Adolescents’ Perspectives on China’s Social Problems

  • Robert L. Selman
  • Helen Haste
Part of the Palgrave Studies on Chinese Education in a Global Perspective book series (CEGP)


Two thousand years ago, Confucius told his followers, “When the [good] way prevails in the state, speak boldly and act boldly. When the state has lost the way, act boldly and speak softly.” He encouraged them to take social responsibilities, but also emphasized caution and tact at times when open criticism of the system jeopardizes individual safety. How do Chinese youth make sense of the civic context in China today? How do they perceive their responsibility and ability to act and speak as citizens? This chapter explores the different ways in which Chinese adolescents understand the civic roles of the individual in relation to the state. We report on an analysis of their explanations of the causes and possible solutions for social problems in contemporary China. We also examine what they consider to be appropriate civic actions in their responses to a recent civil protest by a Chinese teenager named Chen Yihua, a case widely described in the Chinese media.


Social Problem Food Safety Subway Station Good Citizen Civic Action 
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© Xu Zhao 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert L. Selman
  • Helen Haste

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