China’s Post-2000 Generation: Understanding the Kids Today

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Most of today’s Chinese children were born during the 2000s. The 154 million members of the post-2000 generation live in unprecedented prosperity, with resources never before lavished on a generation in China — enhanced for many by their status as only children.

As they enter their teen and young-adult years, members of this generation will face a range of challenges, including meeting their own and their parents’ high expectations, and navigating life in a middle-income country that still constrains many personal freedoms. This clash could set the stage for change in China.

3 KEY FINDINGS

  • The post-2000 generation is the first to grow up entirely in an emergent, powerful China.
  • The trajectory of this generation will depend heavily on how well China manages continued growth.
  • Its members may bring expectation of real change to China, starting in the 2020s.

3 PRESSURES

Despite rising wealth and some lessening of academic demands, this generation could face severe pressures in the next couple of decades.

  • Education. They are likely to continue to face the gao cao (“tall test”), the college entrance exam that is crucial to their future. This spurs endless studying and a high-stakes race for private tutoring and other aids.
  • Finding a good job. A slowing economy could increase the already-fierce competition for jobs for the post-2000 generation beginning around 2020. There might be some relief in that annual cohorts are shrinking, but this may do the post-2000s little good if the large generations before them don’t make room in the job market.
  • The battle for spouses. Beginning in about 10 years, this generation will begin to experience the consequences of gender imbalance — and it may face the worst imbalance of any generation, with a severe shortage of women. The problem may be heightened by men of the post- 1990 generation looking for partners among the post-2000s. The oldest members of the generation are already worrying about their chances of finding wives, even as they are too young to have girlfriends. The fierce battle for partners may provide additional motivation for males in this generation in their search for education and income.

BUSINESS IMPLICATIONS

  • Though the post-2000 generation is slightly smaller than the post-1990 generation, the increase in income over the last decade means that the markets for all sorts of children’s products and services are still larger than before and growing.
  • The post-2000 generation is forming brand impressions now, and for the older half of the generation, these are likely to last a lifetime in many cases. Brands may be one of the fixtures in the lives of Chinese youth as society and the physical environment continue to change rapidly around them. This will offer an opportunity for brands to be enduring and valued sources of stability for these and other younger Chinese.