The Generation Gap: Global Perspective

By James Prumos, Trending Writer

The United States is not the only society with a generation gap. In fact, China features a generation gap that has a far greater extent than that of the United States. According to The Atlantic, this generation gap is between two groups of people: those born and came of age during Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, and those born after the Chinese economy became more market-based. The first group grew up during a time when China’s traditional values were being dismantled in favor of the hyper-communistic values of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, as well as a complete change in China’s social and economic structure, almost destroying Chinese society. The second grew up in an extremely different society, one that did not have dismantled values or social structure. As a result, Chinese young adults have a very difficult time connecting with their parents.

To give one an idea of how these two generations could have completely different worldviews, one must look at Chinese living conditions in the 1950s through 1970s. During the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, people were forced to work in undesirable professions. All forms of traditional culture were perceived as enemies to the state. Meanwhile, China from 1980 onward featured a market economy. With the rise of China as an economic power, their youth gained economic opportunities that their parents only dreamed about. The rise of the Internet gave Chinese youth a platform of acquiring knowledge and communicating in spite of Chinese censorship policies.

There is also a noticeable generation gap between senior citizens and young adults in Europe. According to foreignaffairs.com, pensioners throughout Europe are demanding no decrease in their pensions despite the increasing youth unemployment and sluggish economic growth, with France having a pension deficit that may reach $23 billion by 2020.  This generation gap also extends to voting patterns, particularly becoming apparent during the Brexit debate. Retirement age voters drastically voted to exit the European Union over remain, whereas the youngest group of voters overwhelmingly voted to remain. Older voters highly outnumbered younger voters, which ultimately may have turned the tide of the vote in the favor of “exit”. Not only do these things show a generation gap between Europeans, but also a generation conflict.

For many Americans, a generation gap is more about how one generation does not understand the technology of the other, as noted with #HowtoConfuseAMillenial. It is clear from the generation gaps in Europe and China that there can be more to a generation gap than differences in technology. Therefore, Americans should be thankful that their generation gap is not as divisive.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 13th print edition.

Contact James at

james.prumos@student.shu.edu

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