Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Michael Keane
Chapter 5: Balinghou and qilinghou: generational difference and creativity in China
Much discussion has ensued in recent times about creativity and innovation in Chinese society. Opinion is divided about people’s propensity to express their creative aspirations in a society where the education system does not reward critical thinking. Government, policy advisors and educators often speak enthusiastically about nurturing China’s ‘creative talent’ and courses have proliferated at institutions in the expectation that these will produce a new wave of creative talent. In the meantime, those who have established their own occupational status in the new ‘creative economy’ have taken different journeys. Based on focused interviews with Chinese animators, designers, artists and architects, this chapter traces nine such journeys. The interviews were conducted from April 2012 to January 2014 in Beijing and Ningbo as part of efforts towards understanding the role of tools and technologies in creative work, and how that role is changing with digitalization. Halfway through the series of interviews it struck me that much of the conversation with practitioners born before 1980 focused on the differences between growing up with and without computers. The ‘older’ interviewees would use their younger peer-competitor as a mirror image, regardless of what aspect of their work I expressed interest in. Thus generational difference became the main theme of the investigation. I chose two of the interviewees (VI and IX, see Table 5.1) because of their unique perspectives on generational differences, both having a parent who relied on creativity in their professional life.
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