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.