Abstract: Based on the analysis of a related questionnaire, this article probes into some attributes of the situation and awareness of youth’s participation in politics in Chinese urban areas in the present background of China’s reform. These attributes include the split of their political participation awareness from their concrete political participation activities, their recognition of some fundamental political principles, their deep concern about China’s social problems as well as the different levels of political participation due to the imbalanced development of different regions, industries and social strata.
Owing to the singleness of the channel and means of political participation, there exists certain degree of indifference to politics among the youth, which is closely intertwined with the prevalent values in certain period of time. Under the influence of economic utilitarianism budding in economic opening-up, the values of pragmatism and individualism register a large proportion among the Chinese youth. Guided by pragmatism and individualism in the reality, they tend to go to extremes in the understanding of those values.
For instance, they take the negative effects of reform as the positive ones; they emphasize on their individual needs while ignoring the collective interests of the whole community. The author hereby holds that on the basis of the youth’s misunderstanding of those values, their behavior will inevitably cause the separation of the awareness from their behavior in their political participation. Hence, they can hardly form a unified force in participating in politics. Instead, they may become the negative factor disturbing China’s political development and social stability.
Political participation is a kind of activity for the common residents to participate in political life and to exert an influence on the form, the operation, the rules and the policy-making of the current political system through legal channels. The current situation of Chinese youth’s participation in politics is closely related with the background of China’s modernization as a whole. The reform and opening-up policy have enabled the economic development to play a central role in China’s social development.
Meanwhile, China’s politics is conspicuously characterized by such political activities hinged with economy. Consequently, in analyzing and explaining the contemporary situation of Chinese youth’s participation in politics, we cannot go without evaluating its background. Here “youth” refers to “the young residents with aged from 18 to 40 who live in Chinese cities”. The temporary situation that Chinese youth are confronted with is the general background needing our in-depth analysis. I.
The current Chinese youth’s awareness in political participation After China’s entry into the 21st century, numerous and dramatic changes have taken place in the country. Throughout the two decades’ reform and opening-up in their economy and society, Chinese people have come to realize the urgency of their political reform. The youth are the dominant participants in China’s political life, and their awareness of political participation has undergone sweeping transformation. From the Cultural Revolution to Reform and Opening-up age, Chinese youth have experienced a striking transformation from fanaticism to indifference.
After a quarter century’s reform and opening-up, under the nurture of the modern western civilization and in the absorption of the traditional Chinese culture, their awareness of participation has got the following features. 1. There is a phenomenon that the youth’s awareness and activities in the political participation appear to have split from each other. Economy and politics have consistently been the hot topics among the contemporary youth. Yet, compared with economy, currently, the topic on politics is marginalized among the youth’s discussion.
Affected by the economic utilitarianism, they know the fact that in China, political participation cannot bring them direct economic returns. As a result, on the one hand, they recognize the systems, principles and functions of the current Chinese political operation; on the other hand, they, more often than not, take a pragmatic attitude in political participation. Their political awareness does not coincide with their specific political activities. Nowadays, the Chinese youth are contempt for political fanaticism prevalent during the Cultural Revolution.
Nevertheless, they are not totally indifferent to the politics in reality. In fact, they are often engaged in limited participation in politics although they are only concerned about it. It is strikingly unparallel between their political awareness and political activities. In the recent years, deeply influenced by pragmatism, the Chinese youth are comparatively more interested in economic activities around them which are profitable to them. They doubt whether real political participation can bring them true profit. Consequently, they hesitate to take part in political activities.
Recently, a poll on the awareness of political participation was carried out among the Shanghai youth. The result conspicuously shows that the youth tend to be pragmatic in their political participation. That poll contains the following sub-questions on reform that the youth are supposed to be interested in. A: Modern enterprise system reform; B: Medical and aging insurance reform; C: Housing reform; D: Educational system reform; E: Consumer price reform; F: Financial system reform; G: Political system reform; H: Tax reform. The result of that poll is: A: 21. 13%; B: 36. 49%; C: 49. 23%; D: 10. 28%; E: 34. 12%; F: 11. 51%; G: 19.
32%; H: 2. 98%. According to the statistics, apart from their interest in reforms related with their career and their jobs, the majority of youth are more concerned about the reforms closely connected with their daily life and their future development. The youth’s top three concerns are: Housing reform (49. 23%), Medical and aging insurance reform (36. 49%) and Consumer price reform (34. 12%). That implies that the youth are more and more pragmatic in their political participation awareness and their concern about reforms is increasingly realistic. Hence, they are lack of a provident perspective of the overall situation.
Nevertheless, we must point out that it is inevitable for the youth to have immature, flawed and even incomplete awareness in political participation during the transformation period of China’s reform and opening-up. No country can transcend such a period on the road of development when the youth are immature in the awareness of political participation and when they are unable to understand the reality of contemporary Chinese politics. 2. The youth basically approve of the fundamental political principles in China. Due to the increasing influence of western culture, the western politics will inevitably exert a great effect on China.
However, the contemporary youth do not blindly absorb the western values any longer. Instead, they are able to have their own judgment according to China’s specific national situations. In accordance with the poll made by China Youth Research Center, 42. 3% students chose “Social stability” when they were asked the question “What are the most important two criteria for a successful state-level administration? ” That figure is only 8. 7% lower than number one “powerful economy” (51%). In1996, the research group of “Chinese Youth accessing to the 21st century” carried out a nation-wide poll among 30,000 youth.
When asked the question “What do you think of the relations among reform, development and stability? ”, 31. 5% youth chose “We must take account of all the three factors”, while 38% youth chose “Stability is the basis, for only when it’s stable can we achieve reform and development”. Only 3. 9% youth chose “Reform is the prerequisite for stability”. That shows the youth are fully aware of the importance of stability and they have got a profound understanding of the principle “Giving priority to stability”. Meanwhile, it reflects that seeking stability is the dominant mentality among the youth. 3.
The youth show great concern about the contemporary social problems. The problems in reality are hinged with social stability and political development. The current Chinese youth believe that social and political progress cannot be promoted in the best effective way unless some urgent problems are addressed as soon as possible. For instance, in the above poll, the youth think that the most urgent problems to be dealt with are: number one, “Punishing corruption”(54. 87% youth choose it); number two, “invigorating State-owned enterprise(33. 6% youth choose it); number three, “combating crimes”(29.03%) and number four, “improving social practice and justice”(21. 62%).
Obviously, these social problems that the youth are interested in are all essential ones affecting social and political stability. Hence, eager for a stable environment, they firmly require that great and effective measures should be taken to handle the above questions. 4. There is a striking gap among the different regions, industrious and strata in the Chinese youth’s participation in politics. In terms of the level of the participation awareness, there exists a gap between the big and small cities; there is also a striking divergence in the requirement for political participation among different strata, group and industries.
As far as the situation of political participation is concerned, the staff from cultural, educational and administrative department tend to have a stronger awareness for the sake of their jobs, advanced culture and high quality as well as their easy accession to the abundant political information in the big and medium-sized cities. By contrast, the majority of workers and the self-employed (especially the youth in the small cities) have a comparatively low level of participation awareness.
In other words, the strong awareness of participation is mainly confined to some economically and culturally advanced regions or strata and to those who have a closer tie with politics. There hasn’t yet been a sound psychological foundation among the mass to enhance political participation. The residents’ awareness of this kind needs further promotion in a large scale. II. The means for the contemporary Chinese youth to participation in politics 1. Participation through formal organization. Currently, the youth are mostly engaged in political participation by the traditional ways of formal organization.
They carry out such participation through such organization as the League of the Youth and the Communist Party of China on the principle of democratic centralism (namely, centralism on the basis of democracy and democracy under centralized guidance). Now that they cannot avoid the flaws caused by bureaucracy and administration as before, it is inevitable that participating in politics in the organization is bound to confront with inefficiency and formalism, which may bring out the consequence that such participation in politics is more superficial than substantial.
2. Participation through informal organization. Some youth choose to participate in politics by joining in non-governmental associations or China’s democratic parties which have kept a sound ties with Communist Party of China. These participations are carried out by certain means too. Unfortunately, people haven’t attached great importance to these channels and the effects of such participation is very limited. 3. Participation through the internet. At present, this channel is very popular.
Due to its “individual” feature, the internet has provided the youth with certain freedom to express their ideas as they like. However, for the lack of laws and regulations concerned, and for the lack of checking and distinguishing the information, it is easy to cause misleading. Consequently, on the one hand, the youth can express their political views on the internet; on the other hand, it is highly possible that the youth may not shoulder enough responsibility for their remarks and they make lose their way in the process of growth.
Due to the singleness of their political participation channel, the youth are lack of interest in participating in politics. They tend to be indifferent to it in certain range. A recent poll shows that only 10% of the youth say they like participating in the learning of political theories. III. The analysis of the contemporary Chinese youth’s values in Political participation 1. Pragmatism affects the youth’s political participation and political evaluation. The youth’s understanding of politics is still very superficial and, by and large, their evaluation originates from their private interest.
On the one hand, this kind of tendency results from the immaturity of their character; on the other hand, it is closely related to the negative influence of “economic pragmatism” and “utilitarianism” in their mind. In terms of social problems, they try to view and understand them realistically and try to evaluate and consider them based on their own direct interest. Yet, they are comparatively uninterested in the study of political theories. Consequently, their recognition to politics is very direct and superficial. A poll carried out to all members of the society shows that 32.
9% chose “I don’t like them very much” and 23. 4% chose “It’s hard to say” when they were asked: “Do you like all kinds of elections? ” Obviously, the youth are not very interested in the form of political participation only because it does not bring them direct interest. 2. Individualism is very conspicuous among the youth. Recently, China Youth Research Center held a poll among about 10,000 youth from 10 provinces and municipalities. When they were asked: “Are you concerned about the domestic and overseas political events? ”, 18.
3% youth chose “It is hard to say” and “not very much”. When they were asked: “Do you take part in all kinds of elections? ”, 23. 4% youth chose “It is hard to say” and 32. 9% youth chose “not very much”. When were asked: “Does the government publicity have great influence on you? ”, 22. 1% youth chose “It is hard to say” and 19. 4% chose “very limited”. The transformation of China’s society from planned economy to market economy has a direct and great influence on the younger generation’s awareness of political participation.
They appreciate and accept without discrimination the western culture popular among the western youngsters. Ignoring China’s national situations, they simply have a comparison between China and the western countries, and they consult and follow the western standard of life. They even blindly copy the individual-oriented western values. As the principle of collectivism has been challenged and the value of individualism has been accepted gradually, the mobilized and forced political participation is more prevalent than voluntary political participation.
The youth do not have a strong awareness of participation and political indifference does exist in certain range. Meanwhile, there is a great variety of irrational behaviors in the society, such as the worship of the falungong cult, which have seriously disturbed the smooth operation of the political and social system. 3. The absorption of pluralism in values and the acceptance of relativism in world outlook Because of the pluralism in modern society and diversity in reality, great change has taken place in the youth’s values.
The steady influence of all these values has all the more discouraged the youth’s enthusiasm for Political participation. They even go to extremes to believe that it is an ideal attitude to keep a distance from politics. Under the influence of relativism, it has become the youth’s value that “Whatever is OK”. Meanwhile, the pluralism of the youth’s values results in the different understanding of political participation. Hence, they can hardly form the same community, identity, point of views or discourse. That may exert a negative influence on political participation.
Currently, the increasing diversity of the youth’s values may give rise to their plural political mentality and views which make it impossible to form a dominant trend of thought. In a sense, the diversified political recognition and awareness will affect the youth’s political attitude and the stability of their political tendency. As a result, the society cannot have a strong cohesion in the process of development, and it cannot form a powerful political force to promote the all-round reform in an effective way. About the author: Duan Gang, Dr.
of Economic philosophy, vice editor in chief of Social Sciences Weekly. He is devoted to the interdisciplinary study of cultural philosophy and economic philosophy, and his publications include many influential papers, such as On the Rejuvenation of the Tradition of Economics Values. Democracy is the buzz word for our political system. But is it really so? Is it democracy that a nation where a majority of population is below 40 elects a majority of people above 60 to power? Are we really satisfied with the way our country is being governed?
Should it not bother us that at the age people generally take retirement and rest, our politicians actually become eligible to be at the helm of affairs? Why is it so that people below 50 years are considered as political ‘kids’? The country desperately needs some young leaders who personify energy, enthusiasm, morality, and diligence. No doubt we have progressed a lot in the last 62 years but the development pace would have been completely different had some young torchbearers led this process of development. At the time of independence, Gandhi called upon the youth to participate actively in the freedom movement.
Young leaders likes Nehru came to his reckoning and led the movement. But this is not the case now. Nowadays we have only a handful of young leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Varun Gandhi etc, but they are in the political scenario because they belong to influential political families. It is next to impossible to find a young leader with no political family background in the furor of politics. There can be two reasons for this deplorable scene of Indian politics. One may be that the youth today are not interested in actively participating in the political field.
They are content with what they are doing and how the country is being governed. But this reason seems to hold no ground seeing the discontent shown by the youngsters towards cases like reservation, Jessica lal murder case etc. The youth of modern India are aware of the problems facing our country and the world at large. Given a chance they would be ready to change the political condition of the country for better. Second reason may be that young people are not given opportunities to prove themselves claiming that they are not equipped with experience to participate actively in the governance of the country.
This reason seems to be more logical seeing the monopoly of old leaders in almost all the major political parties of the country. Old people should realize that proper development can take place only when they make way for younger people to take control of the activities. There are few things which need to be clarified. One that youngsters do not mean people who are 20 years old with no experience at all. Youth in this context is meant to refer people in their 30’s or early 40’s with a good mix of energy and experience. Two, it is not intended to mean that old people should leave the political scene and rest.
What is wanted is that they should be there but for guidance because they are treasures of invaluable experience. There are a few things which I would like to suggest. There should be a retirement age for politicians as well which may be around 65 years. There should also be some educational qualification for politicians. How can we give those illiterates the key to our country whom we can not give the key to our house? People with serious criminal background should not be allowed to contest elections. As for the youth of our country, they can contribute in more ways than just contesting elections.
Much can be done in areas like educating people, raising awareness about various social ills, and many other areas. We can just wish that the next time we go to vote we find more names of youngsters who can make our country a better place to live in. Rohit Jain Youth Action for Politics Intro The Freechild Project has found that around the world there is a growing interest in young people participating in politics. Some political groups are changing to respond to the growing number of young people who want to affect the political system.
Political ideologies that were once considered “fringe” beliefs are becoming mainstreamed, and more young people are associating themselves with non-popular political parties. Finally, more young people than ever before are actually becoming engaged in local community campaigns and other political activities. Point to Ponder “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves-and the only way they could do this is by not voting. ” Franklin D. Roosevelt Resources.
The following categories have been identified by Freechild to help young people and their adult allies learn more about young people & politics. There are several categories with headings are bold. Organizations Promoting Youth Voting League of Pissed Off Voters – Create social support to strengthen families. Foster a spirit of shared responsibility and community. Bring all voices into the public dialogue. Protect our right to privacy and our freedom of choice. Make real opportunities available to all. Use government to invest in the public good. Be a respected and respectful citizen of the world.
The most important youth engagement program of 2004. Mobilzing America’s Youth – An all-partisan network dedicated to educating, empowering, and energizing young people to increase our civic engagement and political participation. Canadian Youth Politics – A discussion board for young people in Canada. Millennial Politics. com – Dedicated to educating and motivating people about youth activism. Hosts active discussions about youth activism and politics, publish a weekly newsletter to over 650 people about youth activism and are writing a book about the activism of our generation.
Teen Power Politics – “Silence is the door of consent. ” Information, resources and inspiration to do something. Youth Lobbying Organization – Provides the structure through which high school students will have their opinions heard on issues concerning themselves and their peers. Vote Smart – A nonpartisan record of which candidates voted for what Kids Voting USA – Kids Voting USA is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to securing democracy for the future by involving youth in the election process today.
Youth Vote – Youth Vote is the nation’s largest non-partisan coalition working to increase the political involvement of 50 million Americans, 18-30 years old. The Youth Vote coalition consists of over ninety diverse national organizations representing hundreds of organizations and millions of young people. Rock The Vote – Organization begun by members of the recording industry dedicated to promoting freedom of expression and the empowerment of young people. Engages youth in political advocacy and encourages voter registration. Young Citizens Survey – A survey of 1,500 Americans between the ages of 15 and 25.
Young adults are more positive today about government, their communities, and their own civic and political involvement — but those attitudes have yet to translate into action. Young adults are an “unclaimed constituency,” looking for candidates for public office to come to their turf, take them seriously, and ask for their votes. These are some of the key findings of the most comprehensive survey of young people today, containing a wealth of new information about their attitudes toward, and participation in, politics and civic life.
Youth Vote Coalition – The nation’s largest non-partisan coalition working to increase the political involvement of 50 million Americans, 18-30 years old. The Youth Vote coalition consists of over one hundred diverse national organizations representing hundreds of organizations and millions of young people. Youth in Action – Provides support and recognition for the voices, ideas and positive solutions of youth. As partner in the Global Youth Action Network, a growing collaboration among organizations worldwide, the youthlink.
org web site is being expanded as an international clearinghouse for youth voices, resources and action. Third Millennium – Advocates for the Future – Third Millennium is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization focusing on long-term problems facing the United States, such as the national debt. The organization conducts research, publishes opinion articles, and testifies before Congress. Its stated goal is to “inspire young adults to action. ” Young Politicians of America – The Young Politicians of America was founded to expand the democratic experience to the youth of our society.
The problems community service aims to answer are the same problems government seeks to solve. Our goal is to further citizenship among young people by catalyzing their zeal for community service into a zest for civic participation. Through YPA chapters, young people volunteer, discuss, and encourage each other to understand government’s role as a crucial instrument for impact. Close Up Foundation Lowering the Voting Age – Resources and information about lowering the voting age and promoting youth suffrage across the United States. Political Party Philosophies & Youth.
Anarchy Youth – Proposed basic principles: 1) We expose and educate other young people and the community to the special oppression young people suffer in our society; 2) We teach, develop and carry out anarchist methods of fighting the oppression young people face; 3) We hold dear the ultimate goal of uniting with other regular people to destroy our common enemy, the ruling class, to be replaced with an anarchist society where we have non hierarchical communities and workplaces where everyone has equal access to that societies decision making power and wealth.
Green Party Youth Caucus – The Greens give official recognition, including a direct voice in county, state, and national committees, to organized caucuses of Greens who are members of oppressed groups. Includes the following for youth: proportional representation; guaranteed parity; affirmative action; right to caucus; recognition of Youth caucus.
Libertarian Party Campus (Youth) Information – Libertarians believe the answer to America’s political problems is the same commitment to freedom that earned America its greatness: a free-market economy and the abundance and prosperity it brings; a dedication to civil liberties and personal freedom that marks this country above all others; and a foreign policy of non-intervention, peace, and free trade as prescribed by America’s founders. Student Natural Law Party Club – The Natural Law Party was founded in April 1992 to “bring the light of science into politics.
” Its founders, a group of a dozen educators, businessmen, and lawyers, knew that field-tested solutions to America’s problems already existed but were being ignored by government, due primarily to the pervasive influence of special interests. Young Democrats – The Young Democrats of America (YDA) has been the official youth arm of the Democratic Party since 1932. Open to anyone under the age of 36 who affiliates with the Democratic Party, YDA is a nationwide grassroots organization with 42 chartered states and 780 local chapters. Our 43,000 plus membership reflects the broad diversity of our nation and the Democratic Party.
This includes high school students, college students, young workers, young professionals and young families. All of the members have the interest of their community at heart and work hard to affect the democratic process. Young Democratic Socialists – YDS works to transform our society – on the job, in the streets, in the classroom. We are a broad, diverse network of young activists who share a vision of a more humane future. Instead of waiting for some final, magical instant when a utopia appears, we organize and struggle every day to redistribute power.
Building democratic socialism is a long struggle, and we take it one step at a time. Young People’s Socialist League – The home of radical youth who believe in a better world, based upon cooperation, not competition, where human life is respected and valued, where everyone’s basic needs are met, and where people are free to live up to their fullest potential. Membership in YPSL (pronounced “Yipsel”) is open to any comrade under the age of 30 who agrees with our principles. Our members are workers and students at all levels.
We no more focus on college campus recruiting than do we try to colonize industrial union locals with newspaper subscriptions. We believe that all activists should organize where they are. As a D. I. Y. league, YPSL will help with any local campaign our members decide to carry out. Our organization is democratically run and open and accessible to all members. YROCK – The Young Republicans Online Community networK – Today’s Young Republicans are young professionals between the ages of 18 and 40, who belong to a nationwide network of like-minded individuals.
The Young Republican National Federation, Inc. is the governing body that oversees the State organizations across the country and facilitates opportunities for Young Republicans to have an active role in politics today. Members of Young Republican clubs not only benefit from the social aspects, but the chance for future political development. As America’s farm team of Republican politics, the YRNF has spent the last 70 years creating the leaders of today, as well as training the next generation for tomorrow. Political Parties for Youth.
Party Y – Party Y is a coalition of young American leaders (all in their 20s) who joined together in 2002 to launch a new independent political youth party dedicated to meeting the needs of America’s under-30 population. Not a traditional “third party”, we are instead a web/media-based “virtual party” designed to link up young voters with equally young political candidates (all under-30) around the country. The Future Voters of America Party, Inc. (FVAP) – A New York City based program founded in 1995 as a not-for-profit political party for youth and now in its fourth year with youth involvement.