China’s Apolitical Youth | China Hang-up

Students saluting

During the 1980s, the educated elite among China’s youth had a brief window of relatively open political discourse, which many seized to loudly call for political reforms. But then that window slammed shut. In the 90s, the “Beijing Consensus” began to emerge and the country seriously altered the way it educated its young citizens.

Today, China’s youngsters seem much less interested in politics than the generation that came of age in the 1980s. But over the past few years, youth-led demonstrations have broken out protesting everything from pollution and censorship to perceived Japanese aggression. Meanwhile, online voices appear to be getting ever-more cynical toward the government line. For better or worse, are these signals of a political re-awakening?

For the inaugural podcast from our new home at Project Pengyou, we’ve invited Helen Gao to help explore the political pulse of today’s young generation. Born in 1988, Helen came of age under China’s “Patriotic Education” until she left to study abroad at 17. She now works as a freelance journalist in Beijing writing for outlets like The Atlantic and Prospect.

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Helen Gao (Prospect)Letter from Beijing: Do Chinese students no longer care about free speech?
Helen Gao (The Atlantic)Clash of Civilizations: The confusion of being a Chinese student in America
Alec Ash (Dissent)China’s Youth: Do They Dare to Care about Politics?
Chen Ming (China File)Fragments of Cai Yang’s Life: An angry young man gets swept up in protests against Japan