B2 is for “boom-boom,” a phenomenon I witnessed this past spring holiday in China where they took to public places to light up pyrotechnics to accompany the holiday that also marked the Lunar New Year, ending in glutinous cakes Yuanxiao on the 15th day. I call them Generation B2 following the practice of naming age groups by letters.
We have the baby boomer generation in the United States, those born post-Hiroshima A-bomb till the ‘70s, referred to as Generation X. Of late, they became part of the Gray Panthers. Generation Y came around the 1980s to 2000, aka the Millennial Generation; the age group’s b-days up into the millennial turn. Generation Z are of the current digital age from 2000 anno domini to the present. Their symbols are the portable laptops, and the texting gizmos that have everyone either talking or nimbly tapping thumbs on smartphones.
China since Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening up” created a sub-breed of young executives and entrepreneurs. Their preoccupation is to create as much sound and fury to get China’s economic engines humming, get credit lines to limits that drive them to seek other profitable sources, and to catch U.S. economists’ attention that there is a new kid in the block, not brass but self-reliant, self-sufficient, and self-confident.
I wish the U.S. economy was more decentralized to Main Street but the NASDAQ and the Dow are still the measures of the U.S. dollar’s health, and Main Street U.S. politics have gone the way of tea party sentiments, focused on defending conservative policies in place rather than engaging democratic procedures to create new and innovative populist benefits.
What the new B2 generation in China is doing is creating a new vitality in a land that forsook the expansive possibilities of Admiral Zhang He’s armada and defended the traditions of the ethnic Han between the two rivers of Chiangjiang and the Huanghe that finessed the Great Wall, kept the Mongols out, and promoted a quiet interior mood. A TV six-program series called River Elegy, not a Beijing favorite, tells this introspective turn.
The Ming confirmed the self-identity of Zhongguo, of the middle realm, but allowed the Persian’s early name for the people of the Qin, Sina to the Graeco-Roman world, Chine to the French and Marco Polo, and China to the English who lorded it over Victoria Peak until 1997, to be their appellation beyond the borders. With the building of structures in the South China Sea, media has also dubbed China as the region’s “bully.” There is no shortage of pejorative terms to characterize the country or its policies.
One of the frequent questions asked since returning to Saipan has been, “Why are Chinese so universally rude and without manners,” spitting their bones and clearing their throats loudly, rapidly consuming food while trashing their tables after each meal, compared to Riben cousins who tidy their restaurant dining tables when done, and endlessly utter arigato for everything. Stereotyping has taken over.
We concede that historical accounts of China were written by the illuminati who served elite interests, full of abstractions and refinements. We’ve come to expect the Chinese to be as delicate as our porcelain. The hoi polloi were a colorful background; the coolie hauling the rickshaw and the secretive tong that created the myth of the devious Fu Manchu. The image of the Chinese when outside their sovereign territory is a mysterious money maker to be feared or suspected rather than accepted as part of the human race.
The B2 generation has shown impatience with illusory stereotypes, surprisingly not concerned much about what others think, though the matter of “face” is dear to Chinese hearts. There is a self-confidence that borders on arrogance, in contrast to the all-smiling, all-deferring, and all-kowtowing Chinaman of old. Today, ze is just walking tall.
During the 15-day Xin Tian Kuai Le celebration, members of the B2 generation who mortgage their souls and paychecks to new housing developments, came out with their wives and young tots to light up boxfuls of sky-blasting pyros. The young guys lit the wicks while wives hang on to children. They were reclaiming an invention of their 7th century ancestors that celebrated life without rue or apology.
On social practice, Generation B2 members follow inter alia elders’ habits in two areas: casual trash and spitting on the ground after clearing one’s throat, even for ladies. Lee Kwan Yew (he just died at 91) in the ’70s dealt strictly with the Sino non-hygienic traits, making Singapura one of the world’s cleanest cities. Deng Xiaoping’s visit to the city state led to the first joint economic venture near Shanghai; am now watching Singapura’s influence on hygiene to take hold on the B2 generation.