The transcript of Kai-Fu Lee's keynote on China's 'Angry Youth' at The Brookings Institution is a fascinating read full of insight and observations of Chinese youth made by someone with the experience and knowledge to do so.
Dr. Lee was the founder of China-based Microsoft Research Asia and was the founding president of Google China. Kai-Fu Lee, is a household name in China, has written three best selling books and all them aim to help people understand, educate or mentor China's young people.
According to Dr. Lee China’s "angry youth," or fenqing, present a challenging phenomenon to both China and the outside world. These young men and women often use the Internet and other channels of political discourse to publicly express their critical views.
Earlier this year Accenture released a report that found young Chinese (14-27 years old) spend an average of 34 hours each week using real-time communications and social media/networking tools. At 34 hours a week, that number is almost triple the average of the other 12 countries profiled in the report.
So who exactly are China's "angry youth?" According to Kai-Fu Lee:
"So when we talk about angry youth, I think we're talking about post-80's, people born after 1980, that they had access to the internet, and that they often use it to vent their frustrations and that frustration often comes from either their patriotism or their desire to seek that which is righteous, fair, true and transparent.
They care about social issues. They're concerned and they feel that they need to be outspoken to have their voices heard, and they often use the internet to gain knowledge and to have their voice heard.
...when we talk about angry youth, I really don't want to think about this as a very negative term because I think if we think deeply about what angry youth are about, this is people who are young people who have access to information, who have a sense of social repsonsiblity, who have their sense of right and wrong--they are not always right--but they have a sense of right and wrong.
Their hyper-nationalistic and often anti-Western sentiments, which first emerged in the late 1990s and are widely disseminated today, stand in sharp contrast to a generation of Chinese youth just 20 years ago.
What gives rise to the frustrations of China’s "angry youth?" How representative of China’s youth are fenqing? What implications does their existence have for the country’s political trajectory? How will the growing influence of China’s "angry youth" impact China’s foreign policy in years to come?
This keynote aims to both answer these questions as well as educate Westerners on the emerging trends among Chinese youth.