China Gives Up on Anti-Communist Millennials, Turns to Gen Z

China’s ruling Communist Party celebrated members of “Gen Z,” or people born between 1997-2012, on Thursday, praising the youthful generation as the most willing to participate in the party’s “Red Tourism,” which promotes Communist propaganda across China.

“[M]embers of Generation Z have become the biggest fans of red tourism, accounting for nearly 60 percent of its total consumers,” People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s Central Committee, reported on July 8.

The effusive praise for the generation follows years of similarly attempting to galvanize Millennials, the generation preceding Gen Z, but to little avail.

“Furthermore, the number of tourists born after the 1990s soared by nearly 40 percent compared with that in the first half of 2019,” People’s Daily added, citing data from the Chinese travel service provider Ctrip.

“With the rising sense of patriotism among young people, the number of tourists born after 2000 participating in red tourism has increased significantly. In fact, statistics showed that ticket numbers bought by this group for red tourist attractions through Ctrip in the first half of this year rose by about 2.5 times over the same period in 2019,” the communist newspaper further noted.

People’s Daily defined “Red tourism” as “a subset of tourism in which people visit sites with historical significance for Communism in China.”

The Chinese travel website Mafengwo recently found that more than 40 percent of young tourists in China are “interested in red tourism, mainly due to the fact that they ‘are fond of immersive experiences.'” The Communist Party has capitalized on Gen Z’s penchant for immersion by curating enchanting “Red Tours” meant to transport participants to romanticized eras of the party’s history.

“Statistics from Ctrip also showed that of all the activities related to red tourism, the favourite for Generation Z is visiting red relics, followed by going to revolutionary memorial museums, joining red themed tours, embarking on in-depth trips to old revolutionary base areas and enjoying red performances,” People’s Daily noted on Thursday.

“Anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23 to 38 in 2019) is considered a Millennial, and anyone born from 1997 onward is part of a new generation,” Pew Research Center wrote in January 2019. The post-millennial generation is known as “Gen Z” and refers to people born between 1997 and 2012.

The Chinese Communist Party’s new focus on Gen Z comes just a few days after Party internet censors made international headlines for cracking down on the Chinese Millennial movement known as “lying flat.”

“Censors have deleted a tangping (which means ‘lying flat’) group with more than 9,000 members on Douban, a popular internet forum,” the Hindustan Timesreported on July 6.

“The authorities also barred posts on another tangping forum with more than 200,000 members,” the Indian newspaper added, citing a report published by the New York Times on July 3.

“Lying flat” is a phenomenon in which Chinese millennials drop out of China’s labor force and perform just enough odd jobs to survive. The concept defies the strict “996 culture” promoted by the Communist Party over the past several years, which pushes people to work from 9:00 a.m to 9:00 p.m six days a week.

Chinese Millennials fear “they won’t end up any better than their parents” in terms of income, the International Business Times reported on July 6. This generational fear has helped form the “lying flat” movement, which “has also been triggered by the realisation that employees [in China] are working harder like machines on a twelve-hour shift, but the prices are rising faster than incomes.”

Years before the “lying flat” movement drew ire from the Chinese government, Communist Party officials openly derided millennials for failing to bite at their stale propaganda offerings, which included awkward Mandarin-and-English rap songs with titles such as “Marx Is a Post 90s,” released in 2016. The song‘s title referred to the Chinese term for a millennial, while its rap lyrics attempted to liken millennials’ “great spirit for criticism and skepticism” to that of “[Karl] Marx in his youth,” People’s Daily remarked at the time.

The Communist Party of China tried again to stoke the interest of millennials in late 2017 when it debuted a hologram pop star named Luo Tianyi. The avatar’s developers told the Chinese state-run Global Times in December 2017 they hoped to use Luo to “instill correct thinking” in millennials “with her singing.”

After years of failed attempts to galvanize millennial support of China’s Communist Party, officials signaled through state media in 2018 that they had begun to shift the party’s propaganda energy away from the “post-90s” and toward the more malleable Gen Z.

“They [millennials] are not inspired by any patriotic drive or the Party’s political catchphrases. They are simply indifferent,” the CCP mouthpiece Global Timeslamented in January 2018. The newspaper cited an analysis of millennial political apathy by Zhang Yiwu, a professor at Peking University, in an attempt to explain the “tragedy” of the generation.

“People born in [China] the 1990s were thrown into a much more competitive society than their predecessors,” according to Zhang. “Global Skyrocketing house prices, particularly in recent several years, have made it even more difficult for them to buy a home with their salaries.”

“As Chinese society develops, thresholds and costs in other aspects, such as employment, finding a spouse and raising a child, have also risen,” Zhang continued. “This indicates lower social mobility and has made young people from average families feel hopeless during their climb up the social ladder.”

“It is, of course, a fact that many young Chinese generally face very big challenges and high expectations from family and society,” the Global Times conceded in a “rare admission of failure for the Chinese government,” Breitbart News noted at the time.

Gabrielle Reyes