Changing Values

Six years as an English teacher in China have provided me with the opportunity to meet people from different generations and industries. I have gained a clear insight into how different generations exhibit different values towards society. I have come to the fascinating realization, that the Millennials of China are radically different from any generations prior to them.

In the west, there are certain differences between generations, but they’re not as pronounced they are between generations in China. There are a few reasons for this. In traditional Chinese thought the Confucian concept of filial piety dictates that the first born son is responsible for the well-being of the older generation. The introduction of the one child policy in China has forced this burden upon the first and only child of a family, and has made parents put “all their eggs into one basket”.


As a result, the parents (and grandparents) focus completely on a single child’s wants and needs, which in turn has led to the creation of “little emperors”- children used to getting everything they want.


Some are not so little.


As China’s economic situation has rapidly improved over the past 40 years, so has the standard of living. Parents now have a wider range of options of things to provide their children with that they themselves never had a chance for. This has instilled in this generation a level of confidence and self worth that is impossible for the previous generations to match. Furthermore, with China’s rapid technological advancement the Millennials have reaped a bulk of the benefits as China finally catches up to the Western world. This includes unprecedented global connectivity which has given them opportunities to connect with people around the world, and to have immediate access to information through micro blogging. With all these competencies, the Millennials are in for something different.


i.e.- Not this.

Perhaps the last generation to enjoy the benefits of the “iron rice bowl”, China’s Generation X and generations prior developed their self worth through hard work and loyalty to their employer. They took pride in working for a famous employer. Their personal values are often a reflection of the employer’s values. In comparison, pampered and doted upon since they were born, the Millennials grew up assured of their own self worth, which has made them feel confident if not entitled. Their search for values began within themselves. For them the focus of self-worth has shifted from outside (e.g. companies, society) to inside (i.e. self). They don’t share the dreams of their employers, they are more inclined to pursue their own dreams. Even if they don’t know what they want, when they start their first jobs, they usually have an insatiable, voracious thirst for knowledge and experience which will help them to realize their potential and show others that they can make a difference.

Everything said, when these children get a foot in the door of their first employer, and are faced with a traditional system which solely reflects the values of the older generations, these young people are often able to confidently reply with a “ No thank you, I am individual, not a drone. I deserve to be treated as such. ”


Kids these days.


Realizing this trend, It is now very clear to me that China is slowly breaking away from the tradition, and it is exactly this generation that will make a difference in the future.

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