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Resistance within Contexts:A Study of University BBS Youth Culture in China
Unformatted Document Text:  6 Sociocultural Context: Indistinct Dominant Ideology in Today’s China Youths Beliefs in the 1990s In 1991, Li Guo and Li Zhibiao investigated junior middle school student culture in Guangzhou, one of the biggest cities in mainland China. The survey provides us evidences for what the young generation in the early 1990s thought and enjoyed. At around the same time, Julia Kwong (1994) conducted her ethnographical research on the beliefs of the young Chinese. According to their findings, there are three main characteristics of youth culture in the early 1990s when compared to that of the 1980s – individualism, consumerism, and pragmatism. In 1994, the China Youth Research Center also conducted a survey on the values held by Chinese youth. 5 Less than half of the respondents accepted the key components of the Chinese official ideology: collectivism and idealism. Besides, college-educated youths were almost twice as tolerant toward Western culture as the illiterates and those with only elementary education did. Education thus seems to be the most significant factor affecting acceptance of Western culture. Based on this survey and other scholars’ discussions on this topic (e.g. Ding 2001), it has been suggested that the decline of collectivism and idealism, and the rise of individualism and materialism, are obvious among the younger generation of China. In his research on cultural changes in contemporary China, Ding argues that, since a significant portion of the younger generation appears to be alienated from the orthodox values, ‘(T)he counterculture in China today is largely the youth culture’ (Ding 2001: 113). This conclusion might be arbitrary, however. Certainly, young people are more open to Western values, but we cannot jump straightly to the conclusion that youth culture constitutes a large degree of counterculture, especially when the meaning of ‘dominant culture’ or ‘dominant ideology’ is not at all clear in contemporary China. The Rise of Individualism and Materialism after Cultural Revolution Today, China’s situation is much more complicated than it was twenty years ago. In the Mao-era, the central contradiction in Chinese politics and society was the one between revolutionary radicalism and bureaucratic conservatism (Schurmann 1968). Mao Zedong, the supreme revolutionary leader, often sided with the former. Mao acknowledged the contradictions 5 The survey is called ‘the Chinese youth’s social development, 1994-1995’ (Zhongguo Qingnian shehui fazhan yanjiu baogao, 1994 –1995 ). A research report was issued on China youth research (Zhongguo Qingnian Yanjiu, ) no.5 (1995): 8.

Authors: Dong, Dong.
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6
Sociocultural Context: Indistinct Dominant Ideology in Today’s China
Youths Beliefs in the 1990s
In 1991, Li Guo and Li Zhibiao investigated junior middle school student culture in
Guangzhou, one of the biggest cities in mainland China. The survey provides us evidences for
what the young generation in the early 1990s thought and enjoyed. At around the same time,
Julia Kwong (1994) conducted her ethnographical research on the beliefs of the young Chinese.
According to their findings, there are three main characteristics of youth culture in the early 1990s
when compared to that of the 1980s – individualism, consumerism, and pragmatism.
In 1994, the China Youth Research Center also conducted a survey on the values held by
Chinese youth.
5
Less than half of the respondents accepted the key components of the Chinese
official ideology: collectivism and idealism. Besides, college-educated youths were almost twice
as tolerant toward Western culture as the illiterates and those with only elementary education did.
Education thus seems to be the most significant factor affecting acceptance of Western culture.
Based on this survey and other scholars’ discussions on this topic (e.g. Ding 2001), it has been
suggested that the decline of collectivism and idealism, and the rise of individualism and
materialism, are obvious among the younger generation of China.
In his research on cultural changes in contemporary China, Ding argues that, since a
significant portion of the younger generation appears to be alienated from the orthodox values,
‘(T)he counterculture in China today is largely the youth culture’ (Ding 2001: 113). This
conclusion might be arbitrary, however. Certainly, young people are more open to Western values,
but we cannot jump straightly to the conclusion that youth culture constitutes a large degree of
counterculture, especially when the meaning of ‘dominant culture’ or ‘dominant ideology’ is not at
all clear in contemporary China.
The Rise of Individualism and Materialism after Cultural Revolution
Today, China’s situation is much more complicated than it was twenty years ago. In the
Mao-era, the central contradiction in Chinese politics and society was the one between
revolutionary radicalism and bureaucratic conservatism (Schurmann 1968). Mao Zedong, the
supreme revolutionary leader, often sided with the former. Mao acknowledged the contradictions
5
The survey is called ‘the Chinese youth’s social development, 1994-1995’ (Zhongguo Qingnian shehui
fazhan yanjiu baogao, 1994 –1995
). A research report was issued on China youth
research (Zhongguo Qingnian Yanjiu,
) no.5 (1995): 8.


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