This book examines, in a culturally and contextually sensitive way, the particularity of what it means to be young in post-Mao China undergoing rapid and dramatic transformation by comparing childhood and youth experiences over three generations.
The analysis draws on life-history interviews with Beijing young men and women in their last upper secondary year, their parents and their grandparents. The book offers a comprehensive coverage of the various aspects of life pertinent to youth experiences and compares each of these across three generations, treating them as interrelated and mutually affecting processes – childhood, intergenerational relationships, education and future plans, gender and sexuality. By offering both men’s and women’s accounts of their childhood and youth experiences, which for the three generations combined extend over nearly a century, the book sheds useful light on how gender and sexuality have evolved in China. Fengshu Liu concludes that the young generation’s lives feature a ‘maximization desire’, in sharp contrast to the two older generations’ childhood and youth experiences.
The book meticulously weaves rich ethnographic details and individual life stories into a larger and unfolding picture of historical, social and cultural trends, while providing critical insight into Chinese modernization and modernity against the backdrop of globalization. It can thus be an enjoyable read also for people beyond the academia interested in China’s social and cultural transformation and its children and youth.
Table of Contents
1 Introduction. 2 Modernization and social change. 3 The rise of the ‘priceless’ Chinese child: childhood in three generations. 4 Daxue as the norm: the rise of the Chinese ‘schooled society’ over three generations. 5 The aspiring male individual: the rise of chenggong as a new hegemonic masculine ideal. 6 The aspiring female individual: ‘wanting to have it all’ as a new female ideal. 7 An expressive turn with a Chinese twist: young people’s other-sex relations in three generations. Conclusion: the maximization desire: living modernization the Chinese way.
Fengshu Liu is Professor of Education at the University of Oslo. Her research cuts across childhood and youth studies, comparative and international education, and sociology of education (e.g., gender, generation, family and modernization). Her earlier book is titled Urban Youth in China: Modernity, the Internet and the Self.