China Beat Archive



Teresa Wright

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May 13, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright May 13, 2009 Teresa Wright. Used by permission.


Two things that China Beat has been tracking since we began are Chinese nationalism and youth attitudes in the PRC today (those interested in these issues might check out Alec Ash’s recent posting that addresses youth nationalism in regard to the 5/8 anniversary). It’s no surprise, then, that we were interested in learning more about an event at the Brookings Institution that brought these topics together (Evan Osnosmentioned his participation at his blog).

So we turned to Teresa Wright, one of the people who shared the stage with Osnos at the panel, to fill us in on the discussion that took place. She is a professor of political science based just up the road from UCI at Cal State Long Beach, and the author of The Perils of Protest: State Repression and Student Activism in China and Taiwan, a book of special relevance just now, since it includes an analysis of the Beijing demonstrations and massacre of 1989, as well as a close look at Taipei unrest of the early 1990s. Here’s her take on the roundtable:

Two weeks ago, an event at the Brookings Institution explored the proclivities of China’s post-1980 (bashi hou) generation of young people—a group that often is characterized as “angry/indignant” (fennu) and anti-foreign.

Just how angry are China’s young people, and toward whom or what is their anger directed? What do their attitudes tell us about China’s political trajectory, and how should the citizens and governments of other countries respond?

The overall message of the event was that Western anxieties about China’s so-called “angry youth” (fenqing) are overblown. For behind superficial images, such as those of young Chinese aggressively defending the CCP’s Tibet policy in the spring of 2008, lie complex configurations of attitudes and values that defy simplistic characterization.