Many would agree that one of the most useful ways of understanding China is from a generational perspective. The intense political, social, and economic changes that China has experienced during the past four decades have brought about the formation of very different generations. These generations have each lived through different and at times difficult times, resulting in each of them to view and possess certain attitudes towards various aspects of life. This is something hardly seen in other parts of the world, but China is such a fast changing market that it has created totally different generations or sets of consumers in this short space of time.
The oldest generation of China grew up during the early years of the Mao Zedong era as well as living through the difficulties of the Cultural Revolution. I have found that they tend to be more conservative and having been still affected by the old China, they still hold traditional Chinese values. These people lived through many changes during the past thirty years, but have a distinctly nationalist outlook. Many have the feeling that their country has let them down and that they have missed out on opportunities that are now currently on available in China. The generation after that, which some have come to call the “Open Door Generation” was part of China’s transformation as well as the development of the first middle class to be produced in the country. They were the first generation to get their hands on money and because of it this generation possessed a strong sense of materialism. In order to limit the Chinese population, the One Child policy was introduced. The “Take Off Generation” was the first to experience the effects of this policy. Since families could only have one child, their single, precious child was spoiled and given every privilege, which differs from the old Confucian society where elders were obeyed, shown reverence and given privileges. The newest generation, the young people of China, has become much freer than their ancestors; they take greater risks, and largely believe in self-expression and in the words of Lady Gaga being “born that way.” This generation has grown up only knowing a growing and prosperous China, and being that the One Child policy is still in effect, consumer and psychological behavior has been shaped in favor of young adults that have been accustomed to having things handed easier to them. This has all allowed the infiltration of western culture, brands, and globalization to become stronger and has fostered a new desire for the freedoms and lifestyles of the West, and a greater awareness of Western ideas.
These Chinese generations have different desires for technology. Their generational characteristics play an important role in determining their attitudes towards new technologies. The biggest media phenomenon in the world is the Internet. China still remains a controlled society in regards to mass media. If consumers want to see something global that does not suit government favor, than they use the Internet. The Internet has allowed information to be circulated very rapidly. The use of the Internet can be seen in all generations. Each generation has their own specific reasons for using the Internet, but it is well utilized by all generations.
The oldest of the Chinese generations are the furthest removed from technology. They had not grown up with these advancements and were not at all prepared for the emergence of new technologies like the Internet. A few of them have a desire to explore the new technologies but are rarely given the opportunities or just simply do not have the patience to learn and understand how to use them. In some families, the younger family members simply do not trust them to maintain the safety or security of the device. Older generations seem to be extremely aware of the educational benefits of new technology and help to provide the opportunities to use these technologies to their children. For their personal use though, they are fine with not using it or accept hand-me-down devices from their children.
With computers rapidly occupying workspaces during the mid to late 90s, the generation of Chinese parents has had as many compliments as they have complaints in regards to technology. The majority of the people were not educated about technology at school but had to step into the workplace where computers and new technologies had taken over. Those who had the rare chance to learn how to use a computer usually secured better jobs. However, this Chinese generation has been starting to consider the negative effects of technology. Some attitudes towards it have now started to include how technology has taken too much away from their physical world and an imbalance in their work and personal lives. The youth of China though was born with technology. With the vast majority growing up as a single child, phones, computers, and games were used to substitute for a lack of socialization with a sibling at home. The Internet has become a very convenient outlet through which to socialize with people around the world. This has led to western ideas and culture to become more popular in China. Today you will find the young, urban Chinese drinking Starbucks, texting and surfing the web obsessively, while their parents have a greater desire to climb the rungs of the corporate ladder.