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Rich Kid Carrying Bricks Shines Light On China’s Post-90s Generation

A college student in Chongqing toiled for eight days moving bricks on a construction site to pay back a loan he took out to buy an Iphone and unwittingly became a symbol for China’s post-90s generation.

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A college student in Chongqing toiled for eight days moving bricks on a construction site to pay back a loan he took out to buy an Iphone and unwittingly became a symbol for China’s post-90s generation. Yang Fan is the name the Chinese media gave him, he’s an art student who reputedly comes from a well to do family. Not having the spending money to get the trendy gadget he desired, he bought it on credit. To pay this money back he had to do manual labor.

What’s wrong with this? This sounds pretty upright and sensical to me.

Yang Fan became a story because he complained to the Chongqing Morning News that the Iphone was not worth the sacrifice. “If I had the option, I would rather give up this iPhone 4. Moving bricks in the construction yard is not your ordinary exhausting, and I had blisters all over my hands those few days, extremely painful.”


This story was used as a jab in China’s skirmish with Apple, but it made the kid look like a privileged little whiner pouting about the fact that he had to do a little work to get what he wanted. In point, it made him out to be a poster child for China’s post-90s generation.

“Post-90s generation” defines, quite simply, the generalized characteristics of Chinse people who were born during the 1990s. They are the second generation to grow up under China’s family planning policy, which is often inaccurately dubbed the “one child policy.” Though often compared to the post-80s generation — the country’s first batch of little emperors — the post-90s kids have never known a China that wasn’t booming. Generally speaking, the “post-90s” term is often only applied to those born into middle/ upper class, or at least urban working class, households.

As far as reputation goes, the post-90s generation often comes under a lot of heat from the older generations, being described as, “Lazy, promiscuous, confused, selfish, brain damaged and overall hopeless.” They are often looked upon as being the over-privileged, spoiled, unappreciative inheritors of a China that their predecessors busted their asses to build. They are the generation that’s coming to define this country, and are rising within a culture that is globalizing and colliding head on with tradition. Likewise, they are the splitter generation that will forever divide the New China from the Old China.

So when this kid whines about doing a few days of manual labor to buy some over-priced, frivolous gadget, he finds himself the object of intrigue from people who’ve known a much different China. The overall reaction seems to be that of surprise that a kid from his generation and social status would even show up at a construction site at all.

Comments from Netease, translated by China Smack:


Isn’t this a very good thing, repaying your debts, and repaying it with what you earn through your own labor?


Not stealing, robbing or cutting out kidneys is already very good. And [the college student] even thinks of a way to repay his debt. At the very least making money with his own abilities. From an extreme perspective, being able to survive in this world is itself an ability. Years later, there may be a batch of “elites” squeezed out from the market to make up for those bricks that have been moved away. The key is those who build the buildings never pay attention to who moves the bricks. Even more importantly, many people are waiting in line to move the bricks…


Post-90s generation are brain damaged, rubbish, worthless. Wouldn’t take one even if you paid me.

网易浙江省嘉兴市网友: (in response to the above)

Can a young person who hasn’t made a few mistakes still be called “a young person”? Or are they thousand-year-old creatures time traveled right after being born in this world? The important point is that he didn’t cross the line, sell a kidney, steal or rob, ultimately doing honest work to repay the money, earning money with his labor, and at the same time also learning the value of money, and also regretting his own extravagance. Isn’t this a very good thing? Isn’t this actually a positive example? A prodigal son who returns home is more precious than gold. Isn’t this age-old proverb passed down by our ancestors not right?

网易广东省深圳市网友 [天香引]: (in response to the above)

Earnings through one’s labor is so degraded by you guys. Actually, we should pay attention to why one has to move so many days of bricks to be able to buy one mobile phone? Who are we carrying those bricks for?

In previous generations in China, kids moved bricks to help feed their families and put a roof over their heads, now some do so to buy Iphones. But the novelty here is that this is a novelty. The reality of urbanized, middle/ upper class China is far, far removed from that of the rest of the country. There are millions of young people moving bricks in this country every day just to survive, but you’ll never hear about them. China isn’t just a country that’s changing, it’s a country that’s bifurcating. What’s interesting is that the public lens is only focused on one half of this divide.


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Filed under: Changing China, China

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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