Editors’ Notes:
Have you noticed any changes among the Chinese students in recent years? Perhaps you’ve noticed them with luxurious cars on college campus? Or maybe you were surprised by how well they spoke English? Today’s post is written by a current ministry staff and former international student from China who graduated ten years ago She shares some of her observations and insights that should prove helpful to better understand today’s Chinese students.  

The World Travelers

    Swiping through my Wechat news feed during Spring Break, I was amazed to know of the many places that Chinese students traveled to during their vacation. California and Florida were popular destinations. But it was not unusual for some of them to travel across the country to Alaska or leave the country to Europe, Mexico, or Cuba. Some even went back to China for the week. When I was a graduate student ten years ago, I would not have dreamed to have traveled to these places. At that time, only a few of my Chinese classmates could afford a spring break trip. Finances were a major constraint for most of us. But that is no longer a reality for most of the Chinese students today, especially those who were born after 2000s. In addition to having wealth and the ability to travel, there are quite a few other changes as compared to my generation.

Decreasing Parental Influences

    According to Tencent’s research on the post-00s generation of Chinese, 66% say that they make most of their decisions on their own.[1] Traditionally Chinese parents have been much more authoritative in their child’s life. However, “communication between generations is changing significantly, with 29% of parents of this generation willing to listen to their children’s advice, compared to just 19% of parents of post-90s children.”[2] Post-00s have more chances to speak for themselves. One example is that a growing number of Chinese students are choosing liberal art majors, such those that are film/TV related. These degree programs were not favorably viewed by Chinese parents from the last generation because they would not guarantee a stable income. So many parents would not allow their children to study in these fields. I know because I counseled many Chinese students who faced much pressure from their parents to change their majors to finance, business or computer related majors. But these days more and more Chinese undergrads can choose what they desire to study.

Increasing Emphasis on Pursuing One’s Interest

    With much financial independence, this generation has the resources and freedom to explore and develop their personal interests. It is one of the major values of the post-00 generation. 72% of students in the research expressed that, having an understanding and achievement in a field of their personal interest is more valuable than merely having a career. Many students I know have their own websites, Official Accounts on Wechat, podcasts, online store, Youtube Channel and even their own business. Several Chinese restaurants here in Boston are opened up by students. They do not confine themselves to only pursuing a traditional career.

The Mobile and Social Media Age

    Another aspect of change is the early access to technology. When the post-00s generation reached middle school, China had entered the mobile and social media age. Creating content on social media platforms has now  become a primary way for them to communicate and share ideas with others. According to the research, 60% of them use social media to communicate, while another 50% of them use it to present their own achievements. WeiBo (Chinese Twitter), Zhihu, Wechat are the main social media platforms to share thoughts and discuss trending topics. Instagram is also much more commonly used among the Chinese students who study abroad. Have you seen Chinese students sitting around the same table and all use their phones at the same time? They might very well be communicating with each other.

Rising Challenge

    Though this generation of students does not need to worry much about material needs, they have become more aware of their emotional needs. In contrast, most of their parents did not have the resource or “luxury” to deal with their own emotions. As a result of that, their parents do not  know how to respond to their emotional needs. Many students are left to figure out on their own. I have known more and more Chinese students reaching out to health center on their campus to ask for help. Yet due to language and culture differences, many of them could not get any adequate help. There is a growing need for Chinese speaking counselors at Universities today.

Though Chinese students have changed in many ways there is one thing that has stayed the same. They have a need for relationships. I hope these observations will help you to further develop your relationship with your Chinese student friend.

Thoughts to Ponder:

  • What are some key differences you have noticed among Chinese students on your campus?
  • How do these changes inform or change the way you engage with Chinese students?

[1]“2018腾讯00后研究报告(附下载) | 互联网数据资讯中心-199IT | 中文互联网数据研究资讯中心-199IT,” accessed April 1, 2019, http://www.199it.com/archives/728677.html.

[2] “Meet China’s Post-00s Generation – Dragon Trail Interactive,” accessed April 1, 2019, https://dragontrail.com/resources/blog/meet-chinas-post-00s-generation.