The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Partying in the time of congress

Beijing, Nov. 9: Li Lan is a young art student who attends her classes at John Sun’s studio on Changan Street,barely 3 km from Tiananmen Square where China’s new rulers are currently setting the country’s agenda for the new century.

It’s Saturday afternoon and Li has taken a break from her classes to visit Beijing’s poshest shopping street, Wang Fu Jing. She has a busy time at the Dongan Departmental Store, a 12-storied shopping paradise, — the biggest in Beijing and in China — on Wang Fu Jing. “I don’t have time for the party matters. I have to buy some new clothes for a dance I’m attending this evening,” she gushes forth before melting into the Saturday afternoon crowd of trendy shoppers.

“Maybe the party is doing good. China is getting richer and richer and therefore better and better. But honestly, I am interested in becoming a party member some day,” says Wang Xiao Yan, her friend from the same art studio, who hails from Herbei province to the west of Beijing.

So which of them better represents the attitude of China’s youth to the party and its work. “Actually both. The western media would focus on the disinterested youth, as if the party does not matter to the young. It may be wishful thinking but they get it wrong,” says a member of the China Academy of Social Sciences, who does not want to be quoted.

“There was such revulsion to politics during the Cultural Revolution that parents didnt want their children to join politics or even discuss politics at home.”

According to him, Deng Xiaoping capitalised on this and steered the economic reforms without much public resistance. “Once they saw the fruits of the reforms, the young saw their future, not in the party, but in making money and making it fast.”

But others saw their future in the party as well. The young have realised that the party is not only their only hope in times of unemployment and other difficulties, but it is also their surest road to money and power.

Party statistics say that 46 per cent of the 64 million party members are below 45 and 22 per cent below 35.

That is in keeping with the gradual end of gerontocracy and greening of the party leadership, which 59-year-old new leader, Hu Jintao, will represent.

The youth are an increasingly visible face of New China. It is so for Zhongnanhai behind the Forbidden City where most of the senior party leaders live in Beijing. Not exactly young by the world’s standards, but certainly so by the CPC tradition. It is so on the high fashion street of Wang Fu Zing,in the dazzling nightlife areas of Qian Gui and San Li Tun street.

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