Shenzhen seems suddenly filled with creative people. In part, this may be the biennale and the cultural business that has been generated. In part, it may also be the upcoming Nanshan Fringe Festival. However, in large part its also due to the fact that generation 70 is now actively making decisions about how they want to live and contribute.
Shenzhen’s current “30-something” group, Generation 70 (70后) is an interesting cohort because they are clearly not residually socialist in the manner of Generation 60 (60后), but neither do they belong to the Rich Second Generation (富二代), even when they are the second generation of their family to live in Shenzhen. Instead, Generation 70 were raised to be respectable members of the middle class, have professional careers, and move China forward in solid, sober fashion. However, after graduating from college, getting that job, and starting their one-child-families, many members of Generation 70 have found themselves bored with the lives that their parents and grandparents and spouses and friends expect them to live.
Started by two members of Generation 70, ATU观筑 exemplifies the creative second career choices that some of Shenzhen’s 30-somethings are making. ATU观筑 is a non-proffit institution that organizes salons, workshops, and public education courses to debate the meaning and direction of urbanization and urbanity in Shenzhen. The directors are 30-something and the creative team is in their mid-20s. They dress fashionably, enjoy art, and want to contribute to a more vibrant society. They speak English, travel abroad, and think of transforming Shenzhen in terms of environmental and progressive values; in short, the folks at ATU观筑, like other creative 30-somethings throughout the city and the country may be the crest of a distinctly modern and Chinese wave of creativity that many – Chinese and foreigners – have been waiting to arrive since Reform and Opening began just over thirty years ago.