Youths in China warm to patriotism
Stable, prosperous society helps sense of national identity grow stronger
A stable and prosperous society has helped young Chinese deepen their love for the country and gain a stronger sense of national identity, according to experts.
President Xi Jinping said during the just-concluded two sessions that today's younger generation is undergoing a change in its mentality and thinking.
When young Chinese go abroad, they no longer feel inferior, but consider themselves on an equal footing with their overseas counterparts, Xi said.
He made the remarks after joining a discussion with national political advisers from the education, medical and health sectors at the fourth session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing on March 6.
Xi's comments come as young Chinese have demonstrated a growing sense of national pride and patriotism in recent years.
Evidence of this can be seen across digital platforms, where content featuring national culture, scientific and technological breakthroughs, along with military developments, inspires young people to express their love for the country.
During the weeklong Spring Festival holiday, which started on Feb 11, a dance performance became one of the trendiest topics on Chinese social media, garnering more than 2 billion views on various platforms.
The show, broadcast by Henan Television, and titled Night Banquet in Tang Dynasty Palace, portrayed an evening in which a dozen female musicians prepared to perform at the royal palace.
Dressed in Tang Dynasty (618-907) costumes and wearing traditional makeup, the performers danced against a backdrop provided by 5G technology. The show also featured cultural elements such as local opera and artifacts from the Henan Museum in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital.
The performance triggered a huge sensation online, with one netizen describing those taking part as "terracotta figures of the Tang Dynasty coming alive and escaping from museums".
The show proved particularly popular among young people.
On Bilibili, a video-sharing site where the primary users are those born in the 1990s and later, the footage has been played more than 5 million times, receiving over 27,000 instant comments. The site specializes in such remarks, known as "bullet comments", which are flashed across the top of the screen as users watch videos.
One user posted while watching the video of the dance: "A gem of our culture. Can't believe such a joyful dance could bring tears to my eyes."
Zhang Yiwu, a member of the CPPCC National Committee and also a professor of Chinese studies at Peking University, said the show was a good example of making traditional culture "come alive".
Its popularity also reflected the fact that young people have a keen interest and pride in traditional Chinese culture, he said.
Such culture is not the only issue instilling pride for their country among young people.
For example, according to the website of the Communist Youth League of China, a central association representing young people, it has more than 15.7 million followers on Sina Weibo. Each post related to topics such as national unity, patriotism and the country's development has received thousands of comments and "likes".
On March 5, the league wrote a post marking the 123rd anniversary of the birth of China's first premier, Zhou Enlai, with thousands of young netizens leaving comments expressing how lucky and happy they felt to be living in the country.
One netizen, "Xu Baobao", posted: "We'll contribute our young energy to national rejuvenation", while another wrote: "May we use our youth to protect China."
The younger generation has helped defend the motherland.
In 2019, when rioting related to an extradition bill broke out in Hong Kong, an online community known as Di Bar, comprising young Chinese living around the world, launched a campaign to explain the issue to a global audience and to voice support on digital platforms for the city's police.
A statement released by Di Bar said the community's campaign was driven by "patriotism, rationality and truth-seeking", and reflected its confidence and faith in the country.
Laurence Zhang, 25, a Chinese mainland graduate from Hong Kong Baptist University, who joined the campaign, said the experience gave him a greater understanding of the country's developing power. He added that he felt grateful to live during such times.
Data show that Chinese born since 1990 tend to have a stronger sense of national pride.
In 2019, a survey conducted by China Youth Daily's social research center showed that the post-'90s and post-'00s generations rated their level of national pride 9.38 and 9.21 out of 10 respectively－higher than other age groups. Their confidence in the nation's development was also higher than respondents in other age groups.
Last year, the center conducted a similar survey, with the results indicating that due to the central government's pandemic control efforts, nearly 71 percent of young respondents felt that "people and lives are of first importance". The rating for national pride among young people surveyed last year rose to 9.57 out of 10, while their sense of happiness about life climbed to 9.03, compared with 8.2 in 2019.
Jiao Junjie, who works for a health media company in Beijing and studied clinical medicine as an undergraduate in Hubei province, told China Youth Daily many of her classmates had no hesitation in joining the front-line fight against the pandemic.
"We, as young people, have made a contribution and experienced the pandemic, through which we have developed ourselves and gained a clearer understanding of the country. We've really felt the advantage of our nation and the pride of being Chinese," she said.
Jiang Chun, 28, who lives in Beijing and works in finance, said: "I have also felt a stronger sense of happiness. My parents have been able to pay for me to have a better education than they did, and I can now enjoy an improved standard of living through my own efforts."
Wang Xuekun, head of the China Youth and Children's Research Center, said the main reason for the greater sense of pride among young people is that the Chinese nation, with its ancient culture and long history, is being revived and revitalized.
Compared with their grandparents and parents, many of whom experienced hardships, the post-'90s and'00s generations grew up at a time when the country was developing rapidly, which naturally gave them a stronger sense of national pride, Wang said.
Last year, China's GDP was nearly 1,500 times higher than in 1952, while per capita disposable income reached 32,189 yuan ($4,948) compared with just under 50 yuan in 1949 when the People's Republic of China was founded, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Average life expectancy has also risen to 77.3 years, up from 35 years in 1949.
Guo Yuanyuan, associate dean of the School of Culture and Communication at Capital University of Economics and Business, said, "This great material improvement can give young people more room for spiritual life.
"Our older generations experienced a very difficult time, and before reform and opening-up, the economy was far behind those in the West. Now, with China rising to become the second-largest economy in the world, making us roughly on a par with the West in many respects, young people's patriotic sentiment has naturally risen."
Guo said the affluence enjoyed by young people today, in stark contrast to the stories of hardship told by their parents and grandparents, will also make them appreciate the strong advantages of the Chinese Communist Party's leadership, which has created a safe and peaceful environment for them to grow up in.
The Party's response to the pandemic last year also left a strong impression on the younger generation that, when faced with a crisis, the Party and the State would lead the nation in moving forward and solving such difficulties. As a result, young people's love for the Party and country deepened, Guo added.
Sun Hongyan, director of the Institute for Children and Adolescents affiliated to the China Youth and Children's Research Center, said she noticed from her studies increasingly positive data from young subjects in many respects. This included national identity, moral and ethical values and contributions to the country. She attributed the main reason for this trend to the country's development.
China is the only major economy to maintain economic growth during the pandemic.
The prevention and control measures taken by the Party and governments at all levels have been effective, and major technological advances, such as the Chang'e lunar project, along with a greatly improved standard of living, have all been witnessed and experienced by young people.
"They may be young, but they form their own judgment of society," Sun added.
In recent years, Chinese authorities have also attached unprecedented importance to youth development, creating a healthier environment for this generation, she said.
Sun cited the Medium-and Long-term Youth Development Plan (2016-25) released by the State Council, China's Cabinet, in 2017, the first document issued by the CPC Central Committee specifically aimed at youth development.
Easier access to information, as well as China's open foreign exchange policies, offer young people more channels to understand their country and the world, Sun said.
"We often refer to this young generation as the 'internet generation', and the internet has helped them gain a more multidimensional understanding of the East and the West," she said.
"To them, the world is a global village. They know what everyone is like in the village, so they are able to make comparisons and think more rationally. This explains why they show less blind admiration for foreign cultures or products today."
Peng Jingxuan, 26, who is taking a Master's in musicology at Bordeaux Montaigne University in France, is among the students who have taken advantage of such openness. While pursuing her studies abroad, she is also dedicated to spreading traditional Chinese culture to the world.
She can frequently be found on French streets, clad in a silk Han Dynasty-style dress and playing the guzheng, or Chinese zither, to passersby.
In 2018, she uploaded her first video－which featured footage of her playing a traditional piece of Chinese music in the French city of Bordeaux－on the sharing platform Douyin, and it quickly went viral, gaining nearly 30,000 views.
Since then, Peng has regularly posted videos of her street performances on platforms, including Bilibili and Douyin. Many of the videos have garnered millions of views, making her a popular social media music influencer.
She now has 1.29 million and 7.72 million followers on Bilibili and Douyin respectively. She introduces her profile photo with the words, "What is national is universal."
Peng decided to play the guzheng on the streets after arriving in France in late 2017, when she saw many buskers performing outdoors. Having played the instrument since she was 7, she was anxious to keep practicing.
Over time, she has found she is doing more than merely playing music. In the eyes of the French, she is a symbol of China, and after being approached numerous times by local people asking about the guzheng, Peng now carries a book that explains the instrument to foreigners.
After going viral on Chinese video-sharing platforms, she said she now feels she has more responsibility to spread traditional culture. Living overseas has also increased her sense of national identity and patriotism.
"Every time people come to me and compliment me on the beauty of the instrument and the music, they ask which country the guzheng originates from. I am very happy to tell them it comes from China," she said.
"During my studies here, I have the time, the opportunity and the ability to let people know more about this elegant Chinese music. This is something I like to do," she said.
Every year on Oct 1, China's National Day, Peng plays well-known pieces to mark the occasion, including Me and My Motherland and Today is Your Birthday, My Motherland.
"My country's strength gives me the courage to play the guzheng on the streets," she said.
Guo, from Capital University of Economics and Business, said that although she is pleased to see more patriotic sentiment being voiced by young people, additional social support is needed to consolidate this.
For example, there are still no lessons about patriotism in many kindergartens. There is also a lack of guidance about using material to reinforce a sense of patriotism among young people, such as explaining the advantages of China's political system in containing the pandemic.
As a national political adviser, Guo said during the CPPCC session that lessons about patriotism should form part of early childhood education. More patriotic content, such as online dramas and video games, should be made available in cyberspace, and the Party and government leaders should establish more dialogue with young people for them to understand major national strategies and to become more engaged in social affairs.
"Our country values harmony and inclusiveness when facing the world. So, when these children with stronger confidence in the national identity grow up and contribute to China's development, they will bring more peace and warmth to the world," she added.