China’s government-run newspaper Global Times complained in a piece published Tuesday that millennials of the “Zen generation” are “indifferent” to communism, a sign that Xi Jinping’s efforts to impose Marxist ideology on young Chinese people are failing.
“They are not inspired by any patriotic drive or the Party’s political catchphrases. They are simply indifferent,” the Global Times laments.
Under Xi, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has invested heavily in youth-centered propaganda, including producing rap videos about communism, organizing “mass dating” events where Communist Youth League members can meet state-approved potential mates, and doubling down on textbooks and academic study that promote Chinese military belligerence. Chinese officials have also cracked down on non-Mandarin language and religions considered rivals to “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”
Yet the Global Times admits in a report on the “Zen-generation” that these efforts appear to be, in part, failing. “People who call themselves Zen-generation, either seriously or half-jokingly, are seemingly fine with anything that happens to them,” the article notes, suggested that these individuals refuse to put effort into anything, including work and relationships.
“Once someone becomes their ex, they won’t even bother to delete or block them from their social networks,” the Times notes with horror.
These millennials “reject a bustling and competitive society and instead choose to practice patience, tolerance and inner peacefulness.”
The Chinese Communist Youth League has identified this as a threat and a “total tragedy.”
“Only when the young have ambitions and are responsible can a nation have prospects,” the Youth League said in an article on the topic posted on social media and quoted by the Times. The newspaper notes that communists may indeed have something to be worried about, that “this new trend is a passive reaction against the rapid reforms, changes, and developments of modern-day Chinese society.”
The article is a rare admission of failure for the Chinese government, though the piece does argue that the “Zen generation” youths are a “minority” compared to zealous communists. Yet China has become a nation with more Christians than Communist Party members, where the Communist Youth League is forced to remind young people that Christmas is “China’s day of shame” while banning party members from believing in any religion at all. Beijing’s efforts to attract young minds to communist have become increasingly desperate, suggesting significant concerns at the highest levels of power regarding the appeal of old Marxist ideology.
Chinese officials have published a library of rap videos to promote communism, from the clumsily titled “The Reform Group is Two Years Old”—celebrating the establishment of Xi’s anti-corruption reform group—to the tune “Marx is a Millennial.” Xi makes his rapping debut in the former video.
In March 2017, the Chinese government ordered schools to supplement these propaganda efforts with new curricula designed to inspire young people to identify with communism.
“When we investigate at colleges and universities, we find that attention levels at thought and political theory classes are not high. People are there in body but not in spirit,” Chinese Education Minister Chen Baosheng said at the time. “Students needed to be led by the core values of Chinese socialism to ensure their healthy moral growth.”
Chen specifically demanded schools take a “trendy” approach to Marxism.
The Communist Youth League has added social elements to this by organizing dating events in which all participants are carefully vetted for party unity, ensuring that any relationship that begins at such an event will unite two ardent communists. Communist officials also recently announced that they had purchased control of a popular hologram “pop star” who would now be used to “instill correct thinking into the younger generation with her singing.”