The Rush for Gold

The Rush for Gold

The Rush for Gold is an article about Chinese youth and their constant rush to accumulate wealth

It was two o’clock in the afternoon, and I was standing in a local square in Toledo, Spain. Young people were everywhere – chatting, drinking beer and embracing the warm sun. I decided that it was time for lunch, so I randomly chose a restaurant and ordered the “daily menu” (menú del día). As I was enjoying the flavors of the magnificent Spanish cuisine, I suddenly saw a young Spanish man wearing a shirt that said “爱生活“ – Which translates to “love your life”. Witnessing the young crowd “loving their lives”, I could not help but to think about their Chinese counterparts – Most of them are working too hard to “love their lives”.

Despite the poor conditions of the Spanish economy (approximately 20% unemployment rate and economic decline), Spaniards generally enjoy a high quality of life. It seems that life is extremely relaxed and lack the rush and the stress that often accompany high-growth economies such as China’s. Nevertheless, this social quality does not evolve naturally, and Spaniards had to go through many hardships to achieve the high standard of living from which they enjoy today: Spain was founded in 1492, and it was the biggest colonial power in the world for the next three centuries. The role of Spain, however, began to diminish, until the year 1936, in which Spain had plunged into a bloody civil war. The war ended in a nationalist dictatorship, led by Fransisco Franco, which controlled the Spanish government until 1975. It is only in recent decades that Spain have become a robust, modern democracy and one of the fastest-growing standards of living nations in Europe.

The Cultural Factor – The Rush for Gold

Various reasons can explain the unprecedented economic growth of China compared with that of other developing countries: the combination of Confucian culture and of an authoritarian regime creates an atmosphere in which economic growth can thrive. Without interferences, policy makers are free to set goals and to achieve them. Nevertheless, one has to wonder about the path that Beijing has chosen for itself and about the goals it wishes to achieve for its people.

The Rush for Gold. China is in the process of rapid economic development; During this process, goals are sometimes forgotten. In a previous post, “Has the Vision Became a Reality?“, I asked whether the quality of life, the declared goal of the economic reforms, has genuinely been improved – a question I cannot answer. However, it seems that policy makers are starting to realize that economic growth is not more important than raising the standards of living. An article posted today on The Wall Street Journal maps out the guiding rule of the new five year plan (2011-2015): To improve the quality of life of people. “We need to reconfigure the line of thinking when it comes to growth,” Zhang Ping, head of China’s most powerful economic ministry, the National Development and Reform Commission, told a news conference Sunday. “In the past five-year plan, it was absolutely necessary to prioritize maintaining growth,” Mr. Zhang said. “Now we want to put more emphasis on ensuring and improving people’s livelihood.”

During the economic development process, many ways of life that were once prominent in China have been neglected; One of which is the ability to appreciate the “little things” in life. A saying in Chinese “安居乐业“ (Ānjūlèyè) means to live and to work in peace and contentment. This way of life is becoming more scarce and more difficult to implement for many young adults.

“The rush for gold” symbolizes yet another changing element of Chinese culture. Many hope that the new five year plan will allow young adults to shift their focus in life away from accumulating wealth, so they can one day, much like the Spaniards, enjoy a more relaxed life.

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About the Author

Lior Paritzky is the Editor in Chief and Manager of Laowaiblog, an internet platform that provides opinion and views about social phenomena in modern China. Look for Lior on Twitter: Liorpari