The Saeculum Decoded
A Blog by Neil Howe
Nov 082010

This article gives an interesting description of the Millennial generation in China. There is quite a lot that is indeed very Millennial (born 1982-200?) about the rising generation in China: They are protected (in uniforms and behind gates), pressured (got to get a credential), conventional (they now all read Confucius), civic minded (look what they did after the earthquake near the Yangtse), and trusting in big institutions (they really do believe in “peacefully rising China”).  As many observers have pointed out, there would never be a raucous youth protest a la Tiananmen Square today.  And yes they are very optimistic.  Clearly, given their economy, they have a lot more to be optimistic about than Millennials in Europe or America.

I think the “risk” this Millennial was referring to is collective risk, not personal risk.  The operative word here is “we.”

Obviously, there is a gaping chasm in China between poor rural Millennials and affluent urban Millennials—a much larger gap, imo, than in any of the developed countries.  An outrageous degree of social  and economic Inequality is one of the vast challenges facing this generation.  Much as it was for the young “Long March Generation” back in the “warlord era” of the 1920s and 1930s

I’ve been looking at the “Little Emperor” generation for a while—and have read all the books and surveys about them I can find.  They are definitely of the hero archetype.  And when all the centripetal forces cause everything in China to fly to pieces, they will be the ones to build something new.  And I don’t think we’ll have to wait all that long for this to happen.

My favorite is “China’s Generation Y.”  See:

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  • Richard Turnock

    China might split into a northern component and a southern component. However there is only one major ethnic identity of over 90% so the split would be along agriculture/rural versus industrial/urban. By 2020, will China be faced with unrest because there are too many males and not enough chinese females? Unattached chinese males might be willing to take risks and form military groups roaming around Asia.

  • Jun_7_81

    I teach English in China to elementary age students and can agree that they are being trained as civics in the school system today. For instance the kids can get rowdy, but the aren’t straight up rebellious to authority. The children are the pride and joy of their parents whom are involved in every aspect of their life. I actually think that everything S&H mentioned about millennials in “The Fourth Turning” is even more apparent in today’s “little emperor generation” of China.

  • Anonymous

    The problem going forward for all nations is the same. Peak oil and the end of cheap petroleum necessary for farming and electricity. We have reached unsustainable levels of population based on an ability to farm and raise more food than any other time in this planets history. When our ability to farm so much and so well falters, the results will be disaster on an epic scale.

    There are many climatic factors that could reduce farming yields, but the loss of petroleum based fertilizers and the loss of the use of mechanized farming equipment would quickly move farming back to where it was over a century ago. 

    Food for oil will be the trade of the century, China doesn’t have much oil. There is no other power source as dense and portable as oil, when it takes more than a barrel of oil to pump and extract a barrel of oil, the game is over.