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Crazy Rich Young Asians? Chinese Netizens React to Gen Z Attitudes Report with Scorn and Despair

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Confident, carefree, and crazy for luxury brands.

No, we’re not talking about the rich kids of Beverly Hills. It’s China’s Generation Z who are living it up compared to their international peers, according to a major study of global habits and attitudes by research firm OC&C Strategy Consultants.

These days, it seems like every consulting firm and business outlet is trying to dissect the habits of Chinese youth, but what do Chinese young people make of these surveys themselves? This OC&C report has caused quite a stir on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform.

Raised in an era of rapid economic growth and digital breakthroughs, and spoiled by parents and grandparents often as only children, these teens are big spenders and even bigger dreamers, the report says. They are excited about the future and won’t let international politics or economic prospects dampen their mood.

“This is a generation that has never known worry, so they spend more and save less,” Adam Xu, a partner at OC&C based in Shanghai, told Bloomberg. “We don’t know if they’ll grow up to be successful but we do know that they are already a significant spending force that consumer brands must pivot towards.”

Defining Gen Z as those born in 1998 and after, the study involves 15,500 respondents in nine countries: China, Brazil, Turkey, Poland, Italy, France, Germany, the US and the UK. Based on almost 2,000 responses from China, youth account for 15% of their household’s spending despite not yet making money themselves. Thanks to generous allowances and hongbao (red envelopes), these consumers spent more than 50,000RMB (about 7,500USD) on luxury goods in 2017.

But we didn’t need this survey to tell us young Chinese like to spend — just look at the success of Single’s Day — or at least, look like they’re spending money.

Compare this to their US and UK counterparts, whose household spending is around 4% lower. The survey notes, “Members of this demographic grew up, or were born into, an era defined by political and economic turmoil. The financial crisis of 2007, and the 9/11 attacks that took place six years earlier, meant childhood was a time of relative hardship set against a backdrop of increasing anxiety for many Western Gen Zers, as both the ‘war on terror’ and Great Recession took hold.”

As the oldest members of China’s Gen Z prepare to hit the big 2-1 this year, many are optimistic and believe they’ll have better lives than previous generations.

So what do Chinese netizens think about this survey?

Recently, the hashtags “95-ers can really spend money” (#95后很会花钱#) and “American media’s perception of Chinese 95-ers” (#美媒眼中的中国95后#) have been trending on Weibo, the latter generating over 140 million impressions. Below are some of the comments:

“The media is right. Most of them [Gen Z] don’t come from money, but have figured out loans. Their vanity causes trouble, resulting in high consumption.”

CrWzy_ replies, “The key is that many have become ‘laolai’ [deadbeat], meaning society has to foot the bill for bad debts.”

Speaking of “deadbeats”:

New App: Not Hot Singles, but Untrustworthy Debtors in Your Area

Some were quick to look at the bigger picture.

“It’s because ’90s kids can’t see any hope. House, car, children. We can only spend money on things we can see. How can you not rely on parents? Even if you graduated from Tsinghua University [often seen as China’s best], there are few people who can afford a house, and they’re saving for the down payment until they’re 30, 40 years-old. Even if we bought a house or a car, children’s healthcare and education is stressful. We can’t afford to play. Thanks, the ’90s generation is done for, go find another generation.”

“Forget it, it’s because China’s wages are low and prices are high — don’t blame young people. At the beginning, it was ’80s kids who were abandoned, then ’90s kids, and now it’s ’95-ers.”

A few users were not shy about throwing shade at the US.

“A country where government departments have been shut down still has time to express its views.”

Others were salty about not being the center of attention anymore.

“What I care about is how people aren’t concerned with ’90s kids anymore — it’s all about those 95-ers and ’00s kids.”

And some were just out there to (fake) flex:

“I am now in my 20s with a lot in savings, two sports cars, two properties on Beijing’s Third Ring Road, and I travel abroad every year. I haven’t relied on my parents or friends or a sugar daddy for any of this. All of it is from my own imagination.”

Cover photo by Yiran Ding on Unsplash

Julienna Law
    Julienna Law is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California. In her free time, she likes designing graphics, studying Chinese, and listening to the seven loves of her life, K-pop group BTS.

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