Choices facing China's youth: The path less traveled
Huo Li, Yang Jing
2019 marks the 100th anniversary of China's May Fourth Movement, a patriotic social movement that was led by students and young people.
Today, young people have the privilege of choice. They can take their own paths towards improving society and fulfilling their dreams.
CGTN found out more by speaking to three young people who have made their own life choices.
Jian Lili: Serving others and achieving self-worth
Jian Lili, founder of My Therapist (, China's largest online platform for psychotherapy, was on the Asia Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2016.
However, before these achievements, she had been depressed for quite a while.
After getting a master's degree in cognitive neuropsychology, Jian worked at a university for six years as a counselor, regarded by many as a decent job.
Uncertain about the direction of her career, older people told her she was “reckless” to consider quitting. Comments like this led to her constantly feeling depressed.
Jian Lili in an interview with CGTN. /CGTN Photo

Jian Lili in an interview with CGTN. /CGTN Photo

Jian forced herself to explore other possibilities and started answering questions about psychotherapy in online forums. This enabled her to realize that there was a massive demand for professional psychological support.
After participating in an entrepreneurship program known as Draper University (DU) in Silicon Valley in 2014, she received investment for her online psychotherapy platform. Soon after, the university counselor started her own business.
She believed that the nature of entrepreneurship is finding solutions for society, with appreciating one's own self-worth and contributing to society often going hand-in-hand.
With the development of the Internet and growing awareness of mental health, Jian's online platform grew rapidly, both in terms of size and influence.
As of 2018, more than 700 psychotherapists have handled 300,000 cases through the platform.
The average age of users of the platform is 29 years old. Compared with previous generations who only sought help for specific problems in life, younger people seek counseling for better self-understanding and exploring their identities.
Having greater control of your own life choices means more possibilities, but also more risk.
"We have to make choices during our entire life," Jian said, adding her advice. "Try more things, but remain patient."
Chen Chu: The biggest takeaway is empathy
Unlike her classmates, who joined commercial companies or entered the civil service after graduation, Chen Chu joined "Teach for China," an organization pairing up teachers with rural Chinese communities. She ended up teaching English in a middle school in southwest China's Yunnan Province for two years.
"Blending in with the local community, to know the students, to understand how they become who they are now is a teaching and learning process for me," Chen said.
Two years later, with a clearer understanding of education as well as some first-hand experience, she went to study education policy at Harvard University.
After returning to China, Chen is now in Beijing teaching math to six-year-olds at ETU School, a new private school which aims to encourage students to make changes in the community.
Chen Chu in an interview with CGTN. /CGTN Photo

Chen Chu in an interview with CGTN. /CGTN Photo

Regardless of the difference in the environment, Chen said young people in Beijing and Yunnan have similar needs for love and a sense of security, and education should emphasize personal development, particularly emotional wellbeing.
It takes time to find out where passion lies, and the key is to take action, Chen said, reflecting on her career.
"Now, due to a more open and diversified society, young people are more likely to stay true to themselves and choose what they like. For my first group of students, and also my current students, I believe it is a form of progress, that they can be the best versions of themselves and have more options."
Han Yingdi: Never give up
In a dubbing studio in Beijing, Han recounted how he became a voice actor, with his signature voice appearing in adverts for many well-known brands.
The passion for voiceover work grew from listening to radio programs in childhood. Failure to get into a voice-related major in college didn't stop him from pursuing his dream.
Han overcame other tough obstacles, including his left ear falling deaf at the age of 12 while swimming. His hearing only fully recovered in 2016.
Han worked so hard to make up for his deafness that none of his colleagues or clients at work even realized he had any hearing impairment.
Han Yingdi records an audio drama in Beijing. /CGTN Photo

Han Yingdi records an audio drama in Beijing. /CGTN Photo

After graduating from university with a degree in marketing, Han became a full-time radio host thanks to the rich experience he gained during the past four years.
One year later, he chose to become a freelance voice actor and now runs his own team.
In addition to voiceover work for commercials, his studio is working on its own project – audio drama, a form of vocal performance that has been revived in recent years thanks to online radio and podcasts growing popular among young Chinese people.
"Many emerging jobs are related to leisure," he said, attributing the trend to changes in society and stronger economic foundations.
With fewer restrictions, there are more areas where the younger generation can apply their ideas and creativity.
"To express yourself, stay true to yourself and to make your voice heard."
(Video by Zhou Jinxi, Yang Shengjie, Yang Jing and Huo Li)