In the upheavals of twentieth-century China young people have become an important social and political force. As key participants in the Movement of 4 May, the Cultural Revolution and the demonstrations of 1989 China’s youth have rocked the ruling élite. Rapid economic growth and China’s Open Door policy over the past decade, have provided a further challenge to traditional values and contributed to the emergence of a youth culture with its own music, fashions and art. The opportunities afforded by economic development and the changing values of a modern society have helped to give rise to the concept of youth as a transitional stage between the dependency of childhood and the responsibilities of the adult world. Unlike earlier generations, young people in China today have no experience of war or famine, neither do they share the optimism and commitment to socialism that characterised the youth of the 1950s and 1960s. The Chinese Communist Party of the 1990s looks back on that early period with nostalgia as it struggles to develop an appropriate policy response to the challenge which young people pose to its authority. Nowhere do we see these problems more clearly than in the authorities’ reaction to growing juvenile crime.
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