What are China’s most popular online slang terms as we approach the end of the decade? One popular choice could be “Life is a cup, it’s up to you to decide whether it’s a drinking cup or a toothbrush cup.
Drinking cup (beiju) is a homophone for “tragedy” in Chinese, while toothbrush cup (xiju) is homophone for “comedy”. There’s a whole range of beiju vs xiju debates running across the post-80s and post-90s’ online talk. In the background, however, lurks something that’s far less funny.
While the remarkable development in China over the past 10 years has brought a range of opportunities, young people are struggling with pressures that came with them.
Some of their first observations on life are influenced by changes in education.
Compared with the beginning of the decade, getting into a university now is much easier. The number of college students went from about 5 million in 2000 to over 27 million in 2009.
What they do after graduating is another story. The employment rate of college grads has fallen from 80 percent in 2002 to 74 percent in 2009 (Ministry of Education stats) in the same period. The increased enrolment policy that took effect in 1999 opened the path of dreams for many, but the bridge to employment led to a narrower path for more.
Looking to the Internet
Individual incomes are growing – that’s the xiju; but our houses are getting smaller – that’s the beiju.
At the beginning of the decade, we told our parents, “Don’t worry about my scores, I’ll be good and make a fortune and buy you a big villa!”. Now, at the end, it’s, “Sorry, Mom and Dad, I can’t even get a bathroom without some help.”
The average monthly income of Beijing college grads in 2008, according to MyCOS, has 2,700 yuan, or about double what it was 10 years ago. A square meter of Beijing housing now costs 13,100 yuan on average, or about triple the cost a decade ago. It’s like trying to ride a motorbike to catch a Ferrari.
To get a break from the overcrowded job market and the shoe-box housing, we look to the Internet and the much bigger virtual world. That means a world of movies and games just lying there, out in front of us. So, a beiju becomes a xiju.
The economic and social development have given people greater variety in education, work, travel, entertainment and information, but the more opportunities people have access to, the fiercer the competition. When some young people look at that, they also see it as catalyst for social improvement.
For example, Xu Yue, 20, is majoring in Cambodian at Beijing Foreign Studies University. She’s also studying English as a second major and taking Japanese courses in her spare time.
Ten years ago, she notes, people might have felt relieved to get admitted to college, and they went on to settle down with a job in their hometown. Now, however, we’re pressed to learn more.
“Without the competition, maybe we’d be satisfied with the status quo, and willing to be ordinary,” says Xu.
So, is life a beiju or xiju? In some cases, it appears to be a matter of choice in how you view it and how you deal with the pressure.
In any case, there’s more progress in store for the next decade. Do we just sit there, sighing and complaining about it? Or, do we make full use of the richer resources and advanced technology to enjoy a more colorful life? It’s still up to you.