”I don’t feel free”, a young man suddenly tells me while we’re sharing a cup of tea.

I’m stunned. It’s the first time I’ve heard a Chinese person talking about freedom. I tried to steer the discussions in that direction several times, but it seemed as if they pretended not to hear me and changed the subject.

”And what would set you free?”, I ask, thinking of freedom of speech, human rights and other qualms. He thinks a bit and says:


From what I’ve seen so far, ultimate freedom for a Chinese man means to be a successful businessman who travels, has fun and has many lovers.

This form of freedom is accepted in a society that is still traditionalist, but at the same time wants to conquer the world. What’s the point in fooling around, if the others see you as a traitor or a slacker; freedom requires resources and authority.

The new generation was raised on American blockbusters, individualism and consumerism. But they live in an authoritarian state, and their families still function as clans. How can you make everyone happy?

Entrepreneurship is an existential issue for many people – the only way they can feel whole in a world that tears them apart in every direction.

It’s impossible to compete with their willingness to succeed, no matter how many books on productivity we read. The reason is that they’re doing this simply because they have no choice.

Freedom is when what you wish for is the only option left.