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BBC TwoThis World


Last Updated: Monday, 21 February 2005, 15:58 GMT
Chen Lu: China
Chen Lu
Military training is designed to test Chen Lu's endurance and loyalty

Chen Lu is 15 years old. She is constantly under pressure from her parents, her school and the state, to achieve.

After an 11-hour day of schooling, Chen Lu must then concentrate on her homework.

She is the only child, due to the one child policy introduced in 1979 to curb the escalating population, and her parents want the very best for their daughter.

They are strict with her and believe that education is the only way she will be successful.

The Chinese governement however, are also aware that the one child policy has created a new phenomena - the creation of little emperors and empresses who have been thoroughly spoilt.

Therefore, to toughen them up, the state enforce a week's military training for every high school student.

It is a chance to teach them to be loyal to the communist party and serve their country.

But life in the training camp is hard and not everyone can hack it. Chen Lu begins to suffer from tension headaches.

The students have to be utterly obedient and work as a collective whole. Anyone who refuses is punished.

Since China opened up its markets in the 80s, it has become the fastest growing economy in the world and teenagers are now tempted with all the trappings of Western life.

Will today's younger generation be able to cope with the demands of China's "third way", the co-existance of a communist government and a capitalist economy?

Many students, it seems, are more interested in making lots of money than talking about communism and politics.

Coming of Age was broadcast in the UK on Tuesday, 22nd February, 2005 at 2100 GMT on BBC Two.

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