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Two recent conversations with executives at companies operating in China, one major in games and the other in online education, have found both of them exhausted by an ulcerating summer that questions Chinese President Xi Jinping. They both suspect that they are now dealing with the fiercest tiger father in the world.
The first was a discussion about China abruptly declared war on the games and its August ban on the nation’s players under the age of 18 from playing more than three hours a week. Draconian things, no doubt. Practically difficult to enforce, some argue. But it is clearly part of the Communist Party’s “common prosperity” social engineering ambitions, where many of its regulatory cards remain undisclosed and undisclosed.
At the same time, it shouldn’t have been completely unexpected. China’s restrictions on screen time, while striking and crushing on the stock price, may represent just an extreme version of a policy that other governments, and tough-love future parents, wish they had the dictatorial skills to impose. Some analysts in the gaming industry have been warning that something very similar to this could happen after the World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to its international classification of diseases in 2018.
Could China’s assault on the games industry have come about, I asked, because companies have been deliberately codifying the addictiveness and appeal of their products? By no means did he spin the gaming executive smoothly – the industry would be insane to do such a thing if it meant putting the next generation of gamers at any kind of health risk.
This line stood out not because it sounded bogus (which it did) but because of the latest industry that leaned on its questionable logic. When Big Tobacco began to roll out versions of this argument in the 1980s and 1990s, it was because they knew the jig was over and now the global reckoning was coming.
If China has managed to convince its national game companies, more than 200 of which got down on their knees and promised a new self-regulatory regime last Friday, to describe themselves even unconsciously through the public relations lexicon of smoking, it is reasonable to assume the three hour rule. it could stick.
Meanwhile, the conversation with the executive of the online tutoring company naturally turned to China. $ 120 billion private education industry crackdown. Some time was spent discussing the ingenuity that is likely to be applied now. He then turned to the question of the “tiger parents” and who, among the Communist Party and millions of families driven by the octane tiger of fear and aspiration, made a best ruthless tyrant in the lives of children. Xi, he argued, did not want to destroy the tigers, but rather to overcome them.
The thought seemed counterintuitive. China’s stated intention in the tutoring industry is to eliminate the inequalities and financial burdens of an educational arms race, the same war theater in which tiger parents are forged. The more disadvantaged these parents are in the long term, the next level of justification runs, the fewer barriers middle-class couples will see to having larger families. Tiger parents, especially the wealthiest and therefore more empowered, seem to be the enemy here. Arguably, they are the model.
For now, the government narrative, both in games and in private tutoring, may be about the desirability of leveling the educational battlefield, freeing up time, improving family life, and generally making up for the many billions of hours combined. per week that children miss out on extra games or classes. But that should not be expected to last. Gaming may be, in the eyes of some generations, a waste of time, and private tutoring can be grossly onerous and unfair, but at least they have kept large numbers of young people occupied in a way that neither state facilities nor An idyll of family life can immediately match. The government, until now, has been vague about how exactly it thinks the newly published time should be spent.
But Xi, the mentoring company executive suspects, must have something more concrete in mind. Their ambitions for the state have two strikingly parental characteristics: the belief that ambition is something to be imposed rather than encouraged, and the fear that inaction will inevitably lead to something undesirable.
Companies and investors, who in the space of a few weeks have agonized over the fate of the real estate sector, seen illegalized cryptocurrencies and watched as the entertainment industry, handcuffed with new rules, cringed at the prospect of the next surprise that will alter Beijing’s landscape. It can be hugely significant, in the long run, how the state decides that children’s free time should be spent.