BEIJING — An elementary school student in China dreams of getting rich to escape the repetitive loop of life, he told a public speaking contest, astonishing listeners with his candor and grown-up cynicism.
A video clip widely shared on Chinese social media over the weekend showed the unnamed student, from the city of Hangzhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang, saying he has felt pressured and exhausted by life, and worried about growing up.
“You work hard but only see limited returns, like you’re in an endless loop,” he said.
The clip gave away little about his identity, though the student wore around his neck the red scarf signifying membership in the 100-million-plus strong Young Pioneers of China, a group that urges young people to be tough and fight for communism.
“I want to be rich to overcome the meaninglessness of life,” he said in his four-minute talk. “With money you can do whatever you want.”
A male voice in the background could be heard saying repeatedly, “We’re finished.”
The student’s pessimistic outlook contrasts with the optimism of his parents’ generation, which bore witness to China’s economic rise in the 1990s and 2000s.
It also runs counter to President Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” that urges young people to work hard and help rejuvenate the nation.
But defeatism is not unheard of in China, particularly among disillusioned millennials in big cities facing the pressure to survive in a country obsessed with marriage, home ownership and personal success as living costs rise.
The video clip provoked heated online debate, though its original publisher, Beijing News, has deleted it.
“What the boy wants is not just money, but freedom in life, to be able to get rid of the hollowness of life,” said one user of China’s Twitter-like Weibo.
“The pupil has figured out life at such an early age,” said another Weibo user. “It took me over three decades.”