are not. They are just like me, only younger.

I am talking about the "post-90s", the cohort born during China's golden decade. Most of them are just now entering adulthood. In their lives so far, they have only tasted the sweet fruits of market reform and they harbor no bittersweet memories of the past. Because of the fortuitous timing of their births, the post-90s are a distinctive breed.

In public discussion, the post-90s are routinely characterized as a selfish, unwelcoming, and solitary bunch. They are allegedly unmotivated about exerting themselves, yet have expensive tastes, fed by the collective doting of six parents and grandparents. In school, they are supposedly apathetic; in life, lethargic.

The only thing that captivates their generally disinterested attention is the Internet. The prototype post-90s child spends his days poring over a laptop, conversing intensely with hundreds of strangers who are also doing their best to avoid communicating with real people, especially their parents.

Is there truth to this harsh depiction or have we concocted an exaggerated stereotype? Are the post-90s really so bizarrely different, and if so, why?

The adults - parents and teachers especially - certainly think that their charges are in fact oddly different. I myself have observed post-90s children sulking at home on weekends, plugged into three electronic devices and ignoring all conversation directed their way.

There are a few common explanations for why the post-90s are the way they are. Economic prosperity during the decade is seen as the main culprit. Born into the laps of luxury, these young ones are used to having nice things without working to earn them.

One mother of a 13-year-old boy lamented, "My elder daughter remembers falling asleep on the backseat of my bicycle in the 1980s, so she is a lot easier to please when it comes to material goods. But when my son was born, we already had a car; he always expects to have the best."

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