The Chinese Millennial Experience is also an American one, and vice-versa

Saw this article going viral China’s Millennials

The viralness of the article is evidence of the intense interest and approbation by smart Americans of China, as part of the US-China intellectual and cultural connection, as I have written about on numerous occasions.

From the article, Chinese and American millennials share many similarities, which goes show how American and China are so similar and how the ‘smart millennial American’ experience is so similar to the Chinese one, too:

Chinese millennials are a product of globalisation. Like their Western counterparts, they don’t much like traditional marriage arrangements. We have smartphones to keep us in touch with our friends, single millennials might say, unlimited games to play and movies to watch, dating apps for hooking up, an inexhaustible supply of porn for solo sex (it has been said that porn forums in China are the most harmonious spaces on the internet, with users thanking one another for sharing content), numerous apps for ordering cabs and housekeepers, restaurant delivery within thirty minutes, fresh grocery delivery within the hour, dogs and cats to channel the sporadic parenting instinct … What do we need marriage for? In 2018, the marriage rate in China dropped to a new low of 7.2 weddings per thousand people; before that the divorce rate had increased for 15 years straight, to 3.2 per thousand. Two of the most commonly cited causes of divorce are disagreements over the division of household chores, and parental meddling – parents of only children can be extremely protective.

Young, smart Americans and young, smart Chinese gravitate to the same shared narratives, idiosyncrasies, and values, and hence can relate to each other more so than high-IQ Americans can relate to high-IQ Germans or high-IQ Brits, even though America is descended from Great Britain. Smart Americans, who are either in an elite or top college or hoping to be accepted by one, have graduated, or in grad school, or in the labor force as professionals, can relate to the competitiveness, entrepreneurialism, individualism, and intellectualism of contemporary Chinese culture, and vice-versa. Britain and Germany are much more stagnant economically and less competitive and more traditionalist in in the liberal sense. As the article mentions, similar to young Americans defying tradition by delaying marriage and family formation in favor of careers and individualism and wealth creation, so too are the smart Chinese. Also China is secular and pragmatic, and smart, pragmatic Americans can relate to that. It’s about results rather than imposing cultural values such as religion on others.

The article concludes:

I suppose every generation has its own baggage. To be an urban millennial is to be in a state of constant anxiety about being left behind by technology, missing out on the latest lifestyle fad, or not getting enough likes for an Instagram post. Karoline Kan’s recent memoir Under Red Skies: The Life and Times of a Chinese Millennial (Hurst, £20) explains in detail the plight of rural millennials and how she struggled to become one of the lucky few. The rural girls who aren’t so lucky end up in factories on minimum wage, while rural boys end up delivering food to millennials in the cities. The gap between social classes is already large; technology will widen it. The challenge for millennials now is to pick out the relevant signals amid the noise. The more complex the system becomes, the greater the possibility of meltdown. Are millennials prepared for a global systemic catastrophe? Or even a life without smartphones? They may not be. But then, who is?

Pretty much all smart people regardless of geography or ideology can relate to this. FOMO, whether it’s about the stock market, admissions to elite schools, lifestyle, the job market, or social media, is not just unique to Americans. Everyone is asking the same sort of questions: “Is the system sustainable given how much debt there is and accelerating technological and social progress and change?” “How much longer can this post-2009 (or post-1989 period in the case of China) period of unprecedented geopolitical peace and economic stability last?” “What will happen to those who are unable to adapt or keep up with such changes?”