INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE, DECEMBER 5, 2002
Enjoying a life her parents would never have dreamed possible
BY PAUL MOONEY IN BEIJING
Quote: 'I feel tomorrow will be even better than today.'
Like other young Chinese who grew up during China's economic reforms, Lulu Zhang is enjoying a life her parents would never have imagined possible.
Zhang, 29, earns a handsome salary as editor of an entertainment weekly, frequents Beijing's newest shopping centers, dines out often with friends at many of the new restaurants in the Chinese capital, and dreams of one day buying a car or even a house.
She is happy with where she is today, illustrating this with a story about a classmate in Shanghai, where she grew up, who landed a job paying 4,000-yuan ($480) a month immediately after graduation.
"We thought it was like a dream," she said. "Now I make more than twice as much."
Zhang says she is satisfied with her life, "but I'd like to live even better, so I'm working harder." She says she would like to find an even better job with an even higher income, and one that is stable enough that she won't be tempted to change jobs often.
Zhang says she's "extremely optimistic" about the future. "If your hopes are not unreasonable, you can easily be satisfied," she said. "I feel tomorrow will be even better than today."
"When I was young, we still needed ration coupons to buy sugar and oil," she said over a salad at Joe's, Beijing's newest American restaurant. "Now we can buy whatever we want."
Zhang expressed confidence that future generations would live even better than she does today. She points to the dramatic changes that have occurred over the past two decades.
"Parents today are better educated, more open-minded and earn more money," she said. "Kids now have computers, surf the Internet, and watch different types of television programs. From a young age they are exposed to the outside world."
Despite her optimism, Zhang knows there are problems. She says that China's large population and increasingly competitive society, as well as its official policy on childbirth, discourage young married couples from having children. "They're afraid they won't be able to provide their children with the material comforts and all the things they'll need to compete and be successful," Zhang said. "A lot of my friends are afraid to have children."
For Zhang, the biggest problem facing China, however, is official corruption. "The quality of local civil servants is quite low, and they lack character," she said, adding that many officials are only interested in personal gain, which seriously hurts China's national interests.
"Finding a way to cultivate honest officials who will really work for the interests of the people is the biggest problem facing China today," she said. "If we can do this, our economy, politics and culture will all make faster progress."
Zhang has an "overall good impression" of the United States. "The first thing that springs to my mind when I think of America is that it's a rich and democratic country, and that its people are good," she said. She worries that the United States might sometimes "interfere in things that are not its business."
But "I believe the United States only does this when it has a legitimate interest it's not just to interfere in the affairs of other countries, she added."
She has no problems with the ever-expanding influence of the United States. "The United States is so influential because it is a rich and technically advanced country," she says. "Other countries should look to America as a model. They should use America as an example to spur their own progress."
She is not necessarily a big fan, however, of American-style democracy. "I don't believe any country has absolute democracy. Democracy always serves the interests of certain groups," Zhang said. "If you moved the model to China, we would have chaos."
"We have hundreds of millions of farmers who are more concerned about having enough to eat, and putting clothes on their backs," she said. "They have no time to think about democracy."
© 2013 Paul J. Mooney