The Future of Five Chinese Generations

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Research and consulting firm Social Technologies has conducted a study of five contemporary Chinese generations and their future evolution through 2025.

Research and consulting firm Social Technologies of Washington, DC, has conducted a study of five contemporary Chinese generations and their future evolution. The study, unique in its forward-looking approach, uncovers critical drivers of lifestyle changes in China today and provides forecasts to 2025.

The Chinese Generations study, based on years of work on China by Social Technologies futurists, consists of five briefs, each describing one of the major Chinese generations living today. Josh Calder, director of Social Technologies’ Global Lifestyles program, says: “We wanted to identify how the widely different life experiences of each generation have shaped—and will continue to shape—their outlooks and consumer lives, and what this means for business.”

China has seen drastic change in the last 50 years. While the oldest Chinese living today grew up in poverty and hunger, younger generations—born in times of newfound prosperity—have lifestyles unimaginable even a few decades ago.

“The younger generations have a level of freedom that Chinese have never experienced before,” says Calder. “They can choose their own futures to an unprecedented degree, and they expect that freedom. The consumer preferences and values of these Little Emperors and Linglei will increasingly shape global markets, and change not only China but the world.”

The lives of older generations are also changing. Many older Chinese face new challenges due to the dismantling of “the iron rice bowl”—the old social safety net—while others are benefiting from the opportunities created by China’s evolving market economy. More than 100 million Chinese are in their 60s and older, and the bolder and wealthier among them are beginning to experiment with new senior lifestyle options, such as international travel.

Social Technologies is a leading research and consulting firm dedicated to helping organizations understand and shape their futures. By melding forecasting and analysis tools with expertise in strategic exploration and innovation, Social Technologies equips its clients to look five, ten, or twenty-five years into the future. The Washington, DC-based company is expanding quickly and has recently established branch offices in London and Shanghai.

Five Chinese Generations—Highlights

1. Little Emperors. The 279 million children under age 15 in China today—almost all of them only-children—have been nicknamed the “little emperors.” Regarded as precious resources by their indulgent, pampering parents, this consumer-oriented generation embodies the hopes and dreams of their families—and of China itself.

2. Linglei. The Linglei generation—300 million Chinese in their late teens and 20s—aspire to the lifestyle exemplified by the young, upwardly mobile urbanites in Shanghai, Beijing, and other Chinese cities. Their youthful iconoclasm and innovative approach to life promise to reshape the culture of China.

3. The Reformed. Members of the Reformed generation—342 million Chinese in their 30s and early 40s—have lived through a series of profound economic, social, and cultural upheavals. The first members of China’s new middle class, the Reformed are fiercely determined to do everything they can to ensure that their children’s lives are better than their own have been.

4. Boomers. China’s 230 million baby boomers—today in their late 40s and 50s—survived a nationwide famine, political turmoil, and economic hardship in their early years. As adults, boomers dedicated their lives to providing a better life for their own children. Now that their children have grown, where will the boomers focus their attention as they approach retirement?

5. Seniors. China’s Seniors—more than 100 million people now in their 60s and older—have lived through the Chinese Revolution, survived a nationwide famine, suffered through the Cultural Revolution, and struggled to find their place late in life in the new market economy of China. Now they face uncertainty, no longer assured of either the economic safety net promised by the government or the care traditionally provided by children and grandchildren.

For more information about the Chinese Generations study please contact Josh Calder at

+1-202-223-2801 ext 118.


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