Chinese officials are hell-bent on making the country's younger generation feel lucky for what it has, and it's not hard to imagine why.
The generation after the 1990s is the least happy of all age groups in China, according to research by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, followed by the generation after the 1980s.
Many suffer stress related to housing problems, education, health, employment, excessive visibility on social media and identity crisis.
Although the Chinese Communist Party has managed to contain dissatisfaction among young people in mainland China, it is wary of the example set by Hong Kong, stirred by student protests that have lasted for months.
Actor He Bing, representative of China's “front wave” (older generation), is the star of a viral video titled Subsequent Wave (后 浪), which aims to celebrate supposedly free culture and the bright future of Chinese youth.
Released on Bilibili, the country's largest animated video platform, just in time for Chinese Youth Day on May 4, the video was later broadcast by a large number of state affiliate media.
In the four-minute clip, which shows scenes from the culture and adventurous and cosmopolitan lifestyles of urban youth, the actor says to the younger generation:
那些 口口聲聲 「一代 不如 一代」 的 人 ， 應該 看看 你們 ， 像 我 一樣 ， 我 看著 你們 滿懷 羨慕 (…) 科技 繁榮 文化 繁茂 城市 繁華 ， 現代 文明 的 成果 被 盡情 地 享用 享用 自由學習 一 門 語言 學習 一 門 手藝 ， 欣賞 一部 電影 去 遙遠 的 地方 旅行。 很多 人 從小 你們 就 在 自由 探索 自己 的 興趣 (…) 你們 擁有 了 我們 曾經 夢寐以求 的 權利 ， 選擇 的 權利 的 的 的 的的 生活。 你們 有幸 遇見 這樣 的 時代 ， 但是 時代 更 有幸 遇見 這樣 的 你們。 (…) 你們 正在 把 傳統 的 變成 現代 的 ， 把 經典 的 變成 流行 的 ， 把 民族 的 變成 世界的。 (…) 因為 你們 這個 世界 會 更 喜歡 中國 ， 因為 一個 國家 最好 看 的 風景, 就是 這個 國家 的 年輕人。 (…)
Those who complain that the next generation is worse than the last should be watched carefully, as I have done. I look at them and feel envy. (…) They can enjoy advanced technology, a diverse culture and a prosperous urban life. The fruits of modern civilization have been opened to them. They are free to learn a language and a profession. They can enjoy a movie or travel far. Many begin to explore their interests at an early age … they have the rights I dreamed of: the right to choose. They love their way of life. They are lucky to know the time, and the time is lucky to know them. (…) They have turned the traditional into modern, the classic into popular, the academic into massive, the national into global… Thanks to you, the world will love China more, because the most beautiful landscape of a country is its youth…
Young netizens quickly smelled paternalistic propaganda.
They noted that the liberal and cosmopolitan culture portrayed in the video is only applicable to a minority of young people, especially those who have inherited their wealth from the emerging business class (capitalists) or parents with political power (red).
A commenter on Weibo, the Chinese microblogging platform, noted that not everything is better for young people:
《其实 我们 都 更 希望 自己 活 在 那个 还 买 得起 房 的 时代》 不 知道 多少 人 觉得 自己 活得 根本 不 像个 后 浪…
Actually, we all wish we lived in a time when we could still afford an apartment. Many people do not have the impression of living like those of the “subsequent wave” …
Infiltrate the subculture
The appearance of the video in Bilibili, uploaded by the website itself, is notable.
The platform is considered the most popular young subculture website in China, with 130 million active users per month. Bilibili started trading on the US NASDAQ index in 2018 and rivals the most widely used video platforms in China, like Tencent Video. Most of his audience was born after the 1980s, and leans toward Japanese, Korean, and American cultures.
The Communist Youth League of China established its official channel on the website in January 2017 and has since been actively appropriating the youth community subculture in its political propaganda.
That move coincided with the emergence of a new generation of online patriots, nicknamed Little Pink, that amplifies the state narrative and associates freedom with the rise of consumer culture.
The state media published Subsequent waveAs the People's Daily and China Daily, while on social media it was not long before the comments that acclaimed the success of young generations proliferated, under the label “Later wave”.
But despite the orchestration organized by party loyalists, the video sparked very negative reactions from some viewers.
According to the report of a social media analysis published by the news website The Paper, around half of the comments to the publication of the video in the People's Daily were negative.
The name that is most frequently repeated in the video's critics is “Chinese Chives” (韭菜), a vegetable that grows like grass and that farmers regularly harvest without much effort.
Originally used as a metaphor for the Chinese who lost money on the stock exchanges, the nickname “chives” has since described ordinary citizens who live happily despite the lack of human rights and exploitation they suffer.
Do the “chives” defend themselves?
In their response to the Youth Day video, many users acknowledged that they see themselves as part of a “wave of chives,” rather than a “subsequent wave.”
A tech blogger described the video as a “poisonous chicken broth”:
有钱 的 叫 后 浪 ， 没钱 的 叫 韭菜。 有人 说 《后 浪》 青年 宣言 视频 ， 内容 美好 ， 但 不现实 ； 振奋 ， 但 请问 现实 中 ， 有 多少 青年人 能过上 这样 的 生活 呢？内容 缺乏 普遍 的 社会 意义。 对 《后 浪》 的 批评 ， 其实 是 中国 青年 的 觉醒 ， 是 对 “毒 鸡汤” 的 抵制！
The rich are the next wave, the poor are “Chinese chives.” Some have said that the video Subsequent wave it is a declaration of youth. The content is optimistic but unrealistic, glorious but not very moving. How many young people can actually afford to live like this? The content does not capture the general social reality. Criticism of Subsequent wave they are the awakening of the Chinese youth, it is the resistance to the “poisonous chicken broth”.
害 ， 生 而 为 韭 浪 太难 了 ， 被 一部分 50 后 60 后 70 后 割完 一茬 又 一茬 ， 将来 还要 被 达官 显贵 的 后 浪 们 割 ， 太难 了 呀
Shit, how hard it is to be in the wave of chives. We have been harvested in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. In the future, we will be harvested by the privileged “afterwaves”. Life is very difficult.
A parody of Subsequent wave which replaced Bing's speech with a description of the “wave of chives,” a generation that enjoys being exploited.
This is the version published on YouTube:
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5F9XvNWxS4 (/ embed)
你们 拥有 了 我们 曾经 彻底 消灭 的 权利 ， 被 剥削 的 权利 ， 你们 没有 发言权 ， (…) 你们 有幸 遇到 了 这样 的 时代 ， 但是 更 有幸 遇见 遇见 了 这样 的 你们 ， 他们 看见 你们 满怀 敬意， 向 你们 的 愚昧 迟钝 致敬 ， 你们 正在 把 自己 的 钱 变成 老板 的 钱 把 社会 的 变成 资本 的 ， 把 对 的 变成 错 的, 把 白 的 变成 红 二代 在 海外 的 千万 个 房产 有 你们 添砖加瓦 ， 红 三代 开着 奔驰 大 G 在 紫禁城 撒欢 ， 每一 脚 的 油门 都有 你们 的 贡献 ， 你们 把 自己 的 身体 变成 了 老板 所 席卷 的 996 ICU 的 躯壳…
They have the right to be exploited. They have no right to protest. (…) They are lucky to live in this age and the Second Generation Rich are delighted to meet them. They pay homage to them, their ingenuity and foolishness. They have turned their wealth into their boss's wealth, and white into black. They have contributed bricks to the construction of millions of properties belonging to the Second Generation Reds. They have given away gasoline for the Third Generation Red Mercedes that make races at the gates of the Forbidden City. They have turned their own bodies into 996 working machines (9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 6 days a week), and will eventually end up in intensive care.
Since then other parodies have appeared, such as this one about Hong Kong protests demanding freedom and autonomy:
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y45mz7t7cAI (/ embed)
The debate surrounding the Youth Day video reminded some Chinese netizens of the real meaning of freedom and rights.
@CalvinChiu, a citizen of mainland China tweeted:
后 浪 拍 的 特别 好。
我们 青年 有 旅行 的 自由 ， 那 请问 其他 自由 为何 绝口不提?
我们 青年 有 学习 一 门 语言 知识 的 权利 ， 那 有 没有 其他 权利 呢?
中国 的 青年 ， 被 房子 、 车子 禁锢 起来 ， 无心 国事 ， 这 是 何等 的 悲哀！ 权利 是 靠 自己 争取 来 的 ， 而 不是 坐着 等 来 的。
中国 青年 应该 大胆 地 喊 出来 ， 我们 要 新闻自由!
– Calvin Chiu (@ CalvinChiu19) May 11, 2020
The quality of the production of Subsequent wave it's excellent. We young people are free to travel, but why are other freedoms not mentioned? Young people have the right to learn different languages … do we have other rights? China's youth is tied hand and foot by real estate and vehicles and does not care about politics. It's sad. We have to fight for our rights, not sit back and wait. Young people in China should shout it out: we want freedom of the press!