The new novel "The Waste Tide," which depicts a dystopian China in the post-2020 era, is causing a stir not only because of the dark future it illustrates, but for the attitudes and beliefs it reflects.
The novel paints China as a conflicted nation, powerful enough to convince other countries to accept its ideologies, but not strong enough to pull its population out of poverty.
In fact, the Chinese society depicted in the novel features an even greater wealth gap than exists now, with the rich people possessing the country's main resources.
In an economic zone in Guangdong province, the laborers who undertake dangerous work for the profit of the Chinese and foreign businessmen who employ them, are depicted not as humans, but cyborgs whose bodies and minds have been altered permanently through bio-engineering. Their plight is unknown to the world, as the rich elite's control over the Internet means and no one can know what is happening to them.
Cover of The Waste Tide [hexun.com]
The dystopian nightmare described by Beijing-based sci-fi writer Chen Qiufan is at odds with the government's goal of creating a "well-off society" by 2020, a feat described by some as the "China Dream."
Chen, 32, is a Beijing-based fiction writer and a Google employee. He spent a year writing his book, which was recently published by Shanghai Zui Co.,Ltd.
Acclaimed writer Guo Jingming, the company's president, wrote in the preface for Chen's book:
"In the novel, doomsday is not a fictitious thing from Mayan myth, but an astounding reality that we are facing now. You may find that our world is severely bruised and riddled with problems like environmental pollution."
The book reflects the younger generation's worries about the future, as they are uncertain of how things will turn out here. Although they tend to live more affluently and are more exposed to globalization than their parents, many young Chinese are anxious, unhappy and angry with the hand life has dealt them.
Guo, born in 1983, is one of China's richest writers.
Han Han, one of China's most famous writers and bloggers, said many young Chinese are frustrated with the reality of their situation.
"A friend of mine earns 2,000 yuan a month. He needs to work for 25 years without eating and drinking in order to afford a simple house for his family," Han Han wrote.
"This is why a number of workers at Foxconn jumped from the company's building and killed themselves. Working like a machine, having a hopeless future and low salary...plus skyrocketing prices. All you can do is care for your stomach and body without doing anything else."
"When I was 18 years old, I was convinced by my high school teacher to take an exam and enter Peking University. But now I want to flee away from Beijing, as it is boring, crowded and badly polluted. However, I find there is no way to run," Chen said.
Although Han Han and Chen may sound pessimistic, their concerns are very real and shared by many.
The economic fruits enjoyed by the country's elite are still on a branch too high for many young Chinese to reach -- it is this, among other problems, that will slow China's future development.
Although many other great difficulties loom ahead for China, the malaise that is now so prevalent among younger generations is just as pressing.
Members of the post-1980s generation are becoming leading players in all walks of life in China. In the next 20 years, they will be a pillar of society and China's top leaders will likely be among them.
It is not yet known how they will handle and govern the country. But the anxiety and frustration they face now will have to be sincerely discussed and solved before then.