As China moves toward becoming the world’s biggest economy, its youth have captured the imaginations of people around the world. Chinese teenagers are often a subject of media attention for their fashion sense, their growing consumer culture, perceived rebellion against a restrictive government and the new sense of personal identity that is beginning to define the younger generations. Chinese teenagers live in a rapidly developing country, but it is also a large country, and their experiences are as diverse as the experiences of any two children in the United States.
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In 1978, China shifted its focus from socialism to modernization, and the Chinese people started focusing on careers over comradeship, according to professor Gheeta Kochar of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. Teenagers started “looking toward money” as consumer culture and materialism grew. From the 1990s on, Chinese teenagers focused on learning English and studying in the United States, as fashion surged and young adults became much less conservative. Chinese teenagers drink, smoke and are more fashion forward than the Chinese teenagers of previous generations. More Chinese adolescents and young adults are moving from rural areas into the city with hopes of better careers.
Love of Western Culture
Many Chinese teens pursue Western culture, and they show it through their consumption of Western TV shows, movies, foods and clothing. PBS reported in 2012 that KFC was the most popular restaurant chain in the country, although in China, KFC sells Chinese foods such as rice pudding and changes recipes to reflect a Chinese influence. Skateboarding has become popular, with Chinese youth learning moves from professional Western skateboarders. Though government regulations have restricted certain TV shows, including crime shows and “immoral” dramas, many Chinese television programs replicate the famous American versions. “China’s Got Talent” and “If You Are the One,” a Chinese version of “The Bachelor,” are popular.
'Chuppies' as Consumers
Chinese “yuppies” or “Chuppies,” as they’re called, make up a portion of Chinese adolescent culture. These teens are from affluent families and were raised in an environment of economic stability. They are brand-conscious, trendy and have plenty of money to spend. Like their affluent U.S. counterparts, chuppies are always plugged in to the rest of the world through smartphones and computers. This wealthy portion of Chinese teens is a worldly bunch, often well-traveled and experienced.
As Kevin Lee of "Forbes Magazine" points out, when U.S. media talk about Chinese teens as major consumers or wealthy individuals, they are often addressing only a small segment of the population . Though chuppies are major consumers, as with any country, there are large variations in socio-economic status among the youth. Teens will differ in their value systems, interests and hobbies depending on whether they are from cities or rural areas. In fact, Lee writes, the majority of Chinese teens are not as rebellious as the U.S. mainstream media would have us believe, but are “content.” Most youths, Lee says, still feel a deep sense of responsibility to their families, even though values are changing from generation to generation. The majority of Chinese teens are interested in developing a sense of their own individuality and personal identity.