Calvin Chu | Global Voices

A propaganda video addressing the country’s “back wave” triggered a backlash

Chinese officials are keen to make the country’s younger generation feel fortunate for what it has, and it isn’t difficult to see why.

The post-90s generation is the least happy among all age groups in China according to research by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, followed by the post-80s generation.

Many face stress related to housing issues, education, healthcare, employment, excessive exposure to social media and identity crises.

While the Chinese Communist Party has been able to contain dissatisfaction among mainland youth it is wary of the example set by Hong Kong, which was roiled by months-long, student-led protests.

Step in actor He Bing, a representative of China’s “Front Wave” (older generation) and the star of a viral video titled “Back Wave” (后浪) that aims to celebrate the supposedly free culture and bright future of China’s youth.

Released on China’s largest animated video-sharing platform Bilibili in time for Chinese Youth Day (May 4), the video was republished by a plethora of state-affiliated media outlets.

In the four-minute clip featuring footage of urban youth culture and adventurous, cosmopolitan lifestyles, actor He tells the younger generation: “You have the rights that we have eliminated — the right to be exploited. You don’t have the right to speak out. […] You are lucky to be in this era and Second Generation Rich is happy to meet you. They pay tribute to you, to you being naive and dumb. You have turned your own wealth into the wealth of your boss, turned the social into the capital, turned right into wrong, and white into black. You have contributed bricks used for the construction of millions of overseas properties owned by the Second Generation Reds. You have contributed the oil used in the Benz owned by the Third Generation Reds who are racing outside the Forbidden City. You have turned your own bodies into 996 (9 am to 9 pm daily, six days per week) working machines which will eventually end up in an Intensive Care Unit.

Other parodies have emerged since, including this one about the Hong Kong protests for freedom and autonomy: The debate surrounding the Youth Day video reminded some Chinese netizens to reflect on the genuine meaning of freedom and rights.

The production quality of Back Wave is excellent. We the youth have the freedom to travel, but why are there no mentions of other freedoms? We the youth have the right to learn different languages — do we enjoy other rights? Youth in China has been locked up by properties and vehicles and does not care about politics. This is sad. We have to struggle for our rights, not sit there and wait. Youth in China should yell out — we want the freedom of the press!

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