NEWS

Favorite pastimes of China’s youth are a main driver of nation’s growth

The Chinese measure everything in millions. The population of a small city is so many million… There are so many million unskilled workers, so many millions are victims of a devastating draught, so many million newspaper readers. The People’s Daily newspaper, for example, has more than 2 million readers daily and its website gets another 14 million hits. About 99 percent of these readers are members of the Communist Party – subscribers who consider the paper a tool for their work. Ma Li, a striking woman who is the paper’s deputy editor-in-chief and a columnist, finds it quaint that foreign journalists ask about this. She takes a colleague’s iPhone and proudly shows that now one can read the Communist Party’s mouthpiece on a mobile phone. Yu, who is about 35 and a senior government ministry member, tells me that she reads the People’s Daily not to learn about the latest developments in China and the world but to read about politics, the government’s new measures and ministers’ speeches. For other news, she reads the paper’s sister publication that focuses on Beijing, or the Global Times for international issues. At the People’s Daily canteen, about 20 chefs are working away at a hectic pace, like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, serving the thousands of employees of the papers and their websites. The work areas are impressive, with modern buildings, state-of-the-art studios, young people focusing on their computer screens among a few hammers and sickles, especially in the area where Communist Party news is disseminated. «I too am a member of the Communist Party. But I am a regular person, don’t look at me like that,» jokes Zhou Zhi, a senior official at a shipyard in Nantong, a city of about a million people at the mouth of the Yangtze River that is developing quickly. Zhou brims with humor and he knows how to offer toasts in Greek, thanks to his frequent contacts with Greek shipowners. He speaks about today’s youth, who know English and are at home with new technologies, giving them the opportunity to follow developments on websites that may be critical of official policy. As use of the Internet spreads, the government and the Communist Party are obliged to adapt to the new conditions. They are no longer the monolithic, murky mechanisms that we often see described in Western news media or in Hollywood movies. Western prejudices regarding China crumble in the first contact with young Chinese. Han, who is 26 years old, speaks impeccable English and his favorite film director is Lars von Trier. Su Yi, who is the same age, has studied at King’s College in London and has been working for the past three months in what he calls his dream job. In the early 20th century, all Chinese revolutionary movements attacked the teachings of Confucius, seeing them as a tool for the establishment to remain in power. Today, China’s golden youth quote Confucius instead of Mao. They flirt on the grounds of the new performing arts center – the «Big Egg,» designed by French architect Paul Andreu – as guards turn a blind eye. They have fun at karaoke bars and are devoted followers of Tiger Woods, as they are passionate about golf. They have a sense of humor. The universities of Beijing and Shanghai are of the highest standard. Hong Kong is at the top of the PISA worldwide rankings of academic achievement. The Chinese are tops in foreign universities and local businesses. «The Greeks, too, would be tops if there were 1.3 billion of them,» notes Zhou Zhi with a laugh.