The closest analog to America’s Greatest Generation, the Builders are the backbone of modern China. They quite literally built the country, through blood, sweat, and tears. Before skyscrapers and bullet trains, the Builders were melting pots and pans in backyard furnaces to fuel China’s fledgling steel factories and skipping college to labor in the countryside.

Like the Americans whose lives were upended by the Great Depression and World War II, the Builders experienced repeated disruptions during their formative years. Their best years were punctuated by turmoil, and they didn’t fare much better during adulthood. Millions of mid-career professionals lost public sector jobs (下岗) as China reformed its state sector in the 1990s.

For all their sacrifice, political elites of this generation have the sense that they deserve to run China. Their views, particularly toward inequality and security, are shaped in part by their generation’s perennial feeling of abandonment by a modern China that has embraced capitalism and globalism.

As this generation now dominates Chinese politics, political leadership has doubled down on stability, equality, and “common prosperity” as foundational features of its policy platform. This generational cohort tends to oppose unfettered capitalism and favors support for the state sector.

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