China’s Success Produces A Soft Generation

Bitch if you touch me im gonna eat you

China’s multi-decade quest for rapid development has by all measures been a stunning success. However, this has not come without a few unintended consequences.

The physical conditioning – or lack thereof – of 90s-generation youth has been called a “crisis.” Sun Yunxiao, author and deputy director of the China Youth and Research Center in Beijing, told AP, “Our economic power has grown while our people’s physiques have not only failed to improve, but have deteriorated. That’s unacceptable. This is something that worries the nation.”

Last year, two college students died during university-mandated fitness runs, leading other schools to scale back or cancel athletics events during annual meets. And the education ministry reports that male university students run the 1,000-meter race 14 to 15 seconds slower than their peers from a decade earlier. Women ran their 800-meter race 12 seconds slower. The results of other tests show similar declines. Not surprisingly, one area of growth has been in body weight – student obesity rates are climbing.

Clearly the pressure cooker that is the Chinese education system just does not leave much room for physical fitness.

Lou Linjun, a former physical education teacher in Hangzhou in eastern China, said the grueling schoolwork has driven students out of the exercise yards. “It’s become a norm that schoolyards are empty in the afternoon at many of the city’s key high schools,” said Lou, who is now an assistant principal.

“Students are less likely to be willing to endure hardship and do not like to run anymore.”

But it is not only educators who are taking notice. Some are calling this trend – especially among the boys – a threat to China’s future. Check out what Major General Luo Yuan said in Global Times (quoted by AP again):

“Femininity is on the rise, and masculinity is on the decline,” Yuan thundered. “With such a lack of character and determination and such physical weakness, how can they shoulder the heavy responsibility?”

Perhaps the army is right to worry. Sun Yunxiao’s research has found that not only are young Chinese boys between the ages of 7 and 17 getting physically weaker, they are also 2.54 centimeters shorter than their Japanese counterparts.

This has all produced some interesting paradoxes for modern China: a nation forged on a history of collective sacrifice and the often superhuman physical exertions of its people now has reason to fear it is producing youngsters who can’t pull their weight.

Which brings us to another paradox: how is China winning all those gold medals? AP again:

“We have this strange phenomenon. Outside, we are showing off muscles, but at home we are panting,” popular blogger Li Chengpeng wrote last summer, when China’s Olympic athletes in London raked in 38 gold medals — second only to the United States.

“Outside, the red flags are flying. At home, the red lights are going up,” Li wrote.

A topic for another time, perhaps.

China’s young in crisis of declining fitness (AP)

17 Responses to “China’s Success Produces A Soft Generation”

  1. laowai88

    Another unintended consequence of the one child policy….i.e. kids being spoiled to death. I teach English to middle and upper class Chinese kids, and it’s amazing how lazy and spoiled many of them are.

    Reply
  2. ken hansen

    It is the way of raising kids that is wrong. If you go to any playground in China you will hear how the adults scream at the kids not to run but take a rest.Because if kids run and have fun, they will sweat and apparently Chinese kids are so weak that they will get sick and probably die if they sweat. Kids in China are raised to walk around quietly .

    Reply
    • A

      Yeah, agree here. And girls are told not to exercise for fear of developing bulky muscles – or even worse – getting tanned from being in the sun.

      Reply
      • Chinese Netizen

        But would not rich tennis star Li Na be a role model these days? Oh…require too much dedication and hard work.

        Reply
        • Chackie Jan

          The fault doesn’t necessarily lie with girls there. A lot of guys here are really insecure when it comes to strong girls. Chinese guys usually demand that the girl earns less than he does. I doubt that the traits ‘strong’, ‘tanned’ and ‘independent’ are the first to come up when you have a poll on admirable traits in women. Of course this isn’t just the case in China, but in many societies dominated by males. However, it does seem a lot more widespread here and guys aren’t even afraid to admit to it.

          Reply
  3. Jonathan Alpart

    I think this makes sense. Chinese people have unprecedented wealth, only children, and just recently survived mass social chaos and trauma. Chinese had traditionally always loved little fatty children, so this seems to be a normal result of historical and social conditions. Hopefully it will balance itself out in the next generation. Having said that, I think the children in China will grow up to be like America’s boomers. Shudder.

    Reply
    • slim

      Boomers were born from 1946-64, before life was too easy in the US and way before American kids started fattening up. I think you might be reaching for GEN Y or slackers or something more apposite.

      Reply
      • Big Pile O' Fragrant Roses

        It’s better to compare them to the generation a little AFTER the boomers. The parents of this generation are the ones who had it tough during the com-period. (Or in our case WW2 and the rebuilding.) The ones who grow up now are being spoiled to death by those who had it tough. (In the West it would be those who grew up in the 60′s and 70′s.)

        And then generation Y was a repressed generation because their parents were the ones who did drugs and had free sex everywhere, something kids like but parents don’t want for their kids. This generation is also the generation that is coming out of universities/colleges now, during a recession and for many their most vivid news-related memory is 9/11.

        So, if we extend that line to China, the next generation, kids of those born in the 90′s/00′s, are going to be less spoiled, and more likely to be at sports clubs. However, most parents in China don’t do the parenting themselves and leave it to the grandparents, so it will take at least an extra generation to effect changes.

        Reply
  4. Esther

    Nowadays wealth parents in China don’t know how to raise well-rounded kids. They only care about academic achievement. Think about it in ancient times the Chinese education required students to master the Six Arts (六艺 liù yì) and be, um, perfect. But now we can only see spoiled “smart” kids in China. But don’t blame the kids, blame the parents and the parents would then say, it’s society’s fault.

    Reply
  5. Tiu Fu Fong

    “Nowadays wealth parents in China don’t know how to raise well-rounded kids.”

    Damn right. A modern kid wouldn’t know the first thing about denouncing his parents, putting up a dazibao or throwing people out windows in an attack on the 4 olds.

    Reply
  6. SeaHorse

    What Jonathan said. Also parents would rather their child work in the service industry than carry bags of rice and tend to sugar canes so they are encouraged to work on their manners and reciting over physical prowess. “A better life for my child” and all that. It’s just a casualty of the times. The best parents are the ones that send their child back to whatever god forsaken farm their families originally came from to know the sting of mosquitos and watch lizards crawl up walls.

    Reply
  7. Chackie Jan

    I really noticed how protective and spoiling some parents are during the little snow that fell the last few days. Back home all kids would go out, throw snow balls at each other, fall down, jump on thin ice and laugh when someone breaks through. And then pull that person out together, and laugh a little more.

    Here parents go out with their kid, with a bucket and a shovel and then make identical snow men. When a kid tries to run a little bit, they’re told not to and to just shovel snow into the bucket. Also, maybe I didn’t look long enough but I didn’t see any snow ball fights going on. Nor were there kids trying to throw snow balls as high as they could against apartment buildings. Ah, good old times.

    Reply

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