In China the one-child policy introduced in 1978 along with the rapid economic growth since the late 80s has produced a different breed – The Chinese style X-Generation.

Fuerdai, Rich 2G, refers to those born in the 80s and with an inheritance of millions (US dollars) from their parents who were the first-generation entrepreneurs as a result of the economic reform. According to a report released by Merrill Lynch in 2004, there were close to a-quarter-million multi-millionaires in Mainland China and far more millionaires, which make the Rich 2G quite a sizable population.

It is estimated that 20% of the Rich 2G are outstanding due to the rich resources provided by their parents and their own willingness to work hard and smart. Some have even expanded their parents’ family business into high-tech areas such as software development and advertisement media. 50% have turned prodigal whose lives are characterized by boredom, depression and spending without restraint. The rest are just mediocre.

The parents of Rich 2G are so busy growing their businesses and flying around the world to make deals that they throw money at their children to make them feel loved. But we all know that money can’t buy everything. So instead many Rich 2G feel lonely and neglected. On Baidu, there is a young lady showing off her family’s wealth by posting pictures of her brand name bags, watches and cars. When someone commented that it was no big deal, she displayed a photo of a mining permit, and then a table covered with property deeds, a jet, and a bank statement with a balance close to one billion Chinese yuan. Her claim is “I am Rich 2G. People imitate me all the time, but I can’t be surpassed!”

On the other end of the spectrum are the Poor 2G. They are the second generation of the workers or farmers who weren’t able to take advantage of the economic reform and remained poor. The starting point of Poor 2G is much lower than their peers. Lack of education isn’t the only problem this group faces. Even if they do manage to get into and graduate from college, the opportunities presented to them can still be very limited. Poor 2G greatly resent the unfair competition and those who are entitled to the abundance and privileges of life.

Typically parents of Poor 2G are willing do whatever it takes to make their children’s lives better than their own. As a result, Poor 2G are losing the determination and hardworking spirit their parents possess. I read a story about a peasant couple who managed to send their only child to a fine boarding junior high school by saving every penny they made. Instead of studying hard, their son frequently climbed over the wall of the campus at night to have fun. One late night, he was about to do the same thing but he saw something that caused him to turn around abruptly. The kid changed from that night on and started to devote most of his free time to schoolwork. Instead of failing, he excelled but kept mum about what had happened that night. At graduation, he finally told his classmates the truth that they had been dying to know. That night at the top of the wall, this young man saw down below his dad huddling up and dozing off. His dad had received his letter to send more money. Instead of spending a little to stay in a motel, his father chose to sleep on the street so that his son could have more money. The son was awakened right at that moment and realized what he had to do to deserve the sacrifice his parents were making for him.

The Bureaucratic 2G refers to those whose parents are in power. These days anyone who works for the government holds the envious position. They get lots of perks on top of a very comfortable salary and benefits. The deals conducted under the table easily make their salary insignificant.

A few years ago a deputy county head hired a moving company to relocate his family to a bigger house. The movers moved hundreds of heavy boxes. Within a few days, the deputy’s new home was burglarized and he was too afraid to contact the police. Eventually he had to and reported the stolen amount to be close to two million yuan. The police caught the burglars who were his movers and retrieved the boxes that were filled with gold bars, U.S. dollars and other foreign currencies, the amount of which was ten times more than what was reported. An investigation was launched. The deputy was convicted of taking bribery and thrown in jail.

Giving and taking bribery has become a widely accepted way of conducting business in China and a daunting social problem.

Bureaucratic 2G flaunts the banner of their influential dad to win bids to huge projects, resell quotas for a profit, conduct illegal business and make a fortune out of it. Such abuse of power of two generations has become the object of public condemnation. The fact that Bureaucratic 1G and 2G have formed a class in the society is a cause for serious concern. It may take a successful entrepreneur years to build an enterprise and make millions. But even a low-ranking government official can make that much in the blink of an eye just because the position he is in. The mood in China has changed from upbeat and optimistic a few years ago to discontent and reckless.

The majority of the X-generation is neither very rich nor very poor. Surprisingly there is no official name for this large group. So I’ll call them Ordinary 2G although they prefer to be categorized as Poor 2G because compared to the Rich 2G, they feel terribly underprivileged and deprived.

Between Joe’s and my families, we have about a dozen nieces, nephews or cousins in this category. They are all doing averagely well and this is what average looks like. Most of them are working and long hours (a common workplace requirement in Shanghai), not married (not even dating in their 30s) and living at home, and their parents are still taking care of them as if they were teens. They spend a lot of the spare time sitting in front of the computer playing games or making cyber connections. They do have big dreams but no step-by-step plan to achieve them. Living at home is very comfortable and it makes Ordinary 2G lazy and unmotivated. They complain that opportunities aren’t as readily available as ten or fifteen years ago. They know that they won’t be able to afford a place of their own without their parents’ generous and sacrificial help.

Joe’s oldest brother Peter has an eight-year-old grandson. Peter and his wife have been taking care of him full-time since he was born. The boy lives with them and only goes home occasionally. Peter once offered to pay his daughter-in-law to take a day off and watch her own son because both grandpa and grandma had to be away that day. It is common among the Chinese Generation X to have their kids raised by the grandparents.

My oldest uncle’s daughter Catherine recently got married. Catherine hasn’t worked a single day in her life and her husband doesn’t have a real job either. My uncle and his wife bought them a $300,000 (US dollar) apartment, a car and lots of jewelries. Up to this day, the young couple hasn’t made an effort on making their own home livable. They choose to live with her parents so that they don’t have to pay for anything or do any household work.

My sister and her family immigrated to the U.S. this past summer and lived with us for a few months. Both my sister and brother-in-law have very good jobs in Shanghai. So the decision to immigrate was solely for their 21-year-old daughter Lee. Lee is the pride of her parents because of her academic achievement. She skipped a couple of grades and has just graduated from the Shanghai Foreign Language Institute. Lee also earned a hard-to-get opportunity to study abroad in Japan during her junior year. My sister can never stop raving about her daughter, how diligent, smart and independent she is.

But I find the way Lee treats her parents appalling. She calls them by first and last names as if she were commanding her servants. During the three months when they all lived in our house, my sister and her husband were at her service from morning till night. If Lee wanted an apple, all she had to do was glancing at the fruit container and calling out one of their names. Her mom or dad would get the hint and go “Oh, Lee, you want an apple? I’ll peel for you.”

When Lee was frustrated or stressed out, she directed her anger straight at her parents because they were stupid or failed to help her the right way. The funny thing was her parents just took it silently without ever letting her know that it wasn’t acceptable to treat anyone let alone one’s parents that way.

My sister and brother-in-law have returned to Shanghai and Lee is staying with us till next fall when she will go to graduate school. She knows that I won’t take any of that crap from her and so she peels her own apples these days whenever she wants one.

Chinese Gen-X are flooding the western universities with their limited English, expensive cars and brand name attires. It’s another effort on the part of their parents to get them ahead in this competitive world. Ordinary 2G’s families are more than willing to finance the education by selling their residences that have tripled or quadrupled in value over the last decade. This competition is more about the parents than about the Gen-X. On college campus, these Chinese students are affectionately referred to as FOBs (fresh off the boat). They tend to stick together rather than mingling with the others. Universities have mixed feelings towards the FOBs. Many professors say they have to alter how they teach in order to integrate the increasing number of Chinese students into American colleges.

So by and large the Gen-X in China is a troubled generation, spoiled, delusional and dependent. The society and parents have to bear the bulk of the blame. The Asian culture emphasizes on parents’ devotion to their offspring. The one-child policy coupled with the ever-so-abundant resources is pushing that mentality to the extreme. Parents believe they are doing everything for the sake of their children. In reality they are ruining this generation by being over-protective, over-providing and keeping them childish and dependent. Parents in China are failing miserably at one of the main parental responsibilities, which is to give their children wings so that they can fly on their own one day. If Generation X is still unwilling and unprepared to leave their nest in their 30s, one has to wonder when they will ever grow up to serve others and become the driving force of the society.