Last night, as I was dining at a local Chinese restaurant with two students from China, I asked each of them, "What is your dream? Five, ten, twenty, thirty years from now, what would you like to see in your life?"
The first one responded, "I would like to make a lot of money, enough so that I can buy a big house and live by the sea."
So far, that sounded like the stereotype of the younger Chinese generation, which is notorious for following Deng Xiaoping's advice to "get rich."
But then she went on, "... so I can live with my parents."
"Do you want to have children?"
"Oh yes! Of course."
Like most others her age, she is an only child.
"So, you hope that you and your husband and children can all live together with your parents in that big house by the sea?"
I turned to the other student and posed the same question.
"My dream is to make a lot of money..."
Here we go again, I thought.
"... so that I can enable my father and mother to travel all over the world. My father loves to travel, but he can't do that now."
Her eyes teared up, then she continued.
"...because he is spending so much money on my education. I am very grateful for the sacrifice he is making for me."
There is a a truly “urban” myth making the rounds, to the effect that young urban Chinese professionals ("Chuppies") are just like their counterparts in New York and Paris.
True, they use the same gadgets, wear designer jeans, and spend their lives enmeshed in the global economy. They are also becoming more individualistic. One of the students said last night, "We want to make our own decisions, and not have the government decide for us."
But what are those decisions? To show gratitude to their parents by providing them with a comfortable lifestyle in their old age.
Just like us?