In the face of economic challenges and record-high youth unemployment, China's government led by President Xi Jinping is urging young citizens to 'eat bitterness.' A call to endure adversity and make contributions to national rejuvenation, this message is met with a mix of cynicism, satire, and fatigue among the youth. However, the state's insistence on fortifying the sacrificial spirit could potentially deepen the disillusionment among the younger generation, especially as political uncertainty looms in 2024 with key elections in Taiwan and the United States.
Fostering Sacrificial Spirit
The Chinese government's message for the youth is clear: seek employment in rural areas, strengthen character, and endure hardships. It's a nod to the old Chinese adage about 'eating bitterness,' embracing adversity for the greater good. However, the rhetoric has drawn criticism from the young citizens who feel the brunt of economic pressures.
Resistance and Satire
The response from the youth has been anything but compliant. Using terms like 'lying flat' and 'letting it rot,' they express their exhaustion and disillusionment with the system. This resistance isn't without basis. In 2023, the urban youth unemployment rate in China hit a record 21.3% before the government halted the release of such statistics. With such looming realities, the government's call for sacrifice seems out of touch with the ground reality.
As the pressures mount, many young Chinese are adopting various coping strategies. Some move back with their parents, while others pursue further education or seek stable government jobs. Emigration and seeking asylum have also seen a notable increase, with Chinese asylum-seekers reaching 116,000 in 2022. As the country navigates through economic and political challenges, the fate of its youth hangs in the balance.