English-Video.net comment policy

The comment field is common to all languages

Let's write in your language and use "Google Translate" together

Please refer to informative community guidelines on TED.com

TEDGlobal 2011

Yang Lan: The generation that's remaking China

Filmed
Views 1,790,771

Yang Lan, a journalist and entrepreneur who's been called "the Oprah of China," offers insight into the next generation of young Chinese citizens -- urban, connected (via microblogs) and alert to injustice.

- Media mogul, TV host
Yang Lan is often called “the Oprah of China.” The chair of a multiplatform business empire, Yang is pioneering more-open means of communication in the communist nation. Full bio

The night before I was heading for Scotland,
00:15
I was invited to host the final
00:18
of "China's Got Talent" show in Shanghai
00:21
with the 80,000 live audience in the stadium.
00:24
Guess who was the performing guest?
00:28
Susan Boyle.
00:31
And I told her, "I'm going to Scotland the next day."
00:34
She sang beautifully,
00:38
and she even managed to say a few words in Chinese:
00:40
送你葱
00:44
So it's not like "hello" or "thank you,"
00:47
that ordinary stuff.
00:49
It means "green onion for free."
00:51
Why did she say that?
00:53
Because it was a line
00:56
from our Chinese parallel Susan Boyle --
00:59
a 50-some year-old woman,
01:02
a vegetable vendor in Shanghai,
01:04
who loves singing Western opera,
01:06
but she didn't understand
01:09
any English or French or Italian,
01:11
so she managed to fill in the lyrics
01:13
with vegetable names in Chinese.
01:15
(Laughter)
01:17
And the last sentence of Nessun Dorma
01:19
that she was singing in the stadium
01:22
was "green onion for free."
01:24
So [as] Susan Boyle was saying that,
01:27
80,000 live audience sang together.
01:30
That was hilarious.
01:33
So I guess both Susan Boyle
01:36
and this vegetable vendor in Shanghai
01:39
belonged to otherness.
01:42
They were the least expected to be successful
01:44
in the business called entertainment,
01:46
yet their courage and talent brought them through.
01:49
And a show and a platform
01:52
gave them the stage
01:55
to realize their dreams.
01:57
Well, being different is not that difficult.
02:00
We are all different
02:04
from different perspectives.
02:06
But I think being different is good,
02:08
because you present a different point of view.
02:10
You may have the chance to make a difference.
02:13
My generation has been very fortunate
02:16
to witness and participate
02:18
in the historic transformation of China
02:20
that has made so many changes
02:23
in the past 20, 30 years.
02:25
I remember that in the year of 1990,
02:28
when I was graduating from college,
02:31
I was applying for a job in the sales department
02:33
of the first five-star hotel in Beijing,
02:36
Great Wall Sheraton -- it's still there.
02:38
So after being interrogated
02:42
by this Japanese manager for a half an hour,
02:44
he finally said,
02:46
"So, Miss Yang,
02:48
do you have any questions to ask me?"
02:50
I summoned my courage and poise and said,
02:53
"Yes, but could you let me know,
02:56
what actually do you sell?"
02:58
I didn't have a clue what a sales department was about
03:01
in a five-star hotel.
03:03
That was the first day I set my foot
03:05
in a five-star hotel.
03:07
Around the same time,
03:09
I was going through an audition --
03:11
the first ever open audition
03:14
by national television in China --
03:16
with another thousand college girls.
03:19
The producer told us
03:22
they were looking for some sweet, innocent
03:24
and beautiful fresh face.
03:26
So when it was my turn, I stood up and said,
03:29
"Why [do] women's personalities on television
03:32
always have to be beautiful, sweet, innocent
03:35
and, you know, supportive?
03:38
Why can't they have their own ideas
03:41
and their own voice?"
03:43
I thought I kind of offended them.
03:45
But actually, they were impressed by my words.
03:49
And so I was in the second round of competition,
03:53
and then the third and the fourth.
03:55
After seven rounds of competition,
03:57
I was the last one to survive it.
03:59
So I was on a national television prime-time show.
04:02
And believe it or not,
04:05
that was the first show on Chinese television
04:07
that allowed its hosts
04:09
to speak out of their own minds
04:11
without reading an approved script.
04:13
(Applause)
04:16
And my weekly audience at that time
04:20
was between 200 to 300 million people.
04:22
Well after a few years,
04:26
I decided to go to the U.S. and Columbia University
04:28
to pursue my postgraduate studies,
04:31
and then started my own media company,
04:33
which was unthought of
04:35
during the years that I started my career.
04:38
So we do a lot of things.
04:40
I've interviewed more than a thousand people in the past.
04:42
And sometimes I have young people approaching me
04:45
say, "Lan, you changed my life,"
04:48
and I feel proud of that.
04:50
But then we are also so fortunate
04:52
to witness the transformation of the whole country.
04:54
I was in Beijing's bidding for the Olympic Games.
04:57
I was representing the Shanghai Expo.
05:01
I saw China embracing the world
05:03
and vice versa.
05:05
But then sometimes I'm thinking,
05:07
what are today's young generation up to?
05:10
How are they different,
05:14
and what are the differences they are going to make
05:16
to shape the future of China,
05:18
or at large, the world?
05:20
So today I want to talk about young people
05:23
through the platform of social media.
05:25
First of all, who are they? [What] do they look like?
05:28
Well this is a girl called Guo Meimei --
05:31
20 years old, beautiful.
05:33
She showed off her expensive bags,
05:35
clothes and car
05:38
on her microblog,
05:40
which is the Chinese version of Twitter.
05:42
And she claimed to be the general manager of Red Cross
05:44
at the Chamber of Commerce.
05:48
She didn't realize
05:51
that she stepped on a sensitive nerve
05:53
and aroused national questioning,
05:55
almost a turmoil,
05:57
against the credibility of Red Cross.
05:59
The controversy was so heated
06:02
that the Red Cross had to open a press conference
06:05
to clarify it,
06:07
and the investigation is going on.
06:09
So far, as of today,
06:11
we know that she herself made up that title --
06:14
probably because she feels proud to be associated with charity.
06:17
All those expensive items
06:20
were given to her as gifts
06:22
by her boyfriend,
06:24
who used to be a board member
06:26
in a subdivision of Red Cross at Chamber of Commerce.
06:28
It's very complicated to explain.
06:31
But anyway, the public still doesn't buy it.
06:34
It is still boiling.
06:37
It shows us a general mistrust
06:39
of government or government-backed institutions,
06:42
which lacked transparency in the past.
06:45
And also it showed us
06:48
the power and the impact of social media
06:50
as microblog.
06:53
Microblog boomed in the year of 2010,
06:55
with visitors doubled
06:58
and time spent on it tripled.
07:00
Sina.com, a major news portal,
07:03
alone has more than 140 million microbloggers.
07:05
On Tencent, 200 million.
07:09
The most popular blogger --
07:11
it's not me --
07:13
it's a movie star,
07:15
and she has more than 9.5 million followers, or fans.
07:17
About 80 percent of those microbloggers are young people,
07:21
under 30 years old.
07:24
And because, as you know,
07:27
the traditional media is still heavily controlled by the government,
07:29
social media offers an opening
07:32
to let the steam out a little bit.
07:34
But because you don't have many other openings,
07:36
the heat coming out of this opening
07:39
is sometimes very strong, active
07:42
and even violent.
07:45
So through microblogging,
07:47
we are able to understand Chinese youth even better.
07:49
So how are they different?
07:52
First of all, most of them were born
07:54
in the 80s and 90s,
07:56
under the one-child policy.
07:58
And because of selected abortion
08:01
by families who favored boys to girls,
08:03
now we have ended up
08:05
with 30 million more young men than women.
08:07
That could pose
08:10
a potential danger to the society,
08:12
but who knows;
08:14
we're in a globalized world,
08:16
so they can look for girlfriends from other countries.
08:18
Most of them have fairly good education.
08:22
The illiteracy rate in China among this generation
08:25
is under one percent.
08:28
In cities, 80 percent of kids go to college.
08:31
But they are facing an aging China
08:34
with a population above 65 years old
08:38
coming up with seven-point-some percent this year,
08:41
and about to be 15 percent
08:44
by the year of 2030.
08:46
And you know we have the tradition
08:48
that younger generations support the elders financially,
08:50
and taking care of them when they're sick.
08:52
So it means young couples
08:54
will have to support four parents
08:56
who have a life expectancy of 73 years old.
08:59
So making a living is not that easy
09:03
for young people.
09:05
College graduates are not in short supply.
09:07
In urban areas,
09:10
college graduates find the starting salary
09:12
is about 400 U.S. dollars a month,
09:14
while the average rent
09:16
is above $500.
09:18
So what do they do? They have to share space --
09:20
squeezed in very limited space
09:23
to save money --
09:25
and they call themselves "tribe of ants."
09:27
And for those who are ready to get married
09:30
and buy their apartment,
09:32
they figured out they have to work
09:34
for 30 to 40 years
09:36
to afford their first apartment.
09:38
That ratio in America
09:40
would only cost a couple five years to earn,
09:42
but in China it's 30 to 40 years
09:44
with the skyrocketing real estate price.
09:47
Among the 200 million migrant workers,
09:51
60 percent of them are young people.
09:54
They find themselves sort of sandwiched
09:57
between the urban areas and the rural areas.
09:59
Most of them don't want to go back to the countryside,
10:02
but they don't have the sense of belonging.
10:05
They work for longer hours
10:07
with less income, less social welfare.
10:09
And they're more vulnerable
10:12
to job losses,
10:14
subject to inflation,
10:16
tightening loans from banks,
10:18
appreciation of the renminbi,
10:20
or decline of demand
10:22
from Europe or America
10:24
for the products they produce.
10:26
Last year, though,
10:28
an appalling incident
10:30
in a southern OEM manufacturing compound in China:
10:32
13 young workers
10:35
in their late teens and early 20s
10:37
committed suicide,
10:39
just one by one like causing a contagious disease.
10:41
But they died because of all different personal reasons.
10:45
But this whole incident
10:49
aroused a huge outcry from society
10:51
about the isolation,
10:53
both physical and mental,
10:55
of these migrant workers.
10:57
For those who do return back to the countryside,
10:59
they find themselves very welcome locally,
11:01
because with the knowledge, skills and networks
11:04
they have learned in the cities,
11:06
with the assistance of the Internet,
11:08
they're able to create more jobs,
11:10
upgrade local agriculture and create new business
11:13
in the less developed market.
11:15
So for the past few years, the coastal areas,
11:17
they found themselves in a shortage of labor.
11:20
These diagrams show
11:23
a more general social background.
11:25
The first one is the Engels coefficient,
11:27
which explains that the cost of daily necessities
11:30
has dropped its percentage
11:33
all through the past decade,
11:35
in terms of family income,
11:37
to about 37-some percent.
11:39
But then in the last two years,
11:42
it goes up again to 39 percent,
11:44
indicating a rising living cost.
11:46
The Gini coefficient
11:49
has already passed the dangerous line of 0.4.
11:51
Now it's 0.5 --
11:54
even worse than that in America --
11:56
showing us the income inequality.
11:59
And so you see this whole society
12:02
getting frustrated
12:04
about losing some of its mobility.
12:06
And also, the bitterness and even resentment
12:09
towards the rich and the powerful
12:12
is quite widespread.
12:14
So any accusations of corruption
12:16
or backdoor dealings between authorities or business
12:18
would arouse a social outcry
12:22
or even unrest.
12:24
So through some of the hottest topics on microblogging,
12:26
we can see what young people care most about.
12:30
Social justice and government accountability
12:33
runs the first in what they demand.
12:35
For the past decade or so,
12:38
a massive urbanization and development
12:40
have let us witness a lot of reports
12:44
on the forced demolition
12:47
of private property.
12:49
And it has aroused huge anger and frustration
12:51
among our young generation.
12:54
Sometimes people get killed,
12:56
and sometimes people set themselves on fire to protest.
12:58
So when these incidents are reported
13:02
more and more frequently on the Internet,
13:04
people cry for the government to take actions to stop this.
13:06
So the good news is that earlier this year,
13:09
the state council passed a new regulation
13:12
on house requisition and demolition
13:15
and passed the right
13:18
to order forced demolition from local governments
13:20
to the court.
13:22
Similarly, many other issues concerning public safety
13:25
is a hot topic on the Internet.
13:28
We heard about polluted air,
13:31
polluted water, poisoned food.
13:33
And guess what, we have faked beef.
13:36
They have sorts of ingredients
13:39
that you brush on a piece of chicken or fish,
13:41
and it turns it to look like beef.
13:44
And then lately,
13:47
people are very concerned about cooking oil,
13:49
because thousands of people have been found
13:51
[refining] cooking oil
13:54
from restaurant slop.
13:56
So all these things
13:58
have aroused a huge outcry from the Internet.
14:00
And fortunately,
14:04
we have seen the government
14:06
responding more timely and also more frequently
14:08
to the public concerns.
14:11
While young people seem to be very sure
14:13
about their participation
14:15
in public policy-making,
14:17
but sometimes they're a little bit lost
14:19
in terms of what they want for their personal life.
14:21
China is soon to pass the U.S.
14:24
as the number one market
14:26
for luxury brands --
14:28
that's not including the Chinese expenditures
14:30
in Europe and elsewhere.
14:32
But you know what, half of those consumers
14:34
are earning a salary below 2,000 U.S. dollars.
14:37
They're not rich at all.
14:40
They're taking those bags and clothes
14:42
as a sense of identity and social status.
14:45
And this is a girl explicitly saying
14:48
on a TV dating show
14:50
that she would rather cry in a BMW
14:52
than smile on a bicycle.
14:54
But of course, we do have young people
14:57
who would still prefer to smile,
14:59
whether in a BMW or [on] a bicycle.
15:01
So in the next picture, you see a very popular phenomenon
15:03
called "naked" wedding, or "naked" marriage.
15:07
It does not mean they will wear nothing in the wedding,
15:10
but it shows that these young couples are ready to get married
15:13
without a house, without a car, without a diamond ring
15:16
and without a wedding banquet,
15:19
to show their commitment to true love.
15:21
And also, people are doing good through social media.
15:24
And the first picture showed us
15:27
that a truck caging 500 homeless and kidnapped dogs
15:29
for food processing
15:33
was spotted and stopped on the highway
15:35
with the whole country watching
15:38
through microblogging.
15:40
People were donating money, dog food
15:42
and offering volunteer work to stop that truck.
15:44
And after hours of negotiation,
15:47
500 dogs were rescued.
15:49
And here also people are helping to find missing children.
15:52
A father posted his son's picture onto the Internet.
15:56
After thousands of resends in relay,
15:59
the child was found,
16:02
and we witnessed the reunion of the family
16:04
through microblogging.
16:07
So happiness is the most popular word
16:09
we have heard through the past two years.
16:12
Happiness is not only related
16:15
to personal experiences and personal values,
16:18
but also, it's about the environment.
16:20
People are thinking about the following questions:
16:22
Are we going to sacrifice our environment further
16:25
to produce higher GDP?
16:28
How are we going to perform our social and political reform
16:31
to keep pace with economic growth,
16:34
to keep sustainability and stability?
16:37
And also, how capable is the system
16:40
of self-correctness
16:43
to keep more people content
16:45
with all sorts of friction going on at the same time?
16:48
I guess these are the questions people are going to answer.
16:51
And our younger generation
16:54
are going to transform this country
16:56
while at the same time being transformed themselves.
16:58
Thank you very much.
17:02
(Applause)
17:04

▲Back to top

About the speaker:

Yang Lan - Media mogul, TV host
Yang Lan is often called “the Oprah of China.” The chair of a multiplatform business empire, Yang is pioneering more-open means of communication in the communist nation.

Why you should listen

Yang Lan’s rise to stardom in China has drawn comparisons to Oprah Winfrey’s success in the US. It’s easy to see why: Yang is a self-made entrepreneur and the most powerful woman in the Chinese media. As chair of Sun Media Investment Holdings, a business empire she built with her husband, Yang is a pioneer of open communication.

Yang started her journalism career by establishing the first current-events TV program in China. She created and hosted many other groundbreaking shows, starting with the chatfest Yang Lan One on One. The popular Her Village, which now includes an online magazine and website, brings together China’s largest community of professional women (more than 200 million people a month).

Yang, who served as an ambassador for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, wields her influence for philanthropic endeavors, too. She founded the Sun Culture Foundation in 2005 to raise awareness about poverty and to promote cross-cultural communication.

More profile about the speaker
Yang Lan | Speaker | TED.com