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Is China’s emerging class reunion a sign of ageing?

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Class reunion is emerging quietly in China, is it the proof of economic development or a sign of ageing? Shanghai resident Zhang Dongguang has, since recently, frequently participated in high school class reunions. Last Sunday, he revelled till mid-night. A week ago, he participated in several similar gatherings too. In late April, he was also ready to participate in a Two Days, One Night "classmate tour". Three months ago, Mr. Zhang began to participate in various class reunions, whose number of attendants would reach more than 20. He often went home late and was scorned by his wife. However, he would rather face complaints than give up the fulfillment of participating in these reunions. He said that the relationship between classmates is completely different from that between superior and subordinate, they can speak out their mind freely.

在中国,同学会悄然兴起——是经济发展的见证还是老龄化的前兆? 上海的张冬光最近多了一种快乐:频繁参加中学时代的“同学会”。上周日张一直狂欢至深夜。一周前,他还参加了类似聚会。4月下旬,他还准备参加长达2天1晚的“同窗游”。张于3个月前开始参加各类同学聚会。聚会时少则数人,多则20多人。尽管常深夜回家遭到妻子抱怨,但对张来说,他宁愿忍受妻子的抱怨也不愿放弃参加同窗会带来的充实感。他认为,此类聚会的魅力在于“同学之间不存在上下级和利益关系,可全身心放松地说任何话。”

So, why is the class reunion gaining popularity in China? There are several reasons. First, the smartphones have become popular. According to a survey, 55% of Chinese adults now have smartphones. In large cities, many of the elderly also love using smartphones. People create WeChat groups so that they can get in touch with each other at any time, which reduces the difficulty of organizing class reunions greatly. Second, Chinese people are getting richer. According to Mr. Zhang, the per capita consumption of each class reunion is 100 yuan. Drinking and karaoke after dinner cost them more, than they usually spend  in a month. However, Mr. Zhang and his classmates don’t care much. The more important point is that the generation that received education after the Cultural Revolution has now already reached retirement age. Plenty of leisure time makes the class reunion gradually become a trend of memorizing the past and enhancing current friendship.

同学会在中国悄然形成潮流出于几个原因。一是智能手机的普及。据调查,如今中国55%的成人都用智能手机,在大城市,许多中老年人也爱用。人们在微信上设群,可以随时取得联系,这令举办同学会的难度大大降低;二是中国人正变得富裕。张先生参加的同学会每次聚餐人均消费100元,聚餐后喝酒和K歌要花更多钱,一个月下来花费不少。但张和他的同学们并不在意。更重要的一点是,文革后上学的一代人目前已处于退休年龄。时间上的充裕令同学会渐成一种回忆过去增进友谊的潮流。

However, the emerging class reunions also reflects a problem that may occur in China in the future. As China has implemented the one-child policy for decades, its ageing process has overtaken that of Japan. The number of people aged over 60 exceeded 200 million in 2013. The labor force is starting to shrink and some people think that China’s "demographic golden period" has ended. Just like public square dancing that has caused social conflicts, the emerging class reunions also reflect the fact that China’s current society is facing many changes

不过,同学会的悄然兴起也折射出中国未来可能出现的一种问题。在实行独生子女政策的中国,老龄化进程超过日本。60岁以上人口2013年突破2亿。劳动力人口已开始减少,有人认为其“人口黄金期”已结束。就像广场舞引发矛盾一样,正悄然兴起的同学会潮也从侧面反映出迎来转折点的中国社会现状。

2016-06-23

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