Tag Archives: Youth in China

The 90’s in China: The Rise of Creativity and the Decline of Tradition

90s in China



I remember last year when we were still figuring out ALBA’s strategy and the nature of our designs; I had the chance to talk to one of my former students who was born in the 90’s.  She is now a very good friend.  Tragically, her father has compelled her to major in petroleum geology, but deep down her desire is to paint. I told her about our brand ALBA, and our intent to target the young Chinese generation.  I explained that we wanted our designs to take concepts from traditional Chinese stories, even “chengyu” (Chinese idiom stories) and turn them into funny T-shirt designs. I told her that we had already bought books about chengyus, and were now researching design ideas.  The reply that came out from her mouth rattled me like thunder.

“We don’t really care about tradition at all! We only care about things related to ourselves!I don’t really believe that your brand will succeed.  Many people start companies that die out too soon.”

adrian-fisk-ispeak-china-what-are-chinese-youth-thinking-10“These days there are a portion of young people who are not very concerned with the development of China and the world, only caring about themselves, ignoring many of the people and matters around them.” Guangxi, Jia Jia, 25 years old, (day) mobile phone after sales service / (evening) self-studying marketing management / (night) professional nightclub dancer.

Shocked from her reply, I realized how wrong we were about our strategy.  As I struggled to come back around to myself, I found myself grateful that finally I found someone who could tell me straight to my face that I was wrong.  This young friend didn’t care about hurting my feelings, which was the case with all my other friends helping me at that time. I thanked her and asked if she would be willing to help us. Soon after that she helped us come up with a brilliant idea about our brand mascot. It was then I realized that the kids of the 90’s generation in China are incredibly creative. The question was, did they know?

Previous generations in China seem to lack this quality. The personal focus of each generation has varied according to the stages of China’s rapid development.  Those born in the 70’s, growing up at the time when China was still considered a poor country, put their personal values second in favor of society. They were looking to settle and have a happy family life.  To them, change is often seen as something that brings discomfort. Many have no interest in pursuing personal interests, let alone expressing their own ideas and creativity.

adrian-fisk-ispeak-china-what-are-chinese-youth-thinking-27“Do whatever you want in your life. Because you might DIE tomorrow.” Hong Kong, Sarah Yup, 22 years old, investment bank receptionist.

As society started to change, the “iron rice bowl” began to disappear, and the price of the housing skyrocketed, those born in the 80’s inherited significant financial pressure. Realizing that for some of them buying a house might be just a dream, growing up without siblings, and increased work pressure has led them to place focus on their friends.  They also spend much of their free time and money on trying out restaurants, going to shopping malls, and browsing the internet – where they go to meet new friends. They are goal oriented and consider themselves individuals who want to try out new things.  However, they carefully choose safe environments and trends to follow.  They are often not complete individuals because they still closely follow the trends of the masses instead of pursuing their own interests.

Most of those born in the 90s are still in school and supported by their parents, they do not feel any financial pressure yet. This generation’s values have shifted from society oriented to self oriented.  By focusing on themselves, they are giving themselves the opportunity to express what really lies in them – the inborn creativity given to all of us from birth. They have become known for being a realistic, selfish, hopeless generation with a laissez faire attitude towards life, seeking opportunities to express themselves. As such, they are completely different than any previous generations.

adrian-fisk-ispeak-china-what-are-chinese-youth-thinking-02“In adults’ eyes I am a bad person in society, but in fact I am a very obedient person.” Gansu, Chow Liang, 17 years old, hair stylist student on way to see father who works in another province.

They are jaded.  The hopelessness and depression they often feel results from the lack of excitement from the traditional system.


“I think it’s time for us to STAND UP FOR OURSELVES & be WHO WE REALLY ARE!” Guangdong, Jell Zhu, 22 years old, communications student.

Their teachers can’t find ways to hold their interest with the traditional boring lectures. The tiger moms and eagle dads don’t understand why their child is giving so much resistance to their insistence that they get married

adrian-fisk-ispeak-china-what-are-chinese-youth-thinking-20   “Why people must get married?” Beijing, Meng Hai Lin, 29 years old, mobile phone engineer.

or become a doctor or a lawyer.  Despite their reputation with the older generations, for the first time, volunteerism in China has reached previously unmatched levels as a result of this generation’s involvement.

adrian-fisk-ispeak-china-what-are-chinese-youth-thinking-12   “I want to save people’s lives.” Qinghai, Heng She Dong, 16 years old, junior high school student.

They also do not idolize celebrities as much as the previous generations. They are their own idols, in love with themselves.

adrian-fisk-ispeak-china-what-are-chinese-youth-thinking-16“I want to walk my own path, I don’t want other people telling me what to do.” Henan, Jiang Min, 24 years old, farmer.

They are full of creativity and fresh ideas, looking for opportunities and freedom of self-expression.  They are searching for a different way to do things, their own idiom by which they can bring about a better future for their nation.

adrian-fisk-ispeak-china-what-are-chinese-youth-thinking-25“I want to associated with people from different cultures.” Guangdong, Ray Chuang, 20 years old, economic trading student.

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So this is the generation that will change China?!

Fancy-Hair-Boy-Edit1Behold the Savior of China’s future.

Recently I was talking with a young friend who told me that the management of her company was considering to organize a workshops on “how to communicate with Millennial’s”.  I found it incredibly humorous, but it was this moment that it became clear to me how different the younger generation is from their older coworkers.  I was also recently made aware of another interesting example is that of a Chinese general  saying that this generation kids are way too spoiled, weak, and even went as far to refer to them as effeminate!

pekin opera [1280x768]

“Whatever, we’ve been cross-dressing for like, 5000 years!”

 Along with several other aspects of their upbringing, international exposure has caused this generation of young people to start questioning the values of the traditional system in China.  In face of the relentless chiding of the older generations, They often eschew tradition, shaking things up without causing the kind of revolution that their grandparents enjoyed so much.

cultural revolution Look at them, just a bunch of crazy kids out having fun.


Being employed by a famous company is becoming less of a motivational factor for this young people to make them work hard, complete boring routine daily tasks, let alone to think about staying with said employer until the day they retire. Instead they are looking for challenging and meaningful work. This is becoming a perceived threat to managers who are unable to produce those challenging and exciting tasks at the speed the Millennials request them. These people pose a significant challenge to their managers to be creative about creative tasks and responsibilities. HR Departments are often shocked to receive so many CVs of job-hoppers (which was previously the No 1 item on  their “Do Not Hire” list ). Furthermore,  the turnover rates are high compared to the time when the older generation began work, making HR professionals wonder “What’s wrong with these young people?!” The traditional management structure that worked for decades, no longer works for these young people who are looking for motivation, learning opportunities, and challenges that will help them get promoted faster. For many of them the biggest challenge in their work is that there is no challenge at all.   This often leads to office ennui and many hours spent perusing the internet.

dilbert Not at all like western companies.

This generation is leading a revolution of thought, and I for one, support it.  Seeing their creativity, learning about their dreams has inspired me to do what I can to help these young people to achieve their goals.  Since we are starting a creative brand for the young people, we decided that helping the youth in China to achieve their dreams through realizing their creative confidence,  should be our primary mission.  That’s how the ALBA Fan Club was born.

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