‘The Last Generation’ Reflects the Dehumanization of China by the CCP

In the ultimate statement of resistance, a new generation no longer believes in ChinaCommentary Despair is a powerful force. It’s the complete loss of hope. Without hope, there’s no meaning in life and no reason to go on living. That’s where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has led China’s latest generation. Or, as they call themselves, “The Last Generation.” The Young and the Hopeless This is more than just the flippant response of a young man despondent at the totalitarian lockdowns, surveillance, and state intrusion into his life. When police told him that his attitude and lack of cooperation in going to a quarantine camp would affect his family for three generations, the man replied, “This is the last generation.” That “last generation” response resonated with China’s younger generation, which sees little to hope for in their lives. It quickly became a social media hashtag across the country, allowing young people to easily express their own despair with life under the CCP’s draconian decisions to lock down entire cities such as Shanghai and many others, isolating tens of millions of young Chinese. Ultimately, the response is borne of despair and disillusionment with life in modern China. One can certainly sympathize with their plight. ‘996 Culture’ Exploits a Generation Typically, the generation of Chinese who are in their 20s and 30s today are the only child of their parents as a result of the CCP’s decades-long one-child policy. They may be married, with two sets of parents to take care of, but many are not married and live alone. Often as not, they have no children and may own an apartment that has fallen in value due to market manipulation by the state. Many cannot afford to buy an apartment, scrimping and saving just to get by. Their jobs, if they have one, are long and tedious. These workers slave away their lives in high-tech roles that leave them little time in their lives. This new Chinese lifestyle has been cynically identified as the “996 culture” in which young, college-educated workers are on the job from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week. Although complaining about the “996” life is common on social media and has stirred a national discussion in China, it has been entirely supported by the upper echelons of business and political power for decades. Recent changes in the law have been made to reduce this modern phenomenon of high-tech labor exploitation, but it remains in place. This exploitation and “996 culture” serve the purposes of the state, of course, which gains both the productivity of its younger generation with the added benefit of it being too tired to do much of anything else. A National Mental Health Crisis What’s more, in the pandemic era, the state has become all-powerful and intrusive. Frequent testing, invasive monitoring by police, constant barrage of instructions over loudspeakers, and lack of communication with their peers have impacted the psyches of a generation. Today’s generation has seen the country go from global leader in industry and even pandemic control to global pariah with a totalitarian government that has complete control over them. Aerial view of people queuing up for COVID-19 nucleic acid testing in Tianjin, China, on Jan. 20, 2022. (VGC/VCG via Getty Images) The outcome is a national mental health crisis that the government is ill-equipped to handle, much less recognize, characterized by mass disillusionment and apathy. Run for Your Life–Out of China In response, a new trend has emerged among the young known as “runxue” or the “run philosophy.” Its message is as simple as it is damning—it tells the young to run away from China for a better and safer life. That new philosophy is as understandable as is the “last generation” sentiment. After all, young people need an opportunity to try new things, spread their wings, try, fail, and then try again without the stifling and constant pressure of the CCP’s boot on their necks and its presence in their minds. From a behavioral perspective, the young generation is unlike any China has seen. During the one-child policy era, for example, many wanted more than one child while the state engaged in forced abortions to enforce the policy. Today, many young Chinese refuse to have any children. One poll showed two-thirds of mostly women between the ages of 18 and 31 choose not to have children. “Not bringing children to this country, to this land, will be the most charitable deed I could manage,” wrote a Weibo user under the hashtag #thelastgeneration before it was censored. Another wrote: “As ordinary people who’re not entitled to individual dignity, our reproductive organs will be our last resort.” A Dystopian Present and Future Even with government tax and income incentives to persuade the young to have up to three children, the idea of bringing a child into the dystopia that is modern China isn’t appealing to the very generation on which the policy depends. As one might expect, an aging po

‘The Last Generation’ Reflects the Dehumanization of China by the CCP

In the ultimate statement of resistance, a new generation no longer believes in China

Commentary

Despair is a powerful force. It’s the complete loss of hope. Without hope, there’s no meaning in life and no reason to go on living. That’s where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has led China’s latest generation.

Or, as they call themselves, “The Last Generation.”

The Young and the Hopeless

This is more than just the flippant response of a young man despondent at the totalitarian lockdowns, surveillance, and state intrusion into his life. When police told him that his attitude and lack of cooperation in going to a quarantine camp would affect his family for three generations, the man replied, “This is the last generation.”

That “last generation” response resonated with China’s younger generation, which sees little to hope for in their lives. It quickly became a social media hashtag across the country, allowing young people to easily express their own despair with life under the CCP’s draconian decisions to lock down entire cities such as Shanghai and many others, isolating tens of millions of young Chinese.

Ultimately, the response is borne of despair and disillusionment with life in modern China. One can certainly sympathize with their plight.

‘996 Culture’ Exploits a Generation

Typically, the generation of Chinese who are in their 20s and 30s today are the only child of their parents as a result of the CCP’s decades-long one-child policy. They may be married, with two sets of parents to take care of, but many are not married and live alone. Often as not, they have no children and may own an apartment that has fallen in value due to market manipulation by the state. Many cannot afford to buy an apartment, scrimping and saving just to get by.

Their jobs, if they have one, are long and tedious. These workers slave away their lives in high-tech roles that leave them little time in their lives. This new Chinese lifestyle has been cynically identified as the “996 culture” in which young, college-educated workers are on the job from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week.

Although complaining about the “996” life is common on social media and has stirred a national discussion in China, it has been entirely supported by the upper echelons of business and political power for decades. Recent changes in the law have been made to reduce this modern phenomenon of high-tech labor exploitation, but it remains in place.

This exploitation and “996 culture” serve the purposes of the state, of course, which gains both the productivity of its younger generation with the added benefit of it being too tired to do much of anything else.

A National Mental Health Crisis

What’s more, in the pandemic era, the state has become all-powerful and intrusive. Frequent testing, invasive monitoring by police, constant barrage of instructions over loudspeakers, and lack of communication with their peers have impacted the psyches of a generation.

Today’s generation has seen the country go from global leader in industry and even pandemic control to global pariah with a totalitarian government that has complete control over them.

Epoch Times Photo
Aerial view of people queuing up for COVID-19 nucleic acid testing in Tianjin, China, on Jan. 20, 2022. (VGC/VCG via Getty Images)

The outcome is a national mental health crisis that the government is ill-equipped to handle, much less recognize, characterized by mass disillusionment and apathy.

Run for Your Life–Out of China

In response, a new trend has emerged among the young known as “runxue” or the “run philosophy.” Its message is as simple as it is damning—it tells the young to run away from China for a better and safer life.

That new philosophy is as understandable as is the “last generation” sentiment. After all, young people need an opportunity to try new things, spread their wings, try, fail, and then try again without the stifling and constant pressure of the CCP’s boot on their necks and its presence in their minds.

From a behavioral perspective, the young generation is unlike any China has seen. During the one-child policy era, for example, many wanted more than one child while the state engaged in forced abortions to enforce the policy.

Today, many young Chinese refuse to have any children. One poll showed two-thirds of mostly women between the ages of 18 and 31 choose not to have children.

“Not bringing children to this country, to this land, will be the most charitable deed I could manage,” wrote a Weibo user under the hashtag #thelastgeneration before it was censored.

Another wrote: “As ordinary people who’re not entitled to individual dignity, our reproductive organs will be our last resort.”

A Dystopian Present and Future

Even with government tax and income incentives to persuade the young to have up to three children, the idea of bringing a child into the dystopia that is modern China isn’t appealing to the very generation on which the policy depends.

As one might expect, an aging population with below replacement birth rates does not bode well for the future of China or the CCP. That’s a separate topic, of course, but suffice to say that the CCP’s policies over the past several decades have created a generational and societal wasteland of which the consequences are only now beginning to become felt in the Party.

Of course, the CCP has handled such a devastating and apparently deep-seated mood among many of its young people, much like it approaches all the problems it faces: by stifling public discussion.

Naturally, the “last generation” is now censored across China’s social media channels. Apparently, the CCP’s thinking is that since it can’t be seen or expressed on social media, or any other media, the whole thing has gone away. The Party can confidently and officially declare that there is no more despair among the young.

Except, of course, that there’s despair among the younger generation. It’s borne of–or at least most identified with–the CCP’s extensive and cruel lockdown policies, but its roots are much deeper than that. What’s more, this deep despondency is rampant. Business crackdowns, lockdowns, and a collapsing economy have only made China less livable and the state more intimidating and aggressive toward its people.

Back in the early 1990s, when China was ascending rapidly, the promise of material wealth was on the lips of China’s leaders and the minds of the young generation. A popular saying at the time went, “I’d rather cry in your BMW than laugh on your bicycle.”

Today, much of China’s young generation is beyond tears, beyond numb, and perhaps irretrievably broken by their cruel government and are refusing to legitimize it by having children.

That’s a multidimensional problem for which the CCP lacks any empathy or real answers.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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James R. Gorrie is the author of “The China Crisis” (Wiley, 2013) and writes on his blog, TheBananaRepublican.com. He is based in Southern California.