Faces of Chinese youth: Why are they anxious?

“I’m losing my hair, which makes me pretty agitated the entire year,” says Jia Xue, a 25-year-old woman who has just become a marketing manager at an Internet company in pursuit of a more promising career.

“Baldness” became a buzzword among the post-90s generation last year, a term that is at once a label of self-mockery and a health issue growing more prevalent among young Chinese. It’s not the only tag the Nineties have given themselves. Grey hair, insomnia, and gastric distress are among the common symptoms of their generation, who cite social pressure as the main culprit for these problems.

A recent annual report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on social mentality in China reveals that 31.6 percent of respondents often feel anxious, and those who reportedly show signs of fidgeting and strain account for 42.8 percent.

Anxiety stemming from issues with housing, education, healthcare, employment, excessive exposure to social media, and identity crises, particularly for those of a lower social status, have stoked unhappiness among the Chinese.

According to the report, the post-90s generation is the least happy while those from the post-80s trail right behind. Meanwhile, those who are at either end of the spectrum – the under-20s and septuagenarians – are the most satisfied.

Yang, a media editor born in 1991, complains about the skyrocketing house prices in Beijing, which have slowed down since mid-2018. “I can never afford a house here with my meager salary, even if one day, I’m given a pay raise,” says Yang, a native of north China’s Shanxi.

For years, prohibitive property prices have been besetting a majority of young Chinese working in first-tiered cities.

“I’ve even lost the motivation to make a more decent living because no matter how hard I try, I’m still unable to buy a house of my own,” Jia Xue tells CGTN Digital. Still, she feels life is more difficult as a woman, given gender discrimination in the workplace, and even the second-child policy, which pressures women to balance family and work. “For now, I just want to stay single without a family to provide for,” she laments.

Over the past couple of decades, the Chinese economy took off. Highways, flyovers, and cloud-piercing skyscrapers seemed to have been built overnight, etching out a fascinating prosperity not only materially, but socially and culturally. The post-80s and post-90s are living in an era of greater material abundance than previous generations, so they tend to embrace more post-materialist values – independence, individuality and self-expression.

“But after growing up, they’ll easily feel frustrated as they find their values at odds with the real world while struggling to earn their bread,” says Qu Yuping, a psychology professor based in Shanghai.

The fast-changing economy quickly restitched China’s employment fabric, which created myriad chances for young people. Nonetheless, it’s easy to get lost in dizzying opportunities.

Yi Chen, a Portuguese-language major, fell into a job where she couldn’t use her skill. “I feel upset at work but I have to accumulate experience, for at least one year, to leave for another one.” She’s been suffering from insomnia upon graduation.

Scant work experience is one of the hurdles for young people in attaining their dream career. For those spending years toiling in a sophisticated environment, it’s tough to get reset with a startup.

Hopes are fading for Wang Yuan, a 35-year-old cofounder of a landscape design company which has just entered its third year. He never thought the real estate industry would decline in a short span of time and recently he enrolled in a floriculture course, deciding to expand the business in search of a silver lining. “Be careful before starting a business. There’s no way back,” he cautioned his younger peers.

While the world’s most populous country is rapidly urbanizing, its rural areas are undergoing a transformation to keep apace with the deluge of economic opportunities spilling from the cities.

Over the last few years, rural youths have swarmed to urban centers to build the modern infrastructure that has wowed domestic and international observers alike.

Among the migrant workers piling up Beijing’s tallest building – the CITIC Tower – a 22-year-old wood craftsman from south China’s Guangdong Province says that he left home for the megacity to get a taste of the economic miracle. But he cannot afford a day off to even see the city, for he would lose the day’s wages. His deepest impression of the metropolis is the high consumer prices.

The widening wealth gap and its consequent ossification of social structures – inevitable byproducts of sweeping changes – have given rise to cases of injustice. “That’s why the young people feel anxious, as they want equality and humane care,” says Qu.

But they should stay optimistic. As the central government pushes for greater opening up and continued free trade in a globalized world, opportunities are more accessible than ever.

(The names used by the interviewees, except that of the professor, are pseudonyms as requested.)

Xi’an to ban smoking indoors

People smoke at an outdoor designated smoking area on Dongfang Road in Shanghai. GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY

XI’AN – Xi’an, capital of Northwest China’s Shaanxi province, has unveiled a regulation which bans smoking in all indoor public venues.

The regulation, released on Tuesday by the city government, also prohibits smoking in some outdoor public places, such as schools, stadiums and health institutions for pregnant women and children.

Smokers who do not adhere to the regulation will be fined 10 yuan (1.5 U.S. dollars), and venue owners may be fined up to 1,000 yuan.

The regulation will take effect on November 1.

Xi’an, home to the Terra-Cotta Warriors, is the latest major Chinese city to ban smoking in all indoor public venues, following Beijing and Shanghai.

There are over 300 million smokers and 740 million people exposed to second-hand smoke in China.

The country has set a target to reduce the smoking rate among people aged 15 and above to 20 percent by 2030 from the current 27.7 percent, according to the “Healthy China 2030” blueprint issued in 2016.

Traditional keepsake gives ethnic group a lift

Zhao Poying, 86, makes embroidery balls in Jiuzhou village of Jingxi, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, last month. Almost all of the 500 households in the village are engaged in the business.ZHU XINGXIN/CHINA DAILY

For the Zhuang ethnic group in Southwest China, embroidered balls were once keepsakes given by lovers to show their affection.

Nowadays, however, in Jingxi, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, the brightly colored, silk-striped balls are a way to grow rich.

Jiuzhou, a picturesque village 9 kilometers from Jingxi, is regarded as the home of the Chinese embroidered ball. Annual production exceeds 5 million balls, about 90 percent of the market.

Almost every one of the 500 households in the village is engaged in the business.

The history of embroidered balls can be traced to the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Girls picked up needlework at a very young age. However, for a long time the balls were not well known-mainly because locals never thought they would interest people from outside.

Huang Xiaoqin, now 73 and the cultural inheritor of the handmade embroidered ball, brought them to the world.

She took up embroidery at the age of 8 and found she had a talent for making the silk balls.

In 2005, Huang was invited to Beijing to demonstrate how to make one. Her skilled performance and the delicate handicraft made a splash.

“People surrounded me and kept asking me what is it and what is it used for. I was greatly encouraged and realized that this is an opportunity for us,” she said.

Since then she has received orders from all over the country.

A foreign trader discovered her works by chance through a local import-export company and placed an annual order valued at 100,000 yuan ($14,700).

Embroidered with images of lotus and mandarin ducks, the balls are regarded as a mascot and cultural symbol of the Zhuang people.

As overseas demand grew, Huang decided to make improvements. She replaced the traditional Chinese images with the spelling of the 12 months in English which turned out to be a commercial success and welcomed by foreign customers.

These days, thousands of tourists are attracted to the village every year and the balls have become a must-buy item. They generate 6 million yuan in annual sales.

However, with many young people leaving to work in cities, the elderly are left alone to continue the business.

What concerns Huang now is how to pass her skills on and still maintain high quality.

“Right now I offer free training for women in the countryside. The skill is, of course, important but innovation is the key to our success,” she said.

According to Yang Zhaoyu, chairman of Jingxi New Development Group, the embroidered ball industry will play a leading role in boosting local tourism. The company already has plans to dig into the potential of local cuisine to make Jingxi attractive.

Areca brings opportunities to tropical city

Workers in Yali Agricultural Development Company pack areca nuts in Wanning, South China’s Hainan province on Nov 24, 2018. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]

Wang Xiaoli is shelling arecas in a workshop in Yali Agricultural Development Company, an enterprise specializing in areca processing. Each day, a proficient worker like her can shell at least 40 kg of areca nuts.

Areca, also known as binglang, is a kind of plant mainly grown in tropical forests from China and India to across Southeast Asia to Melanesia. But many don’t know there is a small city, Wanning, in South China’s Hainan province called “the home of areca”.

Chinese call areca “binglang” as “bin” and “lang” meant honorable guests in ancient Chinese language. Chewing areca nuts is a habit of people in Southeast Asia and Hunan, Hainan, Yunnan and some tropical areas in China. Also, it can be used as medicine.

The areca culture in Wanning is profound, according to Yang Zhibin, minister of publicity of Wanning. “As early as the Song Dynasty (960-1279), people in the city began to grow areca. The custom and culture of the people here to eat areca nut has passed down for a long time. It’s regarded as a symbol of friendship and a token of love between young men and women. When we visit our relatives on festivals, we always bring areca nuts as gift.”

In Hainan, nearly 2.3 million farmers grow areca trees, according to official statistics.

Data show that in 2017, the area of areca exceeded 104,667 hectares, with an output value over 35 billion yuan. And Wanning accounted for one-third of the total output in the province.

Areca has spurred the local economy and created job opportunities for thousands of people.

Yali Agricultural Development Company employs more than 500 workers, among which over 40 come from impoverished households. They earn an average salary of 3,000 yuan ($432) each month. It is estimated 200 more will be hired in 2019.

“We will continue to ramp up our support to make the areca industry and make it a sustainable industry for local people to increase their income and thrive,” Yang Zhibin said.

Next year, Yali plans to export products to countries such as Russia, India and Burma. “We hope to introduce Hainan’s areca culture to all over the world someday,” said Cai Qiongling, an administrative worker in Yali.

Areca nuts. [Photo/IC]

Thousands of shoes honoring Chinese laborers killed in World War II

A special exhibition focused on the tragic history of Chinese laborers is held at the “Mukden Incident” history museum in Shenyang, Northeast China’s Liaoning province. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

“Don’t forget history for peace”, a special exhibition focused on the tragic history of Chinese laborers was held at the “Mukden Incident” history museum in Shenyang.

Thousands of pairs of black cloth shoes were placed neatly on the museum square, from the east side of the museum monument to an “S”-shaped walkway at the entrance of the exhibition hall. The display commemorates 6,830 Chinese laborers killed in Japan during World War II. At that time, those forced to go to Japan did not wear shoes. These shoes, denied to the victims, symbolizes their dignity by being neatly placed in the same area today.

This not only honors victims, but also reminds people from China and Japan of history and promotes peace.

Xinjiang hip-hop lovers have designs on success

A Rameyda shirt features a Kazak musical instrument, the dombra, being played by a figure in a diver’s helmet. [Photo/China Daily]

Two friends who started a clothing and accessories brand in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region have hit it big by giving traditional patterns a modern twist.

Hip-hop lovers Wei Xiaojiang and Muradil Muhtar teamed up in 2015, and their Rameyda line of products, including T-shirts, hoodies, caps and bags, is helping preserve ethnic culture by promoting it among young people.

One of their earliest and most iconic designs is a modern take on the kanway, a traditional short-sleeved shirt worn by Uygur men and women featuring colorful embroidery on the neck, chest and arms.

“We want to make it a cool thing to wear kanway,” Wei said. “People only tend to wear it during traditional festivals, so we designed a T-shirt that mixes classic patterns with modern style, hoping young people will be more willing to wear it in their daily lives.”

Written on the sleeve of the black T-shirt is “Dopeway”, a combination of the word “dope” (slang for good or fashionable) and “kanway”. The design also features a goat’s head, a common food eaten by Uygur people.

“Xinjiang has many interesting and cool things in terms of ethnic culture – music, clothes and nature,” Muradil said. “It’s our pride, and we want to promote Xinjiang culture in our designs.”

Another popular product is a cap emblazoned with “65”, the two digits at the start of Xinjiang residents’ ID numbers.

“Behind each design, there is a story,” Wei said. “The design inspiration is mainly from our life experience.”

Wei, a high school dropout, was working as a gym manager in Urumqi, the regional capital, when he and graphic designer Muradil decided to branch out on their own in May 2015.

At first they provided design services to companies, creating logos, posters and uniforms, which helped them build contacts, particularly in the textiles industry.

The duo produced their first self-branded product in August that year after the demolition of the city’s Nanmen Square to make way for a subway station. An underground mall below the square had been a popular hangout for young people.

“The square was a landmark and an important place in our childhood memory,” Wei said, adding that to commemorate the event they printed 50 black T-shirts with the word Nanmen and a white triangle, representing the pyramid that once stood on the square. The shirts quickly sold out, which inspired them to do more.

Over the next year, Wei and Muradil released 10 designs – in addition to producing work for other companies – and asked local hip-hop artists to wear them at concerts.

After making a name for themselves, they registered their Rameyda brand as a company in August 2016.

They sold their products, priced from 50 to 150 yuan ($7.28 to $21.84), through WeChat and the Taobao online marketplace, and opened a store in Urumqi last year. Most customers are age 18 to 30, mainly college students, they said. Muradil said young people in Xinjiang like hip-hop culture, and the design style has a good market in the region.

“I’m happy to know that many people in other provinces across China like our designs, too,” said Wei, who added that their T-shirts flew off the shelves during an exhibition in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.

The Rameyda team now includes 20 people, allowing the company to focus on organizing events for fans, such as rock climbing and motorbike riding, and activities that promote the protection of wildlife.

“It’s difficult for small brands like us to survive in the market, and many have come along and produced some items and then quit,” Wei said. “But we’re happy that we’ve kept our business going, although we never seem to make ends meet.

“It’s because we always try new ideas and expand. We’re getting used to new challenges. The bigger they are, the more excited we feel.”

China tightens passenger transport safety

BEIJING – China has released a management guideline to supervise passenger transport companies on safety and reduce risks.

The guideline was jointly published recently by the Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Public security, and Ministry of Emergency Management.

The guideline has rules focusing on safety education and management of drivers, risk management and control and examination on hidden dangers.

Data shows that 55.8 percent of road accidents that caused more than 10 deaths from 2012 to 2017 involved passenger vehicles and tour coaches.

Many of the accidents are caused by irresponsible companies which did not carry out safety checks.

More than 700 kg of drugs seized in Hunan

CHANGSHA – Police in central China’s Hunan Province have busted a large drug smuggling case and arrested 223 suspects, seizing about 705 kg of drugs worth over 15 million yuan (about 2.18 million US dollars).

In October 2018, police in the city of Yueyang in Hunan uncovered a drug trafficking gang involving disabled people. The gang smuggled drugs from abroad via southwest China’s Yunnan Province to other places in China including Hunan, Hubei, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Zhejiang.

In March, police in the cities of Yueyang, Hengyang and Changsha in Hunan carried out investigations, discovering the smuggling channels and structure of the gang.

During May and June, the police arrested 135 drug addicts and seized the drugs, including heroin and methamphetamine.

It is one of the largest drug smuggling cases ever uncovered in Hunan, according to police.

World’s largest container ship docks in Shanghai

The world’s largest container vessel MSC Gülsün arrives at Qingdao, East China’s Shandong province, on July 11, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

The world’s largest container vessel MSC Gülsün arrived at the Shanghai Yangshan Deep-Water Port on Saturday morning.

Built by Samsung Heavy Industries, the vessel measures about 400 meters long and 61.5 meters wide and has a capacity of 23,756 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU).

Gülsün, which left the port later in the afternoon, was the 45th 20,000 TEU-class super large container ship the port has received.

The container throughput of the Yangshan Deep-Water Port, the world’s largest automated container port, has significantly increased since it became operational at then end of 2017. In the first half of 2019, its container throughput reached more than 1.5 million TEU, increasing by 160 percent year-on-year.

Zhan Jinyao contributed to this story.

The world’s largest container vessel MSC Gülsün arrives at Qingdao, East China’s Shandong province, on July 11, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]