About Dalton Garner

I am a 3rd Product Design Student studying at Duncan Of Jordanstone at the University of Dundee.

Aspirations Between The Generations

Aspirations are a thing that has changed a lot between the generations in China. In order to see how much has changed, we must examine the extremes of the generations that are alive today, the young aged 18 – 25 and the elderly aged 65+.  When growing up, in this example leaving secondary school and continuing with life, the two are very different, with varied outlooks and desires with what to do with their lives. There are 3 aspects that I am going to touch on in this post, the change in career choices in China, the views on marriages and the way they have changed over the years, and how the different generations plan, or not planning, for the future.

For the elderly generation, everything was very ‘by the book’. The same life was expected for a lot of people in those days and there were very few who did not conform and not live the life that was expected of them.

The jobs at the times were looked upon very differently than they are now. A lot of work was very hard and physical labour based, this did not seem a problem at the time as a lot of the health and safety acts now in place did not exist then. This resulted in men working very long hours in very dangerous environments, however, this was not seen as a problem like it would now.

In relation to the younger generation, there is a big difference. Increasing numbers of younger Chinese citizens are choosing careers that are not of the norm. Hard labour appears to be a thing of the past, with the younger generation making it out that they do not want to ‘get their hands dirty’ and avoid many hard labored career paths.

There also seems to be a need for fame with the younger generation, as if a simple life is not enough for them, where as the older generation did not seem to have this desire to live a life filled with fame, choosing a more comfortable relaxed life, with a steady job.

It is almost taken for granted that each Chinese person will get married, however the views on marriage have changed between the generations. For the older generation they would find a partner and marry fairly early, 9 times out of 10 staying with this partner for the rest of their life, with a very low chance of a divorce happening. However with the younger generation, thing have changed over the years. It is a lot less taboo to marry a lot later in life or even not marry at all, which with the other generation, was shunned upon by society, thus making a lot of people marry for the sake of social approval and acceptance. Divorces are a lot more common with younger people, which lead to an idea that they try and rush love, sometimes ending in failure.

Same sex marriage is another aspect that has dramatically changed over the years. With the elderly generation, it was almost forbidden to even be open about being homosexual, making a homosexuals lie about their sexuality purely so that they would not be persecuted by the public and treated as an outcast. This has vastly changed with the younger generation. With so much diversity in life in China, homosexuals no longer feel as though they have to ‘stay in the closet’ and can actually embrace their sexuality and live their life as they wish to, not as traditional and outdated public want them to. In many cases this results in a lot of same sex marriages, supporting the fact that the younger generation are a lot more relaxed and tolerant of the taboos that surround marriage.

 

For someone of the elderly generation, the future was a thing to plan for. Many people would begin to save and out aside pensions in order to live a comfortable and almost care free life after retirement.  With the younger people, it seems as though they are a lot more live for the moment. The phrase ‘you only live once’ is often used as an excuse for the way some of the younger generations live. They seem to spend what money they have a lot more frivolously, with little care about saving for their later years, thus living in the now. A lot of elderly people, when they were young,

were content with China and what the country had to offer, whereas the younger people are eager to travel and explore other cultures and places around the world. This in essence is not a bad thing, curiosity can be a very good thing for someone to have, however if these younger Chinese people begin to neglect their home country, it can lead to the country being angry at this generation for having a lack of interest in this beautiful country.

In both cases, there are positives and negatives. The younger generation have managed to escape the conformist ways of the past but the elderly generation still have the passion for their homeland and its traditions.

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Made In China

Made in China is a ‘brand’ that has grown dramatically in the past 20 years. When we think of this ‘brand’, we instantly come to the idea that everything has China printed on it. This may sometimes be the case, however in nearly all cases of products being made in China, they are labeled ‘Made in Taiwan’ or ‘Made in Taiwan R.O.C’, R.O.C being the Republic of China. Taiwan is one of the capitals for production in China and perhaps the world.

An interesting quote from the movie Armageddon sums this point up very nicely.

“American Components, Russian Components, all the same, all made in Taiwan!”

The working conditions in China have remained the same. The factories are dark and dingy, workers having to do very long hours with very little pay, that barely covers their living costs in the real world. The reason behind this is that large international companies, Apple and Nike being two of the worst, pay next to no money for the products to be manufactured by these factories, then these companies sell the products for a ridiculous amount of product.

Cheap work is often associated with a very low quality outcome across a large range of products. However, this is no longer the case with products in China. China has quickly become the ‘in’ manufacturing country. Many of the factories have increased the quality of the products, that they are contracted to make, thus making their clients happy. Also they are making a lot more business for themselves, as they are getting a lot of good press about their high quality and low prices, but also distinguishing themselves from other producers, not only in China but also in the likes of global competitors, with countries such as India. Another good aspect to these manufacturers is there is not a lot they will not make. From everything from cars to mobile phones and even to clothing and textiles, these factories appear to have it covered.

 

However, this all being said, a lot of western countries and the consumers that live there prefer to buy products that are manufactured in that country. The usual argument is that they are trying to support local economy and boost the homegrown companies. But many of the people that hold these opinions do not realize that they are helping destroy the economy in China. In China, there is not as much disposable income as there is in America. With this in mind, many Chinese people cannot afford a lot of these company’s products. Without a steady income of national spend, these companies have to branch out and gain income from an international market. And if no one internationally buys these products and opts for the exact same or very similar products from their own country, this can only lead to the death of some of these companies. This is slowly becoming the case in China.

Now we cannot force to buy people the products and until there country is put into the position that countries such as China are in, in a economical sense, they will not be able to experience what it is like for a countries manufacturers to struggle. But is this what it should take for these western countries to sympathize with countries like China and purchase the products they produce?

Product Design in China

When asked to think about products in China, many think of the idea of ‘Made in China’. This is a somewhat burden for the country. They are seen as one of the global leaders in manufacture, however, is deemed very low in the actual design aspect. China is ranked 49th in the world in terms of the growth of productivity. So in aspects of the design world, China needs to grow rapidly and actually start being a major part of the designing as well as the ‘making’.

There has been a current trend recently with large companies such as Sony, where the Chinese consumers are getting tired and almost bored of the same ‘designed somewhere else’ products. Two main reasons for this thinking is one, that these large global companies are, rightfully so, designing for the world and not just China. And two, that supporting these large international companies, takes away business from Chinese companies and therefore not supporting the country economically.

When people are ‘shopping’ or buying consumables, they seek for products that are from the country we live. The ‘homegrown’ feel is one that is very desired and sought after, whether it is for televisions or local organic food. So why should China be any different? Chinese people want the same high quality products from the likes of Sony and Microsoft but designed and marketed in China by a Chinese company.

This sort of thinking and want can help turn China intoa design driven country, that will boost the economics and put China on the map globally in terms of design. Design fields, especially product design, are one of the most popular design majors in China with a lot of fantastic students graduating. With all of the interest in design in the country, Chinese companies do not need to source international designers, where they have thousands of gifted graduates eager to work and build their careers. The positive of having thesenational designers is that they will understand the Chinese market a lot better. They know what works, and what doesn’t in regards to both actual products and the marketing behind them. However, when faced with its neighbor Japan, China is still in its infant years of its design life.

“The difference between technical skills in China and the West isn’t that great,” says Liu Guangzhong, a professor at Tsinghua and an independent consultant. “The problem is in innovation.”

One of the big problems facing the country is innovation. It is very easy for designers to simply remodel existing ideas and not actually developing ideas of their own. This bad habit has resulted in China failing to grow a global but also commercial level. Chinese companies have released very clever interesting products, however, a mass majority appear to be ‘copies’ of the western world’s work. This shows that China’s design fields need to strengthen their research and development in order to design some new and breakthrough products that can rival any of the western world.

Innovation shouldn’t be a problem for China though. China brought the world the compass, a device that changed the world dramatically when it was made. Understandably, design was different a few hundred years ago when the compass was invented, but this still proves that China has the capability and the minds to create something that will again dramatically change the face of the design world.

A fantastic example of a Chinese company that is a heavy hitter in terms of design and is well up there with the large American companies is Huawei. Huawei is a technology design company based in China with a workforce of over 110,000 workers, which is a larger number than Microsoft. The average age of the worker is 29, which puts the company in a very good position, as there is fresh young minds that can help this company explode and become one of the global heavyweights in the design world. In 2010, Huawei made a profit of 28.458 billion Yuan, which is around 2.86 billions pounds, thus proving that this company can make products that sell and have the capability to grow vastly over the coming years.

To sum up product design in China, there is a lot of room for growth. The country has the capability to grow but needs to tackle the problem of innovation and the lack of it, and with that conquered, China has the potential to become an unstoppable force in the world of design.

China to the Western World

China is known for being a country of history and tradition. From the Great Wall of China to Terra Cota warriors and even the Yangtze River, China seems to be a country that markets itself by using its history. Or this is as the western world sees China. China is a country that is growing at an accelerated rate. However, it still receives millions of visitors from all around the world, coming to experience a historical China and be part of the many traditions that exist.

Below is a picture of how the western world sees China, timeless architecture. But the country has since expanded from this image and modernized the larger cities the same way that New York and London have. Beijing has spectacular modern architecture and a towering skyline that would rival any of that of the western world.

James Hattersley from the University of Salford was interviewed about his trip to China during his gap year from university.

‘My trip to China was extremely enjoyable! I went out there for just over two weeks, and travelled from Shanghai, up through the eastern coast, stopping at various towns and cities along the way, such as Nanjing and Qingdao and finishing up in Beijing. Throughout the trip, I saw many of the points of interest that China has to offer, such as the birth place of Confucius, The Forbidden Temple, part of the Great Wall of China and climbing a mountain in flip flops. Sleeping in youth hostels, I was able to talk to various people and grasp a basic sense of Chinese culture etiquette.’

A very large problem for a lot of visitors to China is the language barrier. China has two main languages, Mandarin and Cantonese, which can be very daunting for western visitors, as both are very hard languages to learn and having numerous languages spoken in one area can cause a lot of communication issues. James went on to speak about the language barrier.

‘Perhaps the hardest part of the trip was the language barrier, not speaking Mandarin or Cantonese myself, making a purchase or gaining directions when I was on my own, away from the tour guide, became very difficult as it was hard to communicate what it was I wanted to know or buy.’

The Chinese view of the western world can be rather racially insensitive, however some of it is understandable. The intimidating image of the ‘white man’ goes back hundreds of years, when the western world invaded China. Many Chinese people are still prejudice towards westerners to the extent that they will openly shun them with no shame. James discussed a racist incident that occurred during his time in the country.

‘There was a man and his young daughter who saw my group walking down the street. He proceeded to tell his daughter that the white devils, referring to the white members of the group as the ‘white devils’, would take her away if she would not behave.’

These people see the ‘white man’ as some sort of intimidating force that will punish a country if it opposes it in anyway, almost like a dictator of countries. Both sides of the world have very stereotypical and even racist views of the opposite side. This is down to the fact that either side not knowing any better. Cinema can take a big part of the blame for this. In Hollywood, the east is depicted as a country of dragons and martial arts, where as the west is depicted as a ‘bunch of gunslingers’ originating from John Wayne films.

These views will remain to exist until both sides start to become less ignorant about the rest of the world and truly discover what the outside world is really like, rather than believing everything that is shown on television.