Photos of Their Youth

 Tian He wanted to record the faces and inner worlds of these young people who keep fighting for their dreams.

Zhou Changkai is another subject of Tian He’s photo series. Zhou was born in 1987 in Heze City of Shandong Province. He studied web page design at a private college in Beijing, but he lost interest in the course, dropped out and started work. Over the past three years, he has worked as a web page designer and even a vendor of counterfeit batteries. He also co-invested with friends to set up a cell phone battery factory in Shenzhen and then returned to Beijing to work for a former classmate’s company as the website manager. According to Tian He, Zhou dreamed of being a big shot in whatever business. However, accumulating life experience has made him more realistic. Now, he just wants to earn money and gain more experience so he can eventually return to his hometown and open his own business there.

“I always think that people born in the 1980s are the first generation in Chinese history to be able to decide their destiny. They can choose the education they are going to receive and the schools they go to; they can choose jobs and spouses according to their liking,” said Tian He. However, most young Chinese people, whether they belong to the post-80s or the post-90s generation, don’t have concrete career paths mapped out. “That reveals a huge hole in our education,” Tian He said.

Zhou shares an apartment with several others in a Beijing suburb. After paying his monthly rent of RMB 600, food and other expenses, there is little left for recreation. 

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