China: The Paper Chicken

by Rogers Lee
File under: Fake Culture15 Mar 2013 14:00 EDT

Due to the shape of the country, China is often referred to by native Chinese as "the chicken."  And the central city of Xi'an is commonly referred to as "the heart of the chicken."  See for yourself on the map:

Xi'an is one of China's oldest cities (3,100 years),and something of a cultural capital: it is home to the well-known terra cotta soldiers, which populate the mausoleums of Han Dynasty royalty.  These sculptures were buried along with their emperors, for protection in the afterlife.

While 'fake soldiers' may be just a figment of the past in Xi'an, a little to the southeast, in Shenzen province, they are making a return in a slightly different -- and more American -- form.

Recently Chinese social media has been abuzz about a set of leaked private photos of 16-year old Zhang Jiale, one of China's rich and spoiled 'second generation.'  While some might argue that these scenes are the end result of certain historical processes in China, they might also be seen as the ascendance of an empty, materialistic culture -- a 'bling' culture directly adopted from the US.  Indeed, they could simply be extracts from American rap music videos:

It turns out that the teenager shown in these photos is actually a female (described by Chinese bloggers as a "tomboy", or a girl who dresses as a boy).  But even so, the leisure lifestyle she lives is so far removed from average Chinese teenagers (who work almost continuously either for university placement or for a factory job),that she might as well be an alien.

But this character typifies the 'second generation' and gives us a look at what is to come in the future in China.  The 'first generation' was the generation who came up from extremely poor circumstances and built modern China, becoming extremely rich in the process.  Despite the fact that they almost certainly engaged in dubious practices to acquire their money, they are all very hard working people with a social conscience of some kind.  If you are interested, you can see profiles of some of these interesting individuals here.

But their children do not carry on their tradition, and in fact, seem subject to the same destructive weaknesses that rich children in the West exhibit, particularly in the United States.  For those Americans who see China as an important 'alternative giant' to the US, a re-appraisal might be in order.  As the Chinese become rich like the US, they also fall victim to the same vices.  In another 50 years, the 'power of the chicken' will most likely be paper only -- worthless paper currency or just a glossy magazine cover signifying nothing.

And though the young might best exemplify this new kind of thinking, it has certainly gained ground in the older generations as well.  If you weren't aware, many huge, empty, 'fake cities' have recently been built all over China, still "waiting for residents."  It's a real estate bubble to dwarf all bubbles in the US:

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