China's new generation gap
While we were in Hubei, my colleague and I went to a village to see what life is like for migrant workers who've come back for the holidays.
In the village of Xinli, the most exciting attraction is a half-broken snooker table set up by the side of the main road. Two young men on their new year holiday play a few frames. No one's watching.
Across the road, 20-year-old Wang Jiao catches up with her family for the first time in months. She works at a textile factory in southern China. She's one of this country's 200 million or so migrant workers. The money they make has changed the way that China lives. Wang Jiao's wages - and the money brought in by her brothers and sisters - have allowed their family to buy a fridge, a computer and a washing machine.
"After I graduated from secondary school I didn't have much to do," says Wang Jiao, "So I went out to work like the others. There are some jobs here but in the south it's easier to earn more money."
After this new year holiday ends, Wang Jiao will go back to her job in the south. But this year many millions more will have to stay at home in the countryside. Their jobs are gone. A few minutes walk away, we reach the home and small rice farm of the Chen family.
Chen Zhongwei looks on as his parents make new year candles from a bucket of wax. Zhongwei, who's 26, used to work as a security guard in southern China. He'd planned to stay in the south to open a restaurant. But his factory lost orders, and his wages were cut. So now he's back home in the countryside without a job.
"I feel it's so dull when I come back to my village," says Chen Zhongwei, "I can't find any passion here. Young people like me won't consider farming. If we farm, we will be seen as useless."
His father - Chen Fang'an - stands quietly nearby. He's not used to talking to foreigners. But there is something on his mind.
"I have two sons," says Chen Fang'an, "Neither of them is married. The bad economy means that we can't find wives for them. Matchmakers are unwilling to introduce girls to our sons."
The problem that China now faces can be summed up in the difference between this father and son. The father, in his worn-out clothes, grew up during famine and revolution. His main hope has simply been to survive. The son, in jeans and smarter shoes, has grown up during peace and expansion. His hope has been for a better life. Now for the first time, there's a problem.
This year, Chen Zhongwei and millions more find that they can't get the life they want. But they will no longer accept the life their parents have led.