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Saturday, October 1, 2016

China Sees Growth's Perils And Searches For Social Conscience

Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) — I’m on a trip to China this month, and it’s coinciding with some Middle Kingdom soul-searching about what Chinese people owe one another. In an age of “golden collar” workers made rich in the new economy, the Chinese are struggling to locate their social conscience. To move to the next level of development, the government needs to do the same.

It’s an important sign that even as China’s leadership continues to censor the Internet, it’s allowing online safety valves to let off steam.

  • David Starkey

    CAREFUL CHINA
    If you awaken the good conscience of a billion people, who KNOWS what might happen?
    Strangers helping each other [if you have a law protecting helpers with good intent]
    Crimes & Corruption Reported [assuming you have any at all]
    Children raised in a kinder world, who will raise THEIR children in an even KINDER world.
    You have seen what has happened in the middle east.
    If you want to maintain tyrannical control, do NOT encourage your people to do the right thing. They might just band together, WITH THE HELP OF THE PEOPLE’S ARMY, & rid themselves of tryants & crooks alike.

  • Betts

    As a first generation ABC (American born Chinese), I am all too familiar with that unbalanced sense of pride of having come from such a great culture simultaneously stirred in with huge gashes of disgrace for the unconscionable lack of value and total disregard for individual human rights. It existed with family and then mostly for sons. I am thankful for my father’s illegal entry to America, the ‘Gold Mountain’ where dedication of family had to co-exist with that American sense of social justice and eventually seek equilibrium like in the lab experiments when two substances introduced in a flask always seek equilibrium. At times like this, it becomes a nowhere land kind of existence where I can choose to be one or the other, or grateful for the expanded perspective. I thank Jonathan Alter for making that distinction for me.

  • Bonoix

    I lived in Shanghai for several years and I remember early on in my stay there, I tripped and fell on a semi-crowded sidewalk. Not one person stopped to see if I was okay. And I am a 50 year old woman. Of course here in the States any number of people would stop and help. But you have to remember what the Cultural Revolution did to the psyche of the country. People ratted out their parents, teachers, friends to save themselves from being sent to reeducation camps or worse. So people my age grew up with an ethos of extreme self-preservation and distrust. It would be amazing if that went away in a generation

  • Jeff Hunter

    Just got back from 10 day intro to Beijing, Sushi, Hang Zhou and Shanghai. This semi-Chinese state-sponsored trip together with an incomprehensible language both oral and written imposed some big limitations on taking the full pulse of this place. I flashed on earlier comment about the changes in Shanghai. It could have been a different planet or some time-warp into the future. We were told the city now has over 1,000 skyscrapers. The government owns all the land while allowing a sense of ownership through a free market on long term leases. Everywhere we went we saw an almost unbelievable amount of housing construction. To see projects of twenty apartment buildings 15 stories each going up at once was not uncommon. Eighty percent of the population work for the government which pays workers and provides leased housing, education, health care, early retirement and a long list. People are everywhere. Cars and buses jam through crowded streets.

    Im left with two recurring thoughts. Though alien to us, this government is working a lot harder to keep the Chinese employed and improving economically than ours is for us. And that, with apologies to my Walden-supporting friends, is in no small amount due to our mostly Republican induced impasse in Congress. Secondly, the Chinese government has allowed environmental degradation to a point where in our 10 days and 2,500 miles of travel I saw no clean open bodies of water and visibility rarely ranged beyond a mile as the sun glows red there through a mix of humidity and pollution. And there in lies the irony as both the Republicans and the Chinese government agree on regulating pollutants as little as possible. It’s sad to see our nation unable to deal with its problems. Yet I have hope we who seem so divided can find common language to create a world of more equal opportunity with personal responsibility and prosperity while not losing the goal of a functioning and improving natural world.

  • Frankie F L Leung

    It is a paradox that in a socialist country, everybody expects the government to do welfare. Therefore you find the most selfish people in such a country. Warren Buffet and his cohorts went to China to promote the sense of charity. What a joke. The Chinese Confuscian tradition of taking care of your family first goes contrary to the Christian idea of helping everyone. Unfortunately, the Communists engineered so many campaigns such as the Cultural Revolution completely annihilated the Confuscian ethics.

  • Ken Beiner

    As someone concerned with the direction that the social conscious of America seems to be heading, I found Mr. Alters’ article on China’s search a for a social conscience both enlightening and validating. It strikes me that the U.S. is not as far apart from China’s moral crisis as those of us living here would like to believe. It is always easier to look at the extreme moral failings of others, be it a person or culture, and to then compare it to our own in an effort to feel better about ourselves. Yet much of the rhetoric heard in today’s political landscape places self-interest above principal. Be it disparaging comments about immigrants, opposing heath care access for all, or placing the interests of corporations above those of the individual, we are seeing the perilous erosion of our own social consciousness.

    Citizens living in a society that ascribe to an ‘ every man (person) for himself philosophy’ are each vulnerable to being stepped over or stepped on themselves.
    In order for a society to evolve to its highest moral potential, it must achieve high levels of empathy and compassion. Of course, such ambitions would result in a society less inclined to wage war, foster greed, or tolerate corruption. The road to virtuous living, like most things of value, is the more difficult, but also the most rewarding path to take. Hopefully, we can use the failings of other societies as a means to revaluate and bolster our own social consciousness.

  • Milda Bishton

    Our American Social Conscience is derived from the Pilgrim Fathers, who earnestly followed both Moses’ teaching of the 10 commandments, as well as the teachings of Jesus, which is summarized in the “Golden Rule,” Luke 2:27, “Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength and with all thy mind and thy neighbor as thyself.