The development of china and how it has effected different generations

China 100 years ago is on a completely different spectrum as it is in the modern day. A lot of traditional values have been lost in its rapid modernisation over the past 50 or so years. 


Beijing over 100 years ago


Beijing in the modern day


As China continues to move swiftly through an economic incline, there is a strong feud between priorities in integration with the western world and conservation of tradition. From the 1950’s to the modern day, the people of China have gone through a lot of significant changes to get to its economic position today.

Throughout the 1950’s, China fell under the power of communist leader Mao Zedong. This was Chinas first major leap into becoming a new more developed country. In the beginning, a vast population of the country saw Mao’s tactics as a good thing. However, as it eventually led to famine and poverty people began to reconsider. Mao’s first objective was to bring forth economic improvements. Landlord ownership and peasant workers were replaced with the development of heavy industry and the construction of new factories. This put a lot of negative attitudes amongst the citizens of China as people began to lose their homes and jobs. However, the majority of people saw it as a positive step into a greater China as it began catching up with the rest of the world. Although one of the biggest aims was to reach an economic stance as high as surrounding countries, foreign investment in China essentially came to a halt and China was plunged into isolation. 


Mao Zedong propaganda poster

In 1958, there was a flurry to quickly transform a once rural China into an industrial economy. This movement was branded the ‘Great Leap Forward’. It all happened too fast and eventually hit a bottle neck when the country was thrown into a state of economic and humanitarian downfall where 30 million people famished. Mao’s journey into power was the first steps of traditional abolition in the rapid modernisation of the country. Fear was introduced and people began to lose certain freedoms. The harsh reality kicked in that association with the right people was vitally important for survival. This sense of fear and caution was undoubtedly passed down to the next generation.

1960’s and 70’s were the years of the working class. not only was western culture repressed under Mao’s rule, traditional Chinese culture was also put to a stand still in order to keep focus away from the past and onto the future. Social institutions, school and even public transport were virtually eliminated. Places of religious worship were de-faced and living conditions became very tough. Mao’s one mission was to expand. any distractions were destroyed.

Although teens in the US and India held strong values and distrustful attitudes towards their leaders due to a corruptive nature, the teens in China actually became a force that helped stabilise government. This was mainly due to the lack of education and nothing to occupy their time. 


Red Guards- mass paramilitary social movement of young peoples in the Peoples Republic of China, who were mobilised by Mao in 1996 and 1997. 

Due to their narrow mindedness and lack of independence, this generation became known as the lost generation. They did not have a voice of their own. Education was unnecessary and disobeying authority was out of the question. Anything foreign or old fashioned had no value to them what so ever. they had one aim in life and that was to follow the governments plans to modernise the country. 

When Mao eventually died in 1976, the lost generation became true to its name. With no leader to carry them, the cult crumbled. They became disillusioned and their lack of independence and education meant they were severely unprepared for the modern world. 

By mid 1980’s, living standards had improved significantly and an urban middle class was developing. This generation grew up with more personal rights and freedoms. Way of living was less claustrophobic and people became much more open minded. Dend Xiaoping was in leadership and re-introduced traditional chinese culture, religion and foreign integration. Although China was still growing, it brought back all of the important things that made it an interesting culture. Mainland China became custom to many western pastimes. pop culture was introduced as well as american cinema, nightlife american brands and even western slang. this approach to modernisation was much more substantial to that of Mao’s. 

Despite economic and cultural evolvement, China remained undemocratic. The 1989 protests in Tianaman square spread awareness of China’s corrupt government ruling worldwide. People of china began to show a voice of there own by showing force against the government and taking matters into their own hands. this generation had come a long way since the lost generation under the rule of Mao.


photo taken from the Tiananmen square protests

Information that was unaccessible during the time of Zedongs rulings became much more attainable. Not only were education opportunities back on track, but worldwide knowledge was flooding in. There was a measured balance between the comeback of Chinas cultural heritage and the chance of new opportunities in the western world. 

During 1990’s and early 2000’s, cities grew as people moved from rural cities, leaving behind farms to work in factories. Unfortunately they also left behind their history. China was no longer a totalitarian state but it was still to reach democracy. Perhaps the reason for such a change in individual attitudes was to do with one child policy which was introduced in 1979. Single children, being the main focus of their parents and grandparents, generally seem to grow up with higher self esteem and confidence than children with many siblings. This generation was an abundance of confident teens creating a stronger, more forceful country beyond the government rule. 

Made in China

‘Made in China’. A set of words that seem to be virtually impossible to avoid when buying any goods ranging from electronics to clothing. It is undoubtedly one of the most recognised labels worldwide.


Funnily enough it would appear that a large amount of the people amongst the hustle and bustle of shoppers are ignorant towards the prospect of where the goods they are buying are manufactured and produced. Their concerns generally tend to extend no further than the reputation of the shops they are buying from and the quality of the product they are buying. Little thought goes into the fact that almost every product, especially those stored in large chains, began life in a factory, or even a sweat shop in China.

Other than allegations of poor quality products and cheap labour, it has also been recorded that there have been many danger hazards concerning goods from China. There have been accusations of tainted foods, lead coated toys and poisonous pet foods. In 2007, roughly 170,000 tubes of chinese manufactured toothpaste were recalled from stores for containing diethylene glycol. In the same year there was a recall in pet foods which resulted in several thousand deaths of cats and dogs.

These are just a few of the products that begin their journey into retail in a chinese factory. The public buy these goods without giving a second thought as to where they have primarily come from.


In producing goods, the Chinese have the same approach as they do with most things; quantity over quality. The cause of these poor quality goods is driven by efforts to boost exports, ultimately leading to industrial growth and increase of employment for chinese people. Other factors leading to poor quality in the industry stem back to corruption.


Despite such allegations, there seems to be no confinement for chinese manufactured goods – foods, toys, clothing, drugs, toothpaste, the list is never-ending. I guess a lot of this has to do with lenient regulations and cheap costs. In fact there seems to be a steady increase in Chinese manufactured product sales. Although the majority of clothes and electric goods are knock offs, they meet international standards and are much cheaper than the ‘real deal’. So many people these days are overly materialistic and money orientated, that when it comes to designer labels and expensive clothes, the don’t take into consideration how cheap these overly priced products actually were to manufacture. When considering ‘Made in China’ the first thing that people think is ‘cheap’. Little thought is put into the massive work force and ridiculously cheap labour.


When I asked a friend what his thoughts were on buying goods from china, his immediate response was ‘well, of course i don’t approve of child labour’. After a long pause he laughed to himself and said ‘but i guess, China is one of the biggest exporters in the world. Therefore the product will ultimately be satisfactory.’ The way he said it was very interesting. Personally I believe that his reaction to the question reflects the attitude of a vast majority of the public. When you ask people about buying goods from China their immediate reply will be of a moral nature, concerning cheap labour and poor conditions. However, reality is far from morally angelic. without putting someone in the spot and literally forcing them to think about where their products come from, they tend not to. They blindly follow trends and crazes, giving virtually no thought to the process of the production.


Although people like to stick to their morals, at the end of the day, it is the product itself and how useful it will be to the person buying it that matters the most. Its sad to think that this is how the majority of society works, but it is. I myself and everyone that I have spoken to are all guilty of the same ignorance. Even those who believe themselves to be boycotters of chinese manufactured goods are guilty. It has come to an extent where it is far to difficult to avoid. Another friend told me that he liked to avoid goods made in China because he doesn’t trust them. When i told him that most of the products he buys are probably manufactured in China, he was adamant to the fact that hardly any of the clothes he owns come from china. I asked him to check the label on his t-shirt, and low and behold, there it was ‘Made in China’. Most people in developed countries will own something ‘Made in China’. They’re taking over!

Why China has failed to make a big influential impact on western animation

Affirmation of creative interest in rendering the figure in motion date way back to the still drawings of palaeolithic cave paintings. More examples can be found in such art of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. Because they had not yet acquired the means to bring these artistic depictions to real movement, they represented them in still images.

However, the first invention to bring these figurative drawings to life with motion was the zoetrope. the earliest zoetrope was created in China by inventor Ting Huan. the zoetrope is a spinning cylinder with still images on the inner wall and open slits around the circumference, that when looked through, show the images inside which appear to be moving if spun at the right speed. The zoetrope was one of the first significant developments in animation history.

However, since the invention of the zoetrope which spun off the fascination with animated film, China’s influence in the industry has rapidly dropped. Textiles, jewellery and other areas of chinese design have become very successful worldwide due to the synthetic traditional cultural style. However, animation seems to be the one subject where the chinese style has failed to innovate foreign tastes.

In the year 2000, the government brought into play a policy to further establish the animation industry. By 2010, the minutes of animation produced in China had increased from 4000 in 2003, to 220,000. Although China is showing a clear development in the animation industry, it does not match up to the animation boom occurring world wide. China has a long way to go before it becomes an influential role model in animation.


Another reason for China’s seemingly unpopular animation industry is due to lack of support from the Chinese government. restraint on animation content for example could be due to strict government censorship. in order to promote the chinese animation industry, the state administration of radio, film and television banned any foreign cartoons from being broadcast between 5 and 8 p.m in 2006. The government spends lots of money on animation festivals which attract a great deal of attention but fail to successfully promote the animation film industry. This seems rather pointless therefore, when you consider the fact that the money put into these extravagant events, could be spent on centres and materials to improve animation quality.

images taken from the China Internation Cartoon and Animation festival


Another reason for the lack of recognition in the Chinese animation industry is perhaps the fact that their neighbouring country Japan is one of the most successful creators of animation in the world. according to John Lent, author of Animation in Asia and the Pacific, one of China’s weak attributes in animation is the story telling. any good story’s they have are summarily turned into big blockbuster motion pictures.

Li Wuwei, elected vice chairman of the 11th national committee of Chinese people’s political consultative conference explains the lack of interest in Chinese animation. ”we are a big country with a rich culture, but not yet a strong cultural influence. one important reason for this is the lack of innovation on culture. Therefore, our cultural industry is weak in its radiation power and attraction.”

One of the cardinal problems with Chinese animation is the industries ambiguous direction of development. Many animation producers have a very distinct lack of knowledge on chinese culture and in order to attract a foreign audience, they unthinkingly abide by rules and models of other animations about the globe. In doing so, they lose that certain sentimental aspect and become less valuable in the animation world. Their productions hold no special influential quality for foreign viewers and alienate any cultural value to those from China.

On the other hand there are certain animators in china who trap themselves within tradition cliche’s, ignoring the integration of other cultures. mainly the story lines are too embedded in Chinese culture to make them playable to audiences abroad. There is a balance to be made before Chinese animation will become popular worldwide.

Princess Iron Fan (1941) China’s first animated feature film




Religion versus superstition in China

All over the world you will find a vast variety of mainstream religion, cults and superstition. Where religion plays a massively important role in most civilizations, superstition has become a big part in everyday day life for the people of China. So much so that is difficult to determine between these supernatural beliefs and popular religion.

For many, superstition has become less of a belief and more of a custom. People look to superstition as complacency, solving their problems, rather than facing them directly. However, the likely hood of these beliefs being 100% genuine is rather low. It could be possible that these ‘rules’ are followed simply out of fear that in the risk of ignoring them, something bad could potentially happen.

Despite the rapid incline in modernization throughout the past three years in China, they have clung onto these traditional customs and beliefs. If examined close enough it is clear that these superstitious beliefs can apply to pretty much anything in life, ranging from weddings, funerals, festivals and religion. A traditional Chinese house will have many concealed superstitious secrets that at first glance seem to be decorative ornaments, or even standard architectural designs. A common similarity in traditional Chinese homes is that the houses are built facing the south, to avoid ruin being brought upon the family who live there. It is also not a coincidence that Chinese homes will customarily have a step leading up into them. This is a superstitious practice involving the belief that spirits cant walk up steps. Many other methods are used to avoid the presence of unwanted spirits. As well as being unable to walk up steps, spirits also cannot turn corners, so some homes even have large screens behind their gates to stop them from entering.

Other Feng Shui examples:

*All staircases must have an even number of stairs

*A mirror must not be positioned so that it shows the reflection of a window

*A bathroom must not be positioned above a dining room

*A master bedroom should not be positioned above a garage

The only places in China that you are less likely to stumble upon traditional superstitious practices are in the more communist run areas. In 1999 the government even launched a campaign against superstition and unauthorized spiritual groups.

Aside from the large number of strong believers, those who are skeptical frequently find themselves inflicted and even enriched by superstitious practices. Feng Shui is a form of Chinese art and design, which balances the negative and positive and applies to pretty much everything. Because the beliefs that shape the foundations of Feng Shui cannot be supported with scientific proof, it is technically a form of superstition, and one of the most popular at that. Although China based, Feng Shui has become an important part of many cultures, especially when designing a home. It can vary from such things as minimal clutter and good quality air and lighting, to more complicated affairs involving the alignment of furniture and the design of buildings.


In the western world you would associate superstitious practices with the more eccentric person. In China it is common for even the most established businessmen to frequently visit fortunetellers, seeking guidance for future business plans. Fortunetellers and monks are much more valuable in China than psychiatrists or counselors.

Chinese New Year plays a massive role and incorporates many different forms of superstition and requires the use of many superstitious practices so as to ensure good luck for the New Year ahead. Perhaps this is why fortunetellers are so popular in china as they use astrology rather than science and psychiatry. I get the impression that this fascination in superstition is rooted in the fact that people in China find comfort in the idea that there are stronger forces beyond what we know, guiding us and keeping us safe.