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Young and Restless in China: The Cost of Work for China’s Young Generation

Chinese society is changing at breathtaking speed. As China’s economy has grown, its young people have become Westernized, savvy about today’s interconnected world, ambitious - and often torn between their culture and their aspirations. This module focuses on a sampling of young, urban Chinese who struggle with business ethics and striking the right balance between work and family. Their choices could have economic, social, and political consequences that affect us all.

In this video chapter from FRONTLINE Young and Restless in China, discuss the difficult choices that those in the film make as they pursue their careers.

 

VIDEO SEGMENT THEMES

From Young and Restless in China consider some of the challenges to young people in the video who are working in China today:

  • Zhang Jingjing put her work as a public interest lawyer ahead of her relationship with her fiancee. He eventually broke up with her.

  • Xu Weimin owns a hotel in the city of Shenzhen where his extended family live. His ex-wife and two daughters live in Shanghai. His new wife and child live in Beijing. He must divide his time among these three cities.

  • The business owners in the video say that often times, bribing corrupt Chinese government officials is a part of doing business.

  • Wang Xiaolei, an aspiring rapper, thought he found a girlfriend on the Internet, but she just took his money.

Classroom Discussion Questions:

  • How does Jingjing’s relationship with her fiance impact her well being, both at the beginning of the video clip and at the end? How might her experiences affect her attitudes about family and work?

  • Label a map of China to show the locations of Weimin’s various family members and his job. What social and economic factors “push” and “pull” him as he divides his time among these locations?

  • Ben’s wife studies accounting in the U.S. while he pursues business opportunities in China. What economic factors might encourage this separation? What impact might this have on their marriage?

  • Review the difficult choices that those in the video face as they pursue their careers. Do Americans face similar challenges? Do you agree with the decisions made by those in the video? Why or why not? What motivates their eventual behavior?

  • What are the potential long-term economic, political, and social consequences of their choices, both in China and globally?

Go Further

Featured Lesson Plan: “Pushing and Puling Migrant Workers in China”

Web-exclusive Resources: Hopes, Realities and Dilemmas of Young People in China

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