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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Jun-18 > And they shall inherit the earth

And they shall inherit the earth

Don’t bank on the youth for a more liberal China

Every generation needs to announce that it is different. But the differences are real in today’s China, a country that has been changing so fast that the experience of each age-group is entirely different to what has gone before.

I was born in the 1980s, in the spring of the new China. When I was a child, most families didn’t have a telephone; by the time I was in my teens, supermarkets started appearing in the cities. It was only once I was a young adult that, in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, change came full-pelt, symbolised by smartphones and the western brands flooding into the shops. Foreign travel became much easier and young people began studying abroad.

All of which means that, when I look to my parents, the gulf between us is wide. My dad left home at 16 to work in a stateowned factory and so did my mother. Both grew up during the Cultural Revolution, which disrupted the whole education system. When higher education was eventually revived in 1977, they were part of a tiny and lucky minority to go to university.

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In Prospect’s June issue: Isabel Hilton, Rana Mitter, Kerry Brown and Yuan Ren debate the rise of China and what it means for the UK and the rest of the world. Hilton argues that China’s ideas could dominate the next century, just as American ideas dominated the last. Rana Mitter charts how those ideas have developed from Confucius to modern political theorist Wang Huning. Kerry Brown explores how Australia is dealing with the rise of China, by reimagining itself as an Asian country and drifting from the US. Yuan Ren asks whether China’s young people will forge a new path for the country in the coming decades. Elsewhere in the issue: Steve Bloomfield explores Jeremy Corbyn’s foreign policy, asking whether Britain would become a silent protester on the global sideline; Jonathan Liew asks if the World Cup has seen better days; Miranda France explores the life and meaning of Frida Kahlo, and Simon Jenkins says Trump’s charge through the China shop of world affairs is not all bad news.