“The Elite Generation”

This assignment began with a fairly amusing story which does eventually bring me on to topics I’ll discuss later…

I was sitting in the student union (a common destination for students as it is cheap and cheerful) on a Friday night celebrating my friend’s 21st birthday, when a young Chinese man came over to me explaining that he had lost a bet with his friends (a group of Chinese students male and female and an Italian student) and now he had to ask my permission to kiss me on the cheek. I didn’t know how to respond, but to laugh and tell him I didn’t think my boyfriend would be too happy with that, but clearly it had taken a fair amount of courage to come over, and it was harmless enough so I added that he had to kiss all the girls cheeks… and he did. He got a cheer from his friends clearly enjoying their night out, thanked us and carried on with his night.

Who said the Chinese were shy? This gave me the perfect opportunity to start networking and get in contact with students to interview. It turned out I knew the Italian student he just didn’t recognise me from a distance. Being part of what is known in China as “The E Generation” (those born after 1990) I wanted to discuss their views towards education, why they came to Dundee to study and how much influence do their parents/ relatives have on them and what they do with their lives. At university we are obviously here to study, but there is no denying that there is also the social aspects of being a student too (more so when you are in 1st year), I begin to wonder how the attitudes and behaviour of 18+ year olds here would be perceived in China.

I asked the following question to gain an insight to the importance of education and some cultural differences in student life between China and here.

How important is education to you?
How much influence do your parents have on your education?
Why did you choose Dundee University to study at?
What do you like about Dundee?
How does student life here differ from China?

The  following responses I got were from Chinese students (female aged 21, male aged 22).

1.The develpment of China is based on education,and it really matters to everyone including me ,but honestly, the methods and condition of the education in most China is not good enough.

2. My parents support mine every decision, which Uni ,which country to go … and they don’t care my grade

3. I could apply to the University of Dundee through the ‘3+1+1’ programme more easily than applying to other universities

4. The uni is good ,and the people here are very nice ,the view is beautiful …

5.  We can rent flats out the Uni,and cook for ourselves.

1.Education is very important for me. In China, you couldn`t be able to find a decent job if you don`t had a good education or something.

2. About my parents. I would like to say they have a big influence on my eduction. Basically they are my sponsors , without them I can`t get an opportunity of eduction. Plus, they are also good teachers in my life regarding how to be a right person.

3. I was supposed go to Japan as exchange student, However there was a horrible earthquake happened in Japan, so i chose my second option which is dundee university. No particular reason.

4. I think dundee is a great place to have fun and the people are nice here they are very friendly and polite.

5. I think the life here is totally different with China, people speak english here and to be honest they drink a lot. Going to night club or going to a pub is very social and common here, but in China is kind of crazy and unnormal. But still , for me it’s very exotic and attractive.

The responses I received highlighted the issues I thought that would arise as well as some surprising statements.  Respecting your elders possibly comes hand in hand with making them proud and not wanting to disappoint them in the Chinese culture. This in turn enforces the say your relatives have on your life, education and future. This is emphasized through the support the parents have for their children’s education and want for a better life. I found it surprising that one interviewees mentioned that her parents fully support her decisions, but don’t mind about her grades. I think this is refreshing. I would have imagined a lot of pressure being put on their child(probably only child) to succeed expectations (yet again,maybe she was being modest  and was super smart anyway).  Education in China was highlighted not to be “good enough” therefore being educated elsewhere is the best option, which more and more of the fortunate  ” E generation” have the opportunity to do so allowing them to  grow and thrive in other cultures and allows China to develop in the long run when they return for work there.

When going to any country to study it is inevitable to be absorbed into the culture as well, or at least it would be a loss not to take the opportunity to do so. though I  did find it amusing that it was mentioned about our social and drinking habits were highlighted. We  Scots don’t do ourselves any favors do we? We should show our exchange students how hardworking and smart we are…and what we can do for China in the future too!

Family Life

 

 

Family Life in China has remained a very important aspect of life throughout the centuries.  Family life has changed in the last few generations due to the country modernising, change in Governments, and religious influences.

Traditionally Family Life was based on the Philosophical views of Confucius, which became known as the Confucianism religion. Confucianism became popular at the time of the Qin Dynasty. Social order and communal behaviour were preached through Confucianism. Relationships within the family and depending on your standing dictated how you would interact with each other. You were expected to know your place, be respectful of elders, and take orders from the head of the family and to be benevolent of the young.  Women were to be subordinate to their father then husband and also to the son if the husband dies. Men were allowed to remarry and have concubines but women were not allowed to remarry after their husband had died. Traditionally Family’s lived together in court yard housing in the hutongs. Court yard housing contained a series of buildings depending on where you were in the family hierarchy decided which wings of the house you lived in. The husband was the head of the family and was responsible for all the decisions made also the bread winner for all. Marriages were often forced and arranged to increase family standing in society and for more wealth.

This is not so different from other countries centuries ago.  Royal families or wealthy families often arranged marriages with other wealthy families. The head of the family was the husband and bread winner.

When the People’s Republic took over in China began to change Family life to what it is today. The People’s Republic wanted to give women more rights. In 1950 the new marriage law was introduced Where forced/arranged marriage is no longer allowed, women were to be seen as equals, divorce was now lawfully allowed, Men had to be 20 to be married and women 18.  In 1983 it became legal to marry foreigners. In 2003 they outlawed married people living in cohabitation to decrease the amount of people having concubines.  Also in 1980 they introduced the one child policy.

The Husband is still considered the head of the house hold but no longer has complete control. Education has played a key role in changing the family dynamics. Woman being seen as equals has allowed them to get proper education and become bread winners themselves. There is now choice in what you can do with your life rather than having it decided for you.

Many families are now being separated because people have to move around to find work. Mainly from the country to the city. It then makes it difficult to visit family as holidays are rare and normally there is a lot of distance between home and the city.

Introducing the one child policy has made families very nuclear. When these kids grow up there not going to have aunties and uncles. Families are going to be very small compared to the past where extended families would live together. Children are now very precious to the Chinese people. Traditionally a son was the preferred to be the heir to the family. This view is still their today and many families have medically chosen what gender they want their child to be because they can only have one. The government is trying to prevent people from doing this. Doing so has created an imbalance in the gender ratio with more men than there are women.

Today there is an increasing number of single parents and a new single parents club has been set up. This shows family life has changed from the rational by quite a bit. This is mainly due to divorce increasing with modern life. Many people are now postponing marriage in order to start their careers, to gain an education and save up money to afford the cost of starting a family and purchasing a home.

In conclusion Family Life has changed over the generations more so in recent times. Traditionally Family life was based on the teachings of Confucianism and how to behave properly. The People’s Republic changed the Family dynamics to what it is today. They introduced new laws which allowed divorce; one child policy outlawed arranged marriage Modern life like moving to find work in cities has also changed families.

 

 

What is the general public’s perception of items created in China?

As a group we decided to focus on products people buy, more specifically the items that people bought last and their views on the products made both here in the UK and those made in China. We chose to create a series of little red paper t-shirts, on these we prompted people to write the answers to some questions we had on them. We decided on a set of four questions, though these questions could be changed or even expanded on depending on what the person wrote:

What was the last thing you bought?

  • Do you know where your products are from?
  • Do you care and does it bother you where your products come from?
  • What are your views on the quality of products made her in the UK to products made elsewhere (China, Taiwan etc)

For the most part many of the answers for the most part were the same. A lot of people do not know where the products they buy come from and when asked many will reply with either “I don’t know” or the country stereotypically known for producing that product, many believing that only the lower quality items come from China. But is this ethical? Whilst many of the items are made in China some are not in fact able to be legally sold in China. The products can only be distributed by the company that outsourced the manufacturing to China. Among the biggest challenges faced by Chinese brands when approaching the foreign markets is the connotations associated with the words “Made in China”.

Although ,when asked, people do not seem to mind where their products come from so long as the products are of a decent to good quality. There are those who generally try to make sure that the ones employed to create the items are treated fairly before they make the purchase, though the majority are more likely to overlook the items origins altogether. It was only recently that the labour laws in China were changed. This was done in an effort to address the rising number of labour disputes. It was decreed that all contracts had to be put into writing within one month of the employee starting. Contracts are not seen as binding in China. It also covers areas such as severance pay, lay-offs, probationary periods and mandatory holidays, Chinese new year, International Labour Day and National Day each of which spanning a week at a time. The standard working time in China is 40 hours whilst the standard working week is Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm with the weekend off. However overtime is the norm and many companies don’t actually compensate their workers for it.

It would appear that the view of many concerning the comparisons between something made in the UK and something made elsewhere like China, many will state that the products made in the UK are of a higher quality. Whilst this is has an ounce of truth, it would be truer to say that whist the products may be inferior in quality, these same products are created for a market that expects the products for cheap prices. There are also a number of high quality products that are made in China as well, these selling for a much higher price. Other than this, it would seem that the awareness of many fake products and counterfeits also casts a more negative view of Chinese products.

Looking around online, it would seem it is very easy to have items manufactured over in China. Just searching “Manufacturing in China” brings you to a site for a company that helps set up the whole transaction. On the whole, the industry has developed incredibly quickly. The scale of the increase has been ranked in the top places providing obvious comparative advantages internationally. The manufacturing industry serves as the most dominant sector of China’s economic growth. As such it is the main source of employment in the cities and towns of China. The upgrade of the manufacturing industry in China has became the main symbol of improvement of natural power in China over the last 20 years. This has enabled China to primarily establish its status as a “big country of manufacturing” and has also laid the foundations for China becoming a “strong country of manufacturing”.

 

The clothing industry and us.

When people are asked where their items of clothing is from, the first thought is which high street shop they last visited instead of where in the world the items were made.  When asked I asked people where their stuff was made I got a common reaction was straight away ‘China’ or ‘I dunno, somewhere in Asia’. Most people just assume that their clothing is made in ‘third world countries’ or in sweatshops to keep costs down to give all of us a ‘bargain’.  The most common label on peoples clothing and one we are all familiar with is ‘Made In China’, this has become commonplace on almost all our products.

As a group we decided to look at clothing made in china and ask our classmates/friends/family their opinion on where they thought their clothes were made and the quality of the products in terms of price.  We cut out little t-shirt shapes of paper to put their answers on to link the two ideas. The questions we asked them were;

1. What is you favourite shop?

2. What was the last item you bought from there?

3. Do you know anything about where the product was made?

4. If not, where would you guess it was made?

5. Do you care where the product is made?

6. What do you think of the quality of the product?

7. What do you think about the quality of the product made in the U.K as opposed to those made elsewhere in the world?

8. Does the price of the item reflect the standard of work?

From the responses I received from the people I asked, no one really knows exactly where their clothing actually comes from or really care. I found that when people were asked to guess where their stuff comes from, they usually guess China, Asia somewhere or ‘some poor country’. It not an unknown fact that clothing is made in poorer countries, its just not really cared about. I found that until people are pressed to think about the physical place of where their clothes are bought, it’s not ever something that crosses their minds. The way in which a certain shops clothes are made is not an aspect in deciding if they buy something from that shop. People just don’t care if their clothes are made in third world countries. Saying that, I did hear a few people did bring up the issue of child labour. At no point during the buying of the item do they feel guily though, its only when its brought to their attention through television or internet or people like myself asking them to think about their purchases.

After the first couple of people mentioned the issue of child labour, I then added the question of child labour. The most common thing I found was that when people walk into shops they don’t immediately think of where the item was made or who by. They mostly think that ‘it’s a nice shirt’ or ‘oh that will go with…’. I found that people only see the item and not its backstory, because after all, no one really knows about every single shops ethics.

One of the main points that people were telling me that were contradicting their earlier answers was concerning the price of their products compared to the quality of it. I found that people don’t like the thought of young children making their clothes but they also aren’t prepared to pay more it. In terms of the quality they receive now, people tent to be happy with it, otherwise, would we really buy anything? People said that they wouldn’t be happy paying any more money for the same product with the only difference being it was made in the UK. This in itself is quite hypocritical, people don’t like the thought of children make their clothing but we are not prepared to pay more for home made clothing. I don’t think anyone has the right to say these people are wrong because, after all, we are all guilty of it. We know that some shops are known to use child labour but we all still shop in them.

I think that no one can say they are not guilty of buying products from China, because after all, most things are made there. There usually no information from clothing shops in particular, about how and where their clothes are made. I cant blame people for not knowing or caring about the way their clothes are made because well have all done it, we have all picked something up off the rail and given no thought to the working conditions or there in the world it came from. We are all guilty of buying Chinese products, and we just don’t care.

 

 

Attitudes to China

If someone was to ask me about where the clothes I bought were from I would most likely start off by naming a local high-street store and like most people if I was asked where the clothing I bought was made, I would naturally assume it wasn’t made in the U.K. be it due to cheaper labour elsewhere in the world, more specifically “Made in China” perhaps.  Wouldn’t you say the same?

I found this interesting clip which basically highlights the amount of things that we are wearing are made abroad, it is not about Britain, it is about America, but I feel it is a similar situation anyway and states that China is well ahead in the manufacturing of clothing than anywhere else in the world.

Popular high-street stores may  include Topshop, Burton, USC, New look, River Island,primary  and H&M and prove to be favourites among students (I asked this target market),some being  more expensive than others, but all concerned with the latest fashion trends. Though the question is, are such high street  stores as conscious about the production of their clothes as they are with their image / the image of their customers and ultimately do the customers know and even care about the manufacturing of the products they are buying. In the image based society  that we live in today how much thought is actually put into anything other than the way the clothing looks and makes us feel? Do shoppers consider the wider issues regarding the manufacturing of the products they are buying at all?

With a few questions in mind I interviewed people gather some responses. I asked them to write their answers on a piece of paper shaped like a t-shirt to keep them engaged with the questions I was asking and somewhat preempting discussion of clothing and retail shops. I asked them the following questions:

  1. What is you favourite shop?
  2. What was the last item you bought from there?
  3. Do you know anything about where the product was made?
  4. If not, where would you guess it was made?
  5. Do you care where the product is made?
  6. What do you think of the quality of the product?
  7. What do you think about the quality of the product made in the U.K as opposed to those made elsewhere int he world.

From the responses I received I came to the assumption that the majority of people do not actually care about where the products they buy are made.  The majority did say that the clothes were probably made in “poorer countries” and/or Asia.To an extent people didn’t mind where their clothes came from however when given a moment to think about their response a few did bring up the issue of child labour, and how that did  concern them, but because they do not usually think twice about their purchase  at the time they don’t feel guilty about it. I can’t judge them on the topic discussed, otherwise I’d be a hypocrite. When I go into a shop to buy, a dress for example, I see it for what it is, a dress, a dress I can wear on my next night out with friends and look fashionable, then I would probably check the price label to see if I could afford it…Never in the process of purchasing this said dress do I think to myself, where is it made and who made it. It is said “ignorance is bliss” after all, would our favourite shops be our favourite shops if we knew all the ins and outs of the manufacturing side to them.

When I discussed with people what did they think about the quality of the clothes, they said that they could be better but for what they are paying for it suited them just fine and they didn’t mind that the clothes were made abroad rather here in the U.K . I am beginning to wonder if I should be more concerned for the lack of manufacturing  actually happening close to home,in Britain, considering I am a Textile Design student. What does the future hold for me and my designs (hypothetically speaking if… I were to become a Textile designer with such important decisions to make), must they be “shipped off” to other countries simply to make ends meet and make a possible profit and how would I feel about the wages of the people making the products, the labourers, the hours they work and the wage they are paid.

I feel that most of the shops I go into to not particularly advertise an “eco/ethical friendly” environment. There is usually no information about where the clothes are manufactured other than the labels on the individual garments. As I do study textile design I feel that this is a topic that I should research greater and could be a consideration to be incorporated into my own work.

Chinese Animation

Chinese animation began in 1918 when a piece from the United States names “Out of the Inkwell” came to Shanghai. The cartoon clips were used in advertisements for domestic products, however, the animation industry did not begin until the introduction of the WanSi Brothers in 1926. Until the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Chinese animation was relatively on pace with the rest of the world, a sort of golden age of Chinese animation. I was during this time that films such as “The Camel’s Dance”,the first Chinese film with sound, and the first film of notable length, “Princess Iron Fan” were created. During the Cultural Revolution, many animators were forced to quit either because of the harsh economic conditions or because of the general mistreatment given by the Red Guards. Any surviving animators started to lean closer to propaganda and by the 1980’s, China had been left behind and Japan had emerged as the dominating force in animation in the far east. However, two major changes took place in the 1990’s that brought about some of the biggest changes since the exploration period. The first of these was a political change, the application of a socialist market. This pushed out the traditional planned economy systems meaning that it would no longer be a single entity that was in control of the industries output and income. The second change was a technological change brought about by the arrival of the internet, this bringing new opportunities in the form of Flash animations. Today China is drastically reinventing itself within the animation industry with its influences coming from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Still from "Princess Iron Fan"

In the 1920’s, the WanSi brothers believed that their animations should focus on a style that was distinctly Chinese. This feeling stayed with the company for decades, as such the animations were an extension on other aspects of Chinese art and culture and as such drew most of its content from ancient folklore and manhua. A good example of traditional Chinese animation would be the character Monkey King who was derived from classic Chinese literature “Journey to the West.”.

The first Flash animation community in China was FlashEmpire. It made it’s first appearance in September of 1999. Although it’s content was generally quite amateurish, it was one of the first to offer any form of user created content in mainland China. By 2000 it averaged around 10,000 views daily and with more that 5000 individual pieces of work published, today it has over one million members. Sometime in 2001 Xiao Xiao was created. This is a series of animations about kung fu stick figures. These animations became popular gaining more that fifty million hits, most of these gained in mainland China.

The concept of Chinese animation has begun to loosen up in more recent years, however, it does not lock onto any particular style. The largest change was in 1995 with the release of “Cyber Weapon Z.” Whilst the style is barely indistinguishable from any other anime it has still be categorized as Chinese animation.

In 2001, Time Magazine Asian Edition rated Taiwanese webtoon character A-Kuei as one of the top 100 new figures in Asia. The characters appearance with it’s large head seems to lean more towards a children’s cartoon. These changes signify a welcoming change in Chinese character design as the traditional characters of the folklore like characters have had a hard time gaining international appeal.

A-Kuei

It was published in the first weekly Chinese animation magazine, GoGo Top Magazine, that only one out of twenty favourite characters among children was actually created in China. The Chinese Mainland Marketing Research Company asked 540 kids in four of the mainland cities what their favourite cartoons were, six were Japanese, two were Us made and two were produced in China. It is reported that only around eleven percent of Chinese young people claim to prefer Chinese made cartoons.