Young people of the time, mostly born in late 1950s and early 1960s, had already experienced several significant events: The "cultural revolution" came to an end in 1976. College entrance examinations resumed a year later, promising an equal opportunity for students seeking college experiences. In late 1978, China put into effect its reform and opening-up policy.
Reports from the West
Thomas B. Gold, a sociologist from Harvard University, . . . spent a year until early 1980 at Fudan University in Shanghai. . . . Gold describes young people in Communist China's cities as alienated and cynical . . . [A] Dolly Parton fan wanted to make a contribution to his country and to do interesting work . . . "Unchallenged by his job," Gold added, "he spends most of his time either gossiping about which cadre is sleeping with which female employee, or trying to exchange cassette tapes out on the street."
"Many young Chinese reported apathetic, cynical"
The Associated Press
April 14, 1981
In China everyone works and everyone has a job, but usually not his own choosing.
Many youngsters are placed in the nursery almost from birth. Some are picked up by parents in the evening; other go home only on weekends.
Grandparents also play a large part in helping to care for the children, and they find that their pensions help the family make ends meet.
"China's working force"
Christian Science Monitor
Jan 23, 1981
Gu Jun, a sociology professor at Shanghai University, was himself a youth in 1981. "At the time, Chinese young people were mostly ambitious and had an inextinguishable passion for knowledge. The country was experiencing a big social change, with a main theme of opening-up. How could most of them be apathetic?"
Zhou Xiaozheng, a professor of sociology at Remin University of China: "In the early days of reform and opening-up, people's lives were comparatively poorer, and the political situation was everybody's concern. Young people nowadays are all beneficiaries of opening-up, but they seem to care less about politics and social events."