On my trip to Mainland China a couple of weeks ago, I happened to run into an old family friend who used to be my mom’s acupuncturist (who has since retired). Despite having emigrated from the Mainland to the U.S. almost forty years ago, she still loves China – and has continually made her annual trip back to her home town for over three decades. And this time – true to form, I saw her with 3-4 luggage in tow – full of gifts for her extended family and village friends.
However when we got time to sit down to chat a little, she lamented to me how she missed the old days when society was more simple and just. She complained how everyone in China today care too much about material things – and look up too much to money.
I was somewhat surprised.
On my flight back to Taiwan, I happened to read a Time article on Jet Li’s recent visit to Sichuan to help commemorate 6 month anniversary of the Wen Chuan earthquake. The article reported:
The celebrity duo [Donatella Versace and Jet Li – also known as Li Lianjie] is visiting a school and counseling facility for children affected by the Sichuan earthquake, paid for by Versace and operated under the auspices of Li’s charity, the One Foundation. … Hundreds of people pour in from the road or strain at the wire mesh that separates the school from the tract of temporary housing it adjoins. There is barely room to stage the songs and dances that the children have so assiduously rehearsed.
People generally don’t ask Li to do flying kicks or the wushu horse stance for the camera these days. They don’t even want his autograph much. What they want to do, amid the moral vacuum of modern China, is feed off the aura of a man preaching compassion and civic duty. When Li takes the rostrum, he reminds people of a time before land grabs, kickbacks and beatings — of a China in which people were not counterfeiting, short-changing, corner-cutting, milk-adulterating hucksters but virtuous and simple. “Before this country opened up, people were more focused on their spiritual lives,” he says. “Since this country opened we have been more focused on the material life. For the sake of Chinese culture, it’s time for a balance.”
I personally think people in China are no less (or more) amoral than people in America – or elsewhere in the world. What difference there seem to be in morality is due to the different circumstances under which people find themselves.
In the relentless pursuit of economic development, China is a very stressful place to live today. People are often forced to jostle to make a living just to make sure they – or at least their child – do not fall behind.
For people who have visited China recently, what are people’s impression of the morality of the average Chinese?
For Mainlanders, how many of you actually feel the society was more just or moral under communism?