Sinica Podcast: “Morally Adrift”

All of the Sinica podcasts are outstanding, but the latest is one where you want to stop what you’re doing and listen to it with your complete attention.

To talk about a lack of morality in China that results in people’s driving away from the victim they’ve driven over, or even going back to run them over again so they don’t have to pay the medical bills, is playing with dynamite. Trolls will automatically produce a list of dreadful things Americans have done, leaving scenes of accidents, failing to help a woman, like Kitty Genovese, after she had been stabbed in front of them, etc. But stories like Kitty Genovese are iconic, seared in the public memory and covered in all the media because they are so shocking and outside the norm of the typical response. They are also far less common than those stories of heroism,in which someone risked their life to save another.

The podcast notes wonderful examples of Chinese acting with incredible bravery to save the lives of others, such as a bus driver mortally wounded who “pilots his bus to safety and manages to get everyone off the bus before expiring himself.” And there’s no doubt stories like that abound. But they seem to be outnumbered by stories of extreme selfishness and an unwillingness to come to the aid of others. When I first moved to China, one of the first things my new boss told me was that if I walked down a busy Chinese street and saw someone unconscious on the sidewalk most people would walk right by and offer no assistance.

There could be many reasons for this, as the podcast explains. Maybe China simply has so many people that being a Good Samaritan is impractical. Maybe it harkins back to the brutal nature of the Cultural Revolution, or to the new spirit of selfishness that came with reform and opening up. But it is nothing new. Luxun famously criticized the Chinese for their lack of values and morality 80-some years ago, writing about “the man-eating society where the strong devour the weak.” The Chinese people themselves believe today’s China is in many ways a moral vacuum, and the government in the past has launched campaigns to heighten awareness of adhering to moral values. But the government may also be a source of the problem, with its corruption, where in order to get ahead you often have to be cutthroat. The podcast also looks at the traditional Chinese mindset of caring for one’s family, not for society as a whole.

The point being that many, many Chinese themselves have been critical about their society’s lack of morality. That’s why the recent recent photo of a Westerner sitting down with an old woman beggar and sharing his French fries with her created such a sensation even in the Chinese media, including social media, where he was hailed as a hero, with questions raised about the lack of Chinese who would do the same. Xinhua reported:

In fact, the story of the “French Fry Brother” and the poor granny has not been the first “wake-up call” prompting Chinese to reflect upon a general tendency to be apathetic toward those in need.

A two-year-old girl who was hit by two vehicles on a market street and subsequently ignored by 18 passersby died in hospital in October 2011.

The nineteenth pedestrian, a migrant woman collecting trash, pulled Wang Yue to the side of the street and alerted the girl’s mother.

The death of “Little Yue Yue” triggered a nationwide wave of mourning as well as public outcry for mutual love and concern.

“We should offer our helping hand to those in danger or trouble, and, of course, with less hesitation,” microblogger “Nuannuan” wrote. “Others may give the granny some money, but a foreigner offers respect and warmth.”

Of course, this triggered a wave of counter-arguments about how the media is fawning over examples of foreign kindness and ignoring the virtues of the Chinese. This was, however, Xinhua.

The Sinica roundtable discusses whether religion, like Buddhism or Christianity, might provide a set of guidelines, like the Ten Commandments, that might steer the Chinese in a moral direction. This is a surefire way to infuriate nationalistic Chinese who see Christianity as a tool of imperialism. And of course, at least some branches of Christianity come with their own built-in lack of morality, such as hatred toward gays and denying a woman the right to choose to end a pregnancy, and more.

They also note that social media like Weibo have thrust examples of immorality and selfishness into the public limelight. Perhaps there is no moral vacuum, just a new fixation on high-profile examples that win public attention? (I don’t think so.)

I would step into this minefield and make my own argument, but the podcast does it for me. I have to congratulate the bravery and forthrightness of the panelists, who delve into this incredibly divisive and explosive topic. In no way do they ignore the many acts of courage, selflessness and the willingness of heroes to put themselves in harm’s way to help others. (Many of these Chinese are Christians, for what that’s worth. For the record, I am an atheist and no great champion of Christianity.)

Do not miss this podcast. It touches on a super-charged topic that many of us are unwilling to discuss, and looks at the many possible reasons for why morality in China is where it is today.

My blog has discussed the concept of mamu many times. The phenomenon of Chinese people being so splendid as individuals with their family members and friends, and then becoming quite different people out in public, where it’s purely dog eat dog and where cheating and stepping on others can be the norm. This podcast is the best discussion of the topic I’ve ever heard.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 93 Comments

Right on the money. The social infrastructure of China is sorely lacking.

June 9, 2012 @ 7:06 am | Comment

Thanks for sharing this, Richard.

June 9, 2012 @ 8:07 pm | Comment

Thanks for the nice comments, Richard. I think we all knew this was a very messy and intractable topic, very difficult to pin down, and a few of us felt the discussion was a bit disorganized and confusing at times. But it’s a very slippery topic, fraught with risks of stereotyping and oversimplification, which we may not have escaped entirely. But I think it was a valuable discussion nonetheless, and Kaiser deserves credit for having the courage to tackle it.

June 9, 2012 @ 10:31 pm | Comment

No, it’s not “difficult” or “complex”. Shit like this happens all around the developing world. China, in terms of crime rates, is FAR from being the amoral hell-hole you’re “subtly” trying to imply it is.

June 11, 2012 @ 1:22 am | Comment

Likewise, suggesting that China needs religion is most offensive to rational non-believers, not to everyone’s favorite “Chinese nationalist” boogeyman.

June 11, 2012 @ 1:23 am | Comment

@ CM

Must have missed the religion part of the podcast. Putting religion into a society bereft of mutual trust leads to religious strife. It is the last thing China needs right now.

June 11, 2012 @ 1:34 am | Comment

Here, let me respond point by point because I viscerally disagree or find fault with almost everything:

To talk about a lack of morality in China that results in people’s driving away from the victim they’ve driven over, or even going back to run them over again so they don’t have to pay the medical bills

I hear the same thing about Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, India, etc. But of course it’s China, so we have to ignore all the evidence to the contrary and frame this is some kind of China-specific phenomenon. The orgy of schadenfreude and finger-wagging in the foreign press following Yue Yue’s death is revealing both of foreign hypocrisy and the laughable insularity of even the most reasonable Chinese netizens – if they had half a clue, they’d realize Wang Yue’s case is not at all exceptional in the world at large. But 95% of them have probably never traveled overseas, and thus endlessly praise the developed world for their moral excellence. What a preposterous farce.

And there’s no doubt stories like that abound. But they seem to be outnumbered by stories of extreme selfishness and an unwillingness to come to the aid of others.

Based on what evidence? Media representation? Of course few would have heard of them, because the Western press ignores at least 99.9% of everything good that happens in China, and Chinese people routinely dismiss domestic reports as propaganda. You’d have to be actively searching for it to find it.

Maybe it harkins back to the brutal nature of the Cultural Revolution, or to the new spirit of selfishness that came with reform and opening up.

These two statements offered by the podcast directly contradict each other. But they are both overly simplistic to the point of ridicule.

Luxun famously criticized the Chinese for their lack of values and morality 80-some years ago, writing about “the man-eating society where the strong devour the weak.”

This doesn’t prove anything. You’ll (hopefully) find similar critics in every nation, and also that Lu Xun’s quote applies to almost human societies, bar none. Anyone who suggests otherwise is naive or willfully ignorant. The fact that China is actually self-critical helps to explain its low crime rates and its current progress in a wide range of fields, and the hopeless squalor and delusion of less introspective nations.

The podcast also looks at the traditional Chinese mindset of caring for one’s family, not for society as a whole.

This is nothing more than the reiteration of borderline racist caricature of non-Western (frankly, non-white) societies. The West fundamentally does not understand the structure of Chinese society. Unable to give praise where it’s due because of their incredible arrogance, they dismiss the cohesiveness of Chinese family structure as insect-like clannishness and refuse to acknowledge that relations between friends, co-workers, teachers and students, etc are quite strong as well. The tiresome narrative of the Great White West being universalist and impartially caring and everyone else (including, and especially, Italians, Greeks and Jews) being insular subhumans that are only compelled to care for their genetic relations on some kind of rat-like instinct is beyond evil and simply not born out by real world evidence.

Likewise there is no such thing as “the traditional Chinese mindset”, and there is huge variation between different Chinese regions. The podcast unwittingly (I hope) caters to Western bigotry and regurgitates a fallacious view of Chinese society. This podcast is clearly not for Chinese consumption.

Of course, this triggered a wave of counter-arguments about how the media is fawning over examples of foreign kindness and ignoring the virtues of the Chinese. This was, however, Xinhua.

Are you implying, without evidence, that Xinhua is somehow more “nationalistic” than your typical netizen?

And of course, at least some branches of Christianity come with their own built-in lack of morality, such as hatred toward gays and denying a woman the right to choose to end a pregnancy, and more.

It’s distasteful that you try to narrow down the crimes of Christianity to only two America-centric political talking points, as much as I emphatically agree with you on the substance of both points. Christianity is also responsible for underwriting the Holocaust and the Crusades (including the modern day iterations in Iraq and Afghanistan) and is to blame for a whole host of social problems that would take pages to elaborate on. Adopting Christianity would not at all bolster morality in China, in fact it would lead to the opposite if history counts for anything.

As far as Buddhism goes, it was definitely not a “liberalizing” force in Tibet.

They also note that social media like Weibo have thrust examples of immorality and selfishness into the public limelight. Perhaps there is no moral vacuum, just a new fixation on high-profile examples that win public attention? (I don’t think so.)

Again, based on what evidence? Is China exceptional in its fixation on high-profile cases?

I would step into this minefield and make my own argument, but the podcast does it for me. I have to congratulate the bravery and forthrightness of the panelists, who delve into this incredibly divisive and explosive topic.

There is nothing brave about reinforcing long-held biases and pandering to a crowd that has been previously led (telling them what they want to hear). Real bravery is the willingness to organize and criticize your own nation and people in the face of consensus. “China experts” in the West rarely even have the guts to leave their echo chambers, tolerate little dissent, and resent any Chinese input that is not fawning or subservient.

America could use 1,000 Lu Xuns right about now.

June 11, 2012 @ 2:05 am | Comment

t_co
Must have missed the religion part of the podcast. Putting religion into a society bereft of mutual trust leads to religious strife. It is the last thing China needs right now.

I agree in that it’s the last thing China needs. But putting religion (or any other kind of dogma) into any society leads to religious strife, mutual trust notwithstanding.

June 11, 2012 @ 2:07 am | Comment

Not surprisingly, Cookie has missed a key point of the podcast, which is that this issue is being raised by they Chinese media, and much of the groundswell of criticism is coming from Weibo and the likes. This is not simply Westerners complaining about the Chinese. It’s a burning issue among the Chinese, many of whom acknowledge something is wrong, something the government has tried specifically to address.

You may also want to check this comment from one of the panelists below the original podcast post:

I think if you listened closely (and didn’t turn it off after 40 minutes) you would have heard me say what you recently commented: that the so-called “moral vacuum,” the crisis of civic consciousness, is a function of China’s level of historical development, and that if you were to look at public debate in the US during the 1870s and 1880s you’d see largely the same discussion?

No one is saying this is wholly unique to China, but as this is a China-centric podcast, and this is a China-centric blog, China is the main point of focus.

June 11, 2012 @ 2:34 am | Comment

If that was the key point of the podcast, you certainly didn’t mention it. To address your quote, China has ALWAYS been in a “crisis of civic consciousness”. Self-criticism to approaching self-hatred has been a fixture of Chinese rhetoric for god knows how many thousands of years.

Comparing China now to the US of the 1870s is an insult.

June 11, 2012 @ 2:44 am | Comment

I can think of three issues Chinese media, educationalists and the public should take make less of a fuss these days: the “unequal treaties”, “a crisis of civic consciousness”, and “feudalism”. As for feudalism, I’m not quite sure, actually. If the term should be meant to describe a traditional habit of currying favor with the powers that be, and delighting at competitors falling from favor, it could make sense.

CM’s feelings are hurt, as usual. He seems to suspect that foreigners, in turn, are wallowing in a feeling of moral superiority. Such a suspicion may be true (I believe it often is), but there is usually no proof for that.

If people feel morally superior to China – mind the “if” -, that’s stupid. Moral qualities are individual, and ethic behavior isn’t mainly busy with comparing itself to others’ behavior in a competitive sense. If people feel offended by foreigners who appear to feel morally superior, that’s stupid, too – for the above reason, and maybe for some more reasons.

I see no great minefields, but I do see a misconception. It isn’t universal, but it is something I’ve heard foreigners in China express sometimes – the idea that foreigners were more or less collectively in China “to make things better”. Most of them are there to make a buck, and making things better may be a welcome side effect, but another would be that at least some go to great lengths to cozy up to a totalitarian political system, so as to achieve their personal goals. It wouldn’t have struck me as terribly odd if a waishengren, rather than a foreigner, would have done something like “Brother French Fries”, too. It’s easier to follow your feelings when you aren’t too involved, and if people in the place don’t know you well. Plus, there is quite an awareness for the rights of migrant workers in Guangdong, for example. Has been there for several years, when it comes to the press, and more recently, some friends (no Guangdong natives, but been around there for more than a decade) seem to see things in a way similar to that press. That said, they are all highly qualified, get good incomes, and have little to fear from migrant workers’ competition.

A little story one German told about another – a memory of years ago:

He lamented the fate of one of his Chinese workers who bled to death on the doorstep of a hospital after having an accident at work, because he hadn’t any health insurance. How could the Chinese medics be so cruel and cold-hearted? Then I asked him, how it could be that the workers was without insurance, if the German company had had employed him through the state agency? That the manager refused to answer.

Once in a while, the foreign mindset I’m trying to describe becomes palpable – not in the context of the podcast or this post, I believe, but elsewhere. A post with a collection of links here (one of those also touches on the issue of religion).

And there’s one thing where I partly agree with CM (nothing personal, shit happens): the way commercial media and weibos alike react are bits of a mosaic, in my view, but that’s it. The energy (or hot air) they are giving rise to isn’t wrong, but it is far from evidence of any kind. Lu Xun, in this context, isn’t “evidence” either. Anyway – I can’t tell if he would be rather proud of his country today, or if he would be disappointed – and for which reasons.

June 11, 2012 @ 4:10 am | Comment

From the point of view of the authorities, it is safer to see people get exercised over diffuse debates about public morality and alleged moral failings than more concrete issues. Bo Xilai was immoral. No need to examine the system or ask what checks and balances might have prevented his abuses.

June 11, 2012 @ 4:56 am | Comment

To #7:
“I hear the same thing about Vietnam,…”
—more tu quoques yet again. Besides, did somebody somewhere say this phenomenon was “China-specific”? But it was a pod-cast about China, so…surprise….they’re talking about China. If you didn’t make up stuff to argue against, you’d have nothing to say.

“Of course few would have heard of them, because the Western press ignores at least 99.9% of everything good that happens in China, and Chinese people routinely dismiss domestic reports as propaganda. You’d have to be actively searching for it to find it.”
—then show us even some Chinese propaganda to support your point, besides the usual random percentage pulled from thin air. Now, it’s true that bad news and human ugliness sells better than good news and human decency. However, considering that China needs some every-day good samaritans, I would think a Chinese person sharing some fries with a migrant street-person would get some ink….simply because of its perceived rarity. So show us some of that.

“These two statements offered by the podcast directly contradict each other”
—how are they contradictory? During the CR, you were encouraged to sell people out (even family members). On the other hand, reform and opening up seems to simply have entrenched the dog-eat-dog mentality (at least when it comes to non-family members).

I agree Luxun’s statement can be applied widely. It wasn’t proof, but merely something consistent with what is being observed in China now. Again, there is no implication that it doesn’t occur elsewhere (except for you, of course, where no opportunity for tu quoque is to be passed up).

“that Xinhua is somehow more “nationalistic” than your typical netizen?”
—no, it’s implying that the displays of foreign kindness are being put there for enhanced public consumption with political backing, suggesting that maybe even the CCP dudes in suits would like to see more of that from the average Chinese citizen.

“This is nothing more than the reiteration of borderline racist caricature of non-Western”
—rather than caricature, it is an observation that seems to be borne out by precisely the events that served as the impetus for the discussion in the first place. If you didn’t spend your entire life walking around with a chip on your shoulder, you might come to realize that. Sadly, it’s probably too late for you.

“Adopting Christianity would not at all bolster morality in China, in fact it would lead to the opposite if history counts for anything.”
—I agree, China should remain a secular nation. On the other hand, she should also keep her nose out of organized religions, as opposed to what she does now.

“Is China exceptional in its fixation on high-profile cases?”
—did somebody say it was? Oh, just you with your “reading” again.

The dude in question should really start his own blog with comparos cuz that seems to be all he is capable of.

June 11, 2012 @ 7:23 am | Comment

“suggesting that maybe even the CCP dudes in suits would like to see more of that from the average Chinese citizen.”

I funbdamentally disagree that the CCP would ever overtly or covertly support a fully-fledged social programme emphasising the need to help others.

Why? Because eventually people would pull the CCP apart for all the wrong they do. Someone would get “disappeared” in the middle of the night and the next thing you know, all of the apartment complex is attacking the local police station. A fat local official will try to have his way with a girl, and a whole district descends upon the local government office demanding a public enquiry. Can you really see that happening?

No, selfishness is in the interest of the CCP’s rule.

June 11, 2012 @ 8:37 am | Comment

SK Cheung
But it was a pod-cast about China, so…surprise….they’re talking about China.

Spare me your nonsense. It was a podcast about morals, and the post included Kitty Genovese and a preemptive tu quoque, so we can abandon your notion that we are debating the subject in a philosophical vacuum.

I would think a Chinese person sharing some fries with a migrant street-person would get some ink….simply because of its perceived rarity.

I’m sure you would think that. But I know people in China who have invited homeless people to full meals, and nothing against Great Glorious Fry-Sharing Foreigner, but I’ve fed pigeons more nutritious crap and in greater helpings.

On the other hand, reform and opening up seems to simply have entrenched the dog-eat-dog mentality

There are 180 degrees of difference between the two societies. It doesn’t lend to authority for one to chance a guess between both.

It wasn’t proof, but merely something consistent with what is being observed in China now.

It’s merely consistent with what has been observed everywhere at every time. Lu Xun is no proof of anything.

no, it’s implying that the displays of foreign kindness are being put there for enhanced public consumption with political backing, suggesting that maybe even the CCP dudes in suits would like to see more of that from the average Chinese citizen.

That’s your interpretation of it, but perhaps I don’t know Richard so well. The text however clearly reads as an implication that the “counter-argument” holds no water because Xinhua is unlikely to praise foreigners or ignore the good deeds of the Chinese. I’m not convinced.

it is an observation that seems to be borne out by precisely the events that served as the impetus for the discussion in the first place.

Oh yes, please explain to me how members of the “Chinese culture” – with their very low crime rates, outgroup aggression, and socioeconomic inequality – are somehow subscribed wholly to amoral familism (and I say wholly, because the sentence specifically states “caring for one’s family, not for society“). And refer to the post if you have no idea what I’m talking about, since you have a tendency to take my words out of context in a sad attempt to score points. Recall that you’re condemning not only PRC citizens but Overseas Chinese and Taiwanese as well.

On the other hand, she should also keep her nose out of organized religions, as opposed to what she does now.

On the contrary. Organized religions should keep their noses out of China, and the rest of the world at large for that matter. If the pope wants to ban condoms that’s a sentiment that should be contained within the walls of the Vatican.

did somebody say it was

Implied, strongly. That wasn’t addressed to you, so you can move along. I asked Richard to clarify his position.

June 11, 2012 @ 11:53 am | Comment

narsf
A fat local official will try to have his way with a girl

and get stabbed in the stomach, and die, and people will protest, and she will be absolved of any wrongdoing … wait, that’s not a hypothetical, it actually happened

June 11, 2012 @ 11:54 am | Comment

“and get stabbed in the stomach, and die, and people will protest, and she will be absolved of any wrongdoing … wait, that’s not a hypothetical, it actually happened”

Only after a public outcry, if I recall. She was well on the way to a murder charge before then.

June 11, 2012 @ 12:52 pm | Comment

Cookie Monster, do you *want* the world to hate on China and the Chinese people? I think you must. Otherwise, you would not post in the way that you do.

June 11, 2012 @ 2:04 pm | Comment

“There are 180 degrees of difference between the two societies.”
—not sure what you’re referring to here. What are the “two societies”? China pre 1980 and post 1980?

“It doesn’t lend to authority for one to chance a guess between both.”
—a guess between both of what? It should be noted that we are speaking of opinions. I mean, there is no gold standard or metric to determine “moral adrifted-ness”, so I don’t think anybody is speaking with authority on the subject.

The podcast was about morality in China. There is no philosophical vacuum. Neither is there any need for comparison. And as with all tu quoques, the fact that Vietnam etc has issues doesn’t change the fact that China has issues. If you know of people who have been as generous as you describe, that’s great. And I’m not even going to bother doubting it. What’s needed is more of those people, more of the time.

“post included Kitty Genovese and a preemptive tu quoque”
—yes, because Richard figured that folks like you would be reaching for them, so he got out in front of it…guess he didn’t do it well enough. His tone was ironic…’don’t be like them’…..but you are “them”, after all.

I don’t think Xinhua is patently incapable of praising foreigners, or Chinese. All I’m saying is that Xinhua says what the CCP wants it to say…and the fact that it is praising foreigners in this particular respect suggests that the CCP wants it that way. That doesn’t require much speculation at all. What is far more speculative is why the CCP would want it so.

“Organized religions should keep their noses out of China, and the rest of the world at large for that matter.”
—and why is that? I’m no fan of organized religion, but if someone wants to take direction from the Pope, or a book, that’s for them to decide. A secular nation doesn’t need to be an areligious one. If Chinese people choose to espouse religious teachings, that’s for them to decide…or at least it should be. No need for tried and true CCP paternalism. THe pope wanting to ban condoms has no effect on me, since I choose to ignore what he has to say. BUt if someone wants to take that to the bank, they can fly at’er.

“Implied, strongly.”
—oh, ok. LIke I said, just you and your “reading” again.

“amoral familism”
—first of all, you made that up yourself. The allegation is of choosing the family over society. There is no allegation that choosing family is of itself amoral. Low crime rate etc does not prove that society is being placed ahead of family. For instance, if crime (and especially conviction for it) brings shame to the family, then avoidance of committing crime can be about not bringing shame to the family as opposed to valuing preservation of society. The latter would simply be a desirable byproduct.

I will agree that a dichotomous statement like that (“caring for one’s family, not for society“) is overly harsh. I would submit that it is one of priorities, rather than one of mutual exclusivity.

+++++++++++++++++++++

To Narf,

“Only after a public outcry”
—nothing to do with that particular rape victim, but the tendency for weibo to sway judicial opinion (not only for severity of sentencing but for actual guilt or innocence) does not bode well for China developing a society with rule of law.

June 11, 2012 @ 2:08 pm | Comment

I don’t disagree with the notion that this is bound to happen in most developing country, in the 80s Taiwan had a load of these shite as well and even today it occasionally happens (though now much more rare and usually the public outcry over them very strong) . but that’s not a good reason to say it shouldn’t be addressed or at least continually brought up.

June 11, 2012 @ 5:00 pm | Comment

FWIW a lot of the amorality that China seems to have can be traced back to the Cultural Revolution.

June 11, 2012 @ 5:12 pm | Comment

Personally I really do think it’s just a case of immoral acts or a lack of morality being over-reported and overly focused on. I remember similar stories back home in the UK, and journalists doing ‘experiments’ pretending to be unconscious in the street and no-one helping them.

Also I don’t think religion has anything to do with. If you look at research, there’s no correlation between morality / behaviour and level of religious belief. Just no correlation. People are people, no matter what they believe.

June 11, 2012 @ 9:42 pm | Comment

Chaon
Cookie Monster, do you *want* the world to hate on China and the Chinese people? I think you must. Otherwise, you would not post in the way that you do.

Oh yes, how dare we argue with facts that contradict your preconceived notions.

RollingWave
I don’t disagree with the notion that this is bound to happen in most developing country, in the 80s Taiwan had a load of these shite as well and even today it occasionally happens (though now much more rare and usually the public outcry over them very strong) . but that’s not a good reason to say it shouldn’t be addressed or at least continually brought up.

Yep. I was going to bring up Taiwan as well but didn’t want to go there because it would attract legions of fake Taiwanese like Michael Turton. But who says it isn’t being addressed? Chinese society goes apoplectic about every isolated incident and self-flagellates and grovels pathetically at each and every one. They *are* in the process of reforming. Anyone who has been in China for a long time will have seen evidence of it, I’m sure, just as I did in Taiwan.

June 12, 2012 @ 1:55 am | Comment

and Hugh, thank you.

My point on Kitty Genovese is not “America does it too” (as Richard suggests) but that it demonstrates the bystander effect. The fact that it happens in China is not proof that Chinese culture is deficient or that capitalism is bad, as Xinhua and Global Times moaned.

June 12, 2012 @ 1:57 am | Comment

SK
What are the “two societies”? China pre 1980 and post 1980?

Yes.

The podcast was about morality in China.

No, it wasn’t. It also implied that Chinese culture is responsible for the so-called “lack of morality” in China. So it not only covers all morality, but all cultures. Indeed China needs to improve internally. What it does not need to do is seek out an outside model to emulate, because frankly most don’t compare favorably.

and the fact that it is praising foreigners in this particular respect suggests that the CCP wants it that way.

I really doubt that was what Richard was implying. The way he worded it suggests that Xinhua is loathe to praise foreigners and the fact that they did is significant.

I’m no fan of organized religion, but if someone wants to take direction from the Pope, or a book, that’s for them to decide.

Sure, if they want to leave to meet him themselves. Other than that, the Pope has no natural right to the Chinese press nor its airwaves any more than a strictly secular school has a right to real estate in the Vatican, or I have the right to set up a sausage, bacon and wine cart in a Mosque. The thing I despise most about certain organized religions is that they take for granted the delusion that they deserve special rights on grounds of their “holiness”.

first of all, you made that up yourself. The allegation is of choosing the family over society.

No, I didn’t – some other guy did, recently. Google it. The allegation is not of choosing the family over society (which anyone who is not an idiot would do), it’s of caring about family EXCLUSIVELY at society’s expense.

Here’s the quote again: The podcast also looks at the traditional Chinese mindset of caring for one’s family, not for society as a whole.

June 12, 2012 @ 2:04 am | Comment

I really doubt that was what Richard was implying. The way he worded it suggests that Xinhua is loathe to praise foreigners and the fact that they did is significant.

Totally and completely false. The point was that it was Xinhua writing about the debate that the Chinese people lacking morality. Look at the quote I cite from Xinhua. Not a single word about foreigners. Go back and read it. You completely misread what I wrote, as you so often do, writing in a frothing cocoon of rage and hostility that blinds you from what’s actually said. Nothing new here.

June 12, 2012 @ 2:14 am | Comment

This is what you wrote: “Of course, this triggered a wave of counter-arguments about how the media is fawning over examples of foreign kindness and ignoring the virtues of the Chinese. This was, however, Xinhua.”

You are implying it’s significant that Xinhua was the subject of a “wave of counter-arguments” and accused of “fawning over” foreigners – then you try to balance or dismiss the claims with “This was, however, Xinhua.”

June 12, 2012 @ 2:38 am | Comment

If you read the text, I am NOT saying Xinhua fawned on foreigners, but that its report sparked a debate about it. The Xinhua point I make is that it called into question China’s morality. But I don’t want to split hairs with you because it doesn’t get us anywhere. Look carefully at the quote I give as my proof. Not a word about foreigners, because that wasn’t my point in quoting them. Move on, please. I’m tired of you taking over threads and arguing in circles with everyone. And I also think readers should recognize the folly of engaging with you.

June 12, 2012 @ 2:54 am | Comment

“China pre 1980 and post 1980?”
—undoubtedly, lots changed before and after “opening up”. But how much did “culture” actually change? During CR, it was every man for himself (and at times even family be damned). After opening up, it’s every man/family for himself/themselves. Perhaps the motivation/reasons may have changed, but how much of the overt expression has actually changed?

“Indeed China needs to improve internally.”
—I think that’s the part you need to focus on, and not worry that every criticism of China is an indictment on the fundamental inadequacy of the Chinese nation and/or Chinese people.

“I really doubt that was what Richard was implying.”
—well, i guess we interpreted differently. But from my standpoint, xinhua is just a puppet. What it praises and what it loathes are entirely determined for it by the CCP.

” the Pope has no natural right to the Chinese press nor its airwaves”
—I’m not sure what you mean by “natural right”. For sure, if the Pope wants to sell his wares, he should do so standing on his own bonafides. There should be no expectation of endorsement from the CCP. However, overt exclusion makes no sense either. And the part about the CCP naming its own “catholic” bishops is just retarded.

“any more than a strictly secular school has a right to real estate in the Vatican”
—the Vatican is a religious state, founded on religion. So there should be no expectation of secularism within it. But if China is secular, that does not preclude the presence of religion on her territory. Once again, secular does not mean areligious.

I agree that religions should not feel entitled. However, denying entitlement claims to religious organizations should not equate to denying people the freedom of religion.

“it’s of caring about family EXCLUSIVELY at society’s expense.”
—as i said, I feel it should be about priorities, and not a dichotomy.

June 12, 2012 @ 2:57 am | Comment

SK
During CR, it was every man for himself (and at times even family be damned). After opening up, it’s every man/family for himself/themselves.

For some reason I keep dodging the assholes in China, or maybe it’s not nearly as bad as you want it to be. Have you ever been to China? If so was it outside of walking distance of Hong Kong?

However, overt exclusion makes no sense either. And the part about the CCP naming its own “catholic” bishops is just retarded.

First point, it does. There’s no reason why Christianity needs to exist in China any more than the Cult of the Spaghetti Monster, Scientology, or a strong belief in fairies and witches. Chinese people would be no worse off if they never knew Christianity even existed. The fact that millions in China believe it is proof of outside backing and not the inherent merits of Christianity itself.

As to the second, I agree, China should just ban Catholicism as a heterodox religion or NRM and secularize all students via public schools.

But if China is secular, that does not preclude the presence of religion on her territory. Once again, secular does not mean areligious.

Why not just adopt some BS religion as the state religion, and claim that’s its paramount belief is that Abrahamic religions should be banned by law? That’s just as fair as the Vatican making it illegal for me to build a mosque on their land.

denying entitlement claims to religious organizations should not equate to denying people the freedom of religion.

I agree that people should be entitled to believe in whatever they want. I don’t agree that organized religions should be able to establish a demographic and financial foothold in a secular nation. There are hundreds of smaller religions that are just as stupid and half as harmless, the fact that Christianity and Islam are behemoths does not reflect their quality at all IMO.

as i said, I feel it should be about priorities, and not a dichotomy.

But that wasn’t what I was arguing against. I was arguing against the attitude Richard described in his post. Of course people are going to prioritize their closest relations over an abstraction.

June 12, 2012 @ 6:08 am | Comment

Ah, good old Cookie/Merp/whoever next. Even when it’s Chinese internalising a complex situation (to paraphrase a well known NZ ad) and trying to find answers to the questions they have on whither they go, it’s obviously a Western plot.

June 12, 2012 @ 6:37 am | Comment

On the Issue of Morality, Chinese People Cannot Use “Americans do it too!” As An Excuse

Yes it is true that similar incidents happen in America too. For example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFRTgoN5o-c

And yes, people walked by , without caring. And yes, this incident did not cause a national outrage in America as it did with Xiao Yueyue incident in China.

But just because Americans are born to be beasts, do not excuse Chinese people to act the same. China must have a higher standard.

Therefore, it’s inexcusable to use the behavior of beasts to justify the bad behavior of men.

June 12, 2012 @ 7:36 am | Comment

Gee, Mr. Clock, it looks like you’ve taken us all the way back to square one.

And the story you cite WAS a national story, covered in the nation’s largest wire service Associated Press and picked up by nearly every news organization in the country. It was a huge story. Thousands of media covered it. Like Merp, you have no idea what you’re talking about. If you’re really Math’s replacement you’re going to have to do better.

June 12, 2012 @ 7:43 am | Comment

It was not that big of a story, maybe 1/10 the attention compared to the Xiao Yueyue.

But like I said, that’s no excuse for Chinese to use that to justify their own behavior, don’t you agree?

June 12, 2012 @ 8:12 am | Comment

Another one for Mr Tick-Tock
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/9320902/A-shameful-retreat-by-the-British.html
A story of English morality issues in an English paper (I think I can say English rather than British here).
Maybe the Chinese would do well to continue being like the westerners on issues of humanity – this is a universal issue with nothing to do with petty nationalism.

June 12, 2012 @ 8:15 am | Comment

Tick-Tock, who are you to say this wasn’t a big story. Have you googled it? Have you checked the amount of blog coverage it received after the massive print/TV media coverage? Did you see ABC TV’s coverage? The NY Post’s? And the many hundreds of others? You dismiss it with a wave of your hand and proclaim it wasn’t really a big story. Sorry, you just lost all your credibility. For whatever that’s worth.

June 12, 2012 @ 8:33 am | Comment

Shameful story, Mike. But I have to admit to a little schadenfreude at the people who don’t plan ahead with their finances – I stress myself out compltely to the point of almost nailing down a daily budget for everything, money has been so tight in the past that I grew a beard to save on razors and siphoned off water from the cooler at work to take home. So when I see people who “don’t seem to have enough” I feel exasperated that they can’t take more responsibility for themselves.

However, Nottingham at night is dangerous, and somebody should have stepped forward. 20p is really nothing in the grand schme of things – unless your budgets are razor thin and have to be water tight.

And CM makes a good point: the ability of Weibo to sway judicial opinion is a blow for the rule of law, or rather, it exposes a shameful lack of respect for the rule of law by the governing party when the public have to be the ones to force adherence to the laws set by those who rule.

June 12, 2012 @ 8:45 am | Comment

Tick-Tock, who are you to say this wasn’t a big story. Have you googled it? Have you checked the amount of blog coverage it received after the massive print/TV media coverage? Did you see ABC TV’s coverage? The NY Post’s? And the many hundreds of others? You dismiss it with a wave of your hand and proclaim it wasn’t really a big story. Sorry, you just lost all your credibility. For whatever that’s worth.

Never made the national headlines. Was it on NBC nightly news? CBS Nightly News? ABC World News Tonight? Or CBS 60 Minutes? No heated discussion on main discussion forums or blogs either.

Yes it made some news, but quickly forgot. Never stayed in the national dialog for months like Xiao yue yue news.

To test my theory, ask an american on the street who knows about this news in the youtube. Maybe 1/10 would know.

Ask a Chinese about Xiao yue yue, 8/10 knows.

Why would a country with worse morality standards have BIGGER covereage and BIGGER public outrage on similar news?

But of course, as I said, none of that is a valid defense for the atrocious behavior of those Chinese ignoring Xiao yue yue.

June 12, 2012 @ 8:49 am | Comment

“It was not that big of a story, maybe 1/10 the attention compared to the Xiao Yueyue.”

Seemed big enough for you to find it, and on YouTube too…

But no, it isn’t a good enough reason for anyone to justify their behaviour. Pointing to a crime and saying, “But you do it!” doesn’t make it right. CM’s whining that Chinese shouldn’t indulge in soul searching because a)it’s obviously a CIA plot to return China to warlordism and b)the Opium War (hell, it’ll be mentioned soon enough – might as well throw it in now) and c)the US does it (US usually written as “westerners”) is merely a trolling tactic, a sort of negative one upmanship to derail threads into pointless arguments over how many angels can stand on the head of a pin.

June 12, 2012 @ 8:51 am | Comment

Getting onto 60 minutes is not the criteria for a story being big. Most stories never make it there (as it usually focuses on corruption and dishonesty anyway). You just don’t WANT it to have been big news because it deflates your “argument.” Next subject.

June 12, 2012 @ 8:56 am | Comment

To Mike,

exactly. That’s why tu quoque is a logical fallacy. But it’s just so darn prevalent among some people.

To Narfs,

“it exposes a shameful lack of respect for the rule of law by the governing party when the public have to be the ones to force adherence to the laws set by those who rule”
—that’s true. It’s chicken/egg I guess. If the government actually practiced by the rule of law, it wouldn’t fall upon weibo users to summon justice. But the fact that weibo users can affect and effect the carriage of “justice” shows that rule of law is an abject failure in China. That cycle will only be broken when the government respects and enforces her own laws, without prejudice. Who knows when that will be.

To Clock/math/whatever,
you do realize that randomly spewing pseudo-quantitation like 1/10 this and 8/10 that doesn’t add one iota to whatever it is you’re saying, right?

And the important thing is not how widely an example of atrocious behaviour is known; the important thing is how profoundly such knowledge changes future behaviour.

June 12, 2012 @ 9:09 am | Comment

To Clock/math/whatever,
you do realize that randomly spewing pseudo-quantitation like 1/10 this and 8/10 that doesn’t add one iota to whatever it is you’re saying, right?
And the important thing is not how widely an example of atrocious behaviour is known; the important thing is how profoundly such knowledge changes future behaviour.

Yes it’s random, but do you really think both news received roughly the same amount of coverage, elicitted the same amount of attention from the public, respectively? Or do you concede that Xiao yue yue’s news is much bigger in CHina than that news is America.

Let’s be honest, did you know about this news before I posted this link? What is that man’s name? Does CNN/MSNBC/FOX have special section pages devoted to this?

Most Chinese people, outside of the poor rural areas without tv access, at least know the basiscs of the Xiao yue yue incident (yes, there’s even a name given to it).

What’s the name of that youtube’s incident in American media?

Come on, why arguing about such a basic fact.

You are correct, though, that it doesn’t matter. It’s no excuse for THOSE VERY SPECIFIC Chinese pedestrians to behave that way. Those VERY SPECIFIC Chinese pedestrians behaved just as atrociously as THOSE VERY SPECIFIC American pedestrians in that youtube video.

So, I guess the conclusion is, ignoring a suffering and helpless person on the street is BAD, and it’s equally bad whether it happens in China or in America.

June 12, 2012 @ 9:14 am | Comment

Mr. Clock is just quacking. The usual method of choice, to find the American equivalent of a bad thing that happened in China.

As the article — the Chinese article — said, there is a debate in China as to whether this lack of morality permeates the society. Many Chinese believe it does. and that’s the key to why this is an interesting story. Finding anecdotal evidence of a bad thing that happened in the US is a meaningless exercise and your typical fenqing tactic. It should be ignored and recognized for the stupidity it is.

June 12, 2012 @ 9:29 am | Comment

Mr. Clock is just quacking. The usual method of choice, to find the American equivalent of a bad thing that happened in China.

As the article — the Chinese article — said, there is a debate in China as to whether this lack of morality permeates the society.

Well there you go you said it. Xiao yue yue story led to a debate in China, a soul searching.

Similiar story on youtube did not cause a similar soul searching in America.

Which society is more reflective, which one imposes a higher standard?

But again, I agree with you that this is no excuse for Chinese people to justify their own behavior.

Chinese people SHOULD impose a higher standard on themselves, nation wide soul searching is GOOD. I expect nothing less from the Chinese.

June 12, 2012 @ 9:32 am | Comment

Don’t be an idiot Clock.

1. Many homeless people are mentally unstable or drug addicts. It’s a bit heartless to walk past anyone laying face down on the sidewalk, but many people would be leery about getting involved with a homeless person laying face down on the sidewalk if the situation was unclear. It isn’t really comparable to a toddler laying there obviously badly injured.

2. Maybe Americans didn’t freak out because as horrible as it is, we mostly feel secure that we will get some common decency in most situations and help if we need it? Whereas Yueyue struck a nerve in China because it is a particularly egregious example of something that virtually everyone has observed for themselves?

3. Chinese media are much more likely to slap names and dates on “incidents” than Western Media. It’s what they do. The lack of a “Stabbed-Hero-Hobo-Gate” doesn’t mean anything.

June 12, 2012 @ 9:42 am | Comment

1. How do you know it didn’t cause soul searching?

2. Maybe it didn’t. But if not that’s because it was relatively rare over here, which is why it made big headlines. Have you done a poll to see which society has done more soul searching? You seem to think you know everything. I trust my readers to see through your veneer of omniscience.

June 12, 2012 @ 9:43 am | Comment

Huh, and here I thought even a broken Clock was right twice a day…

June 12, 2012 @ 9:59 am | Comment

Tick-Tock
Find a story abut a kid run over twice and ignored in the west. Then we can play Top Trumps :-)
For what it’s worth, first time I was in Shanghai, the number of beggars beggared belief. I was also struck but he number with sever mutilations. But, like everyone else in Shanghai, Chinese and otherwise, I learnt to ignore them.
As for soul searching in China, is this in any way related to the recent anti-foreigner topics now being aired in public?

June 12, 2012 @ 10:00 am | Comment

“That cycle will only be broken when the government respects and enforces her own laws, without prejudice. Who knows when that will be.”

Exactly, and that returns me to my earlier point that is it is counter to the interests of the CCP to have a motivated and selfless civil society – the Party would not be able to get away with half the shit it does if the people actually took the time to scrutinise them constantly and consistently.

A highly selfless population would want to be involved in the running of the country, and that’s the job of the Mandarins. I mean, emperor, er, faceless Party Members having sex in a KTV right now.

June 12, 2012 @ 10:17 am | Comment

I guess at the end of the day, the point is:

Those very specific Chinese pedestrians did a horrible thing, just as those very specific American pedestrians did a horrible thing. They are equally bad, and equally condemnable.

Race or society has nothing to do with it.

Trying deliberately to tie this to a society requires more proof, statistics, polling.

Is there statistics that suggest Chinese society has much higher frequency of such incidents? Otherwise, it’s very suspicious.

Let’s be objective and seek truths from facts.

June 12, 2012 @ 10:57 am | Comment

Richard
“When I first moved to China, one of the first things my new boss told me was that if I walked down a busy Chinese street and saw someone unconscious on the sidewalk most people would walk right by and offer no assistance.”
Don’t forget the Peng Yu effect either (http://www.globaltimes.cn/NEWS/tabid/99/ID/661115/Heartless-bystanders-not-solely-Chinese-problem.aspx and http://www.learnchineseabc.com/others-blog-the-case-of-pengyu-in-nanjing-would-you-help-if-an-old-people-falls-down.htm). Or this woman, from Nantong (hence the example used by my nantong in laws to decry morality in China today…)
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2011-08/31/content_13224516.htm

June 12, 2012 @ 11:12 am | Comment

Tick-Tock, Chinese law makes it hard for Chinese citizens to intervene. See my comment above.

June 12, 2012 @ 11:18 am | Comment

To Clock:
“did you know about this news before I posted this link?”
—I saw that video clip for the first time months ago. And I don’t even live in the US. Just as I saw the video of the girl in China being run over. Actually didn’t know the girl’s name, or the New Yorker’s.

“So, I guess the conclusion is, ignoring a suffering and helpless person on the street is BAD, and it’s equally bad whether it happens in China or in America.”
—that’s true. But this is a blog about China, on a thread about morality in China. So once again, the example in the US is irrelevant. You’re starting down that tu quoque path again. It is “equally bad”, but what is relevant to the discussion is how bad the Chinese incident was; and you should find yourself a blog about “America” to vent about the New York incident. But this is not the appropriate venue for you.

June 12, 2012 @ 11:22 am | Comment

Mike
Find a story abut a kid run over twice and ignored in the west. Then we can play Top Trumps

As usual, Mike with his “the West is great and China is evil” dreck

Over a two-hour period on Saturday evening in late October 2009 a 15-year-old California girl was allegedly gang raped and beaten right outside of her high-school homecoming dance.

While hundreds of students we’re gathered in the gymnasium, many were convened in front of the alley where the rape was occurring stopping to have a quick laugh and snap a few photos.

http://hartfordinformer.com/2010/04/opinions/bystander-effect-still-america%E2%80%99s-downfall/

The 22-year-old law student begged a bus driver to let her on board but he refused because she was just 20p short of the £5 fare for her journey home.

None of his dozens of passengers offered to help – leaving her at the mercy of a rapist in a sickening example of callous disregard for others.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2156000/Women-raped-Joseph-Moran-thrown-bus-20p-short-fare.html

I would have given the woman the money even if she just wanted to buy a cookie or something.

Ilan Halimi, a wealthy French Jew, was kidnapped by a group of Moroccans called “The Barbarians” and tortured for 24 days. The kidnappers did this for the sake of receiving a 450,000 euro ransom. Throughout the 24 days of torture, multiple neighbors heard the commotion, but none called the police. Some instead watched and even joined in the torturing.

http://blog.lib.umn.edu/graz0029/wednesdaywanderings/2012/04/the-bystander-effect.html

Oh yes, but it only happens in China. Please tell me when a girl in China gets gang raped for hours in public and no one does anything.

June 12, 2012 @ 12:59 pm | Comment

@ CM

No, it wasn’t. It also implied that Chinese culture is responsible for the so-called “lack of morality” in China. So it not only covers all morality, but all cultures. Indeed China needs to improve internally. What it does not need to do is seek out an outside model to emulate, because frankly most don’t compare favorably.

I half-agree with you here. It’s true that China doesn’t need an outside model to emulate, because what inevitably ends up happening with emulation is that you pick up all the vices and none of the virtues of whoever you are emulating from.

But this doesn’t mean that China can’t look outward and think about how other countries might also apply to its own internal condition. What China is going through is remarkably similar to what the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, hell, even Hapsburg Spain or Rome or its own Sui dynasty went through. There are lots and lots of valuable lessons out there that China can draw upon–it would be tragic to ignore all of them out of some misplaced nationalism.

First point, it does. There’s no reason why Christianity needs to exist in China any more than the Cult of the Spaghetti Monster, Scientology, or a strong belief in fairies and witches. Chinese people would be no worse off if they never knew Christianity even existed. The fact that millions in China believe it is proof of outside backing and not the inherent merits of Christianity itself.
As to the second, I agree, China should just ban Catholicism as a heterodox religion or NRM and secularize all students via public schools.

What would be especially troubling, in my mind, would be if a religion forged an “unholy alliance” with the CCP and used that to propagate itself through China. FLG tried to do that but they were too clumsy to ever properly metastasize through the CCP apparatus. I think the Catholic Church has this long-term goal in mind, and would be the most well-placed to do so, given the similarities between Catholic hiearchy and a Leninist party structure. However, their anticommunism, a legacy of the anti-Eastern Orthodox/Russian role the Catholic Church has traditionally played in Europe, left a lot of history that needs to cleared away first.

Evangelical religions are probably too revolutionary for a status quo ruling party like the CCP to partner with, and they (along with Wahhabist Islam) are quite frankly too puritanical for post-80s Chinese to accept. Buddhism may be useful, but the only universalist Buddhist hiearchy out there is the Dalai Lama and hell will freeze over before the Gelugpa sect gets to use the CCP to proselytize.

Maybe the mission, then, is for some enterprising Chinese kid to start a religion? One that emphasizes social morality, mutual trust, while being status-quo oriented, defers to the Party, and maintains enough of an emphasis on scientific rationalism to not give the United Front Work Department stomach ulcers.

Cookie, by the way, I’d like to get in touch. Richard has my email address, so shoot him an email with your contact info.

June 12, 2012 @ 4:26 pm | Comment

To CM 30,
” For some reason I keep dodging the assholes in China”
—good for you. But your anecdotal experience alone hardly dismisses the apparent need for nation-wide soul-searching that you yourself have acknowledged. And if your point was that culture had changed before vs after 1980, then why not tell us how? And I’m not referring to pop-culture, cuz yes of course they dress differently and have better music now. But how has it changed wrt morality as discussed in this thread?

“There’s no reason why Christianity needs to exist in China”
—except for the fact that there are Chinese people who subscribe to it and wish it to exist in China. Heck, you can say there is no reason for religion to exist anywhere, but for the people who believe in it. And Chinese people have learned of Christianity, so wishing to turn back the clock isn’t very helpful. I’m not sure what “inherit merit” has to do with it. As far as I’m concerned, Christianity has none. But clearly, many Chinese feel it does.

“China should just ban Catholicism ”
—and intellectually that would actually be a less retarded position. What they’re doing now is completely contradictory. They don’t recognize the Pope, but would instead like to do his job for him. In essence, they’re running “Chinese catholicism”. I can’t think of how a political regime could be sticking its nose into religion more clumsily than that.

“Why not just adopt some BS religion as the state religion, and claim that’s its paramount belief is that Abrahamic religions should be banned by law?”
—yes, why not? Oh, but then China wouldn’t be a secular state. So what you really need to do is figure out exactly what your position is. If China is secular, then she endorses no particular religion but has no excuse to prevent people from practicing the religion of their choice; if China invents her own crap (like ‘Chinese catholicism’) and endorses it to the exclusion of all others, she is no longer secular (just like the Vatican is not secular). Ultimately, you’re just being a control freak and religion per se has nothing to do with it. If China can’t control it, then no single or other religion is acceptable; but if China is running it, then religion is just fine and dandy. Like I said earlier, if you just went with “China should ban religion”, that would at least be intellectually consistent and respectable.

As for financial foothold, I’m not sure what you mean. If the people who believe in a religion (and you agree they should be allowed) want to financially support that religion, what’s the problem? If you’re saying they should not get preferential treatment from the state like tax exemptions and such, I would agree with that.

June 12, 2012 @ 10:50 pm | Comment

Cookie you really are a one-trick pony, pointing to other countries and saying “Look, they did the same thing as China.” That doesn’t change the story about China and the fact that many Chinese people are concerned about a lack of morality, not just for the bystander effect but for acts of selfishness and lack of empathy. Whether true or false, that’s what the article is about. If you can only counter, again. that the US or Morocco is just as bad I’m going to consider it spam.

June 13, 2012 @ 1:25 am | Comment

t_co
But this doesn’t mean that China can’t look outward and think about how other countries might also apply to its own internal condition. What China is going through is remarkably similar to what the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, hell, even Hapsburg Spain or Rome or its own Sui dynasty went through.

I would say that Britain and America today are still fucked up. IMO what the Chinese people could truly benefit from is using these nations as anti-examples. I agree that they can learn from the experience of others – but the notion being thrown around in the West is that China should Westernize, and that’s that.

What would be especially troubling, in my mind, would be if a religion forged an “unholy alliance” with the CCP and used that to propagate itself through China.

Ugh. I’ve thought about that actually and it almost made me puke. If that ever comes to pass I would absolutely support bloody revolution.

SKC
But your anecdotal experience alone hardly dismisses the apparent need for nation-wide soul-searching that you yourself have acknowledged.

The nation has already soul searched for centuries. In fact even though they are steadily improving they are still “soul-searching”.

But how has it changed wrt morality as discussed in this thread?

The way society functions is completely different. A nation’s economic structure completely alters personal motivations, especially for the poor. That the podcast is “guessing” between one or other tells me that they’re either ill-informed or just trying to hard to “cover every angle” – except any of the politically incorrect (translation: not anti-Chinese), factual ones.

except for the fact that there are Chinese people who subscribe to it and wish it to exist in China.

Their grandchildren hopefully won’t once they’re systematically un-brainwashed by a good education. This is why it’s such a tragedy that China’s public education is woefully underfunded.

Oh, but then China wouldn’t be a secular state.

Nominally, but I’m more of a pragmatist anyway and so are most Chinese people. We can be like those guys who just use the Bible when it’s convenient to them, except we just won’t bother making up the rest of the bullshit in there. Just stick with the One Holy Law – no crazies.

that would at least be intellectually consistent and respectable.

No, my point was to demonstrate the hypocrisy and insufferable entitlement of holy loons. It was to mock their attitudes. Banning all religions outright would make China a pariah state, doing it my way would preempt that and have considerable comedic value.

As for financial foothold, I’m not sure what you mean. If the people who believe in a religion (and you agree they should be allowed) want to financially support that religion

Christ Corp and the Religion of Peace often spread through what is essentially bribery. If you look at the history of Islam and Christianity, their paths are paved in blood and gold. You need money to found places of worship, to systematically deceive and terrorize a populace, even to print “holy” books.

June 13, 2012 @ 1:39 am | Comment

Has there been anything historically from CM (merp, ferin, your friend) that wouldn’t rightly be considered spam?

June 13, 2012 @ 1:43 am | Comment

Aaah, Cookie
“Yeah, but no, but yeah…anyway, the west does it so Chinese should be allowed!”
And the discussion is advanced not by even a millimeter. And you even add to my links showing what happens in China happens in the west. So what? Are Chinese reading these and thinking “Gosh, that happens in the west…so it must be OK”?
All you are showing me is the shock that these crimes generated, like the sexual grooming of kids in the north of England (this with added race issues) and the deaths of toddlers in New Zealand. All large stories that result in soul searching, much like the story of the Chinese kid. But hey, you don’t care about that – it’s all a game of Top Trumps to you. You try to sound like you are the solution but your whitewashing of anything in China makes you part of the problem.
But hey, they don’t pay you 50 cents to engage in adult discussion, eh? ;-)

June 13, 2012 @ 5:46 am | Comment

“Has there been anything historically from CM (merp, ferin, your friend) that wouldn’t rightly be considered spam?”
Well, he does have good points regarding religion :-) (yes, I am an atheist, strongly so. The sort that thinks Dawkins is a bit soft at times…)

June 13, 2012 @ 6:00 am | Comment

“In fact even though they are steadily improving they are still “soul-searching”.”
—indeed. Which is why suggesting culture pre vs post 1980 to be fundamentally different seems bizarre. And the improvements haven’t led to much less soul searching, which brings into question how effective these improvements have been.

“A nation’s economic structure completely alters personal motivations, especially for the poor.”
—which is why I suggested that the motivation was Mao-style dogma during the CR, and more of a free-for-all after reform. But as I said, while the motivation has changed, how has the actualization of behaviour changed? How has “morality” changed? The ongoing wringing of hands suggests that the same social/moral problems remain, and the difference is simply that they might be brought on by different social mechanisms.
Naturally, the podcast is “guessing”…I mean, it’s not like there’s a scientific “morality in China” formula that they can test as a hypothesis. If your complaint is simply that they’re dispensing opinion you don’t like, well…that could probably be said of most things.

“once they’re systematically un-brainwashed”
—that’s lame. It’s intellectually lazy to suggest that only zombie-people can hold religious beliefs. Many well-educated people are religious. I have no idea why they would choose to be, but that’s their call. In fact, this “good education” you speak of that systematically inoculates people against religion is more akin to brainwashing than your run of the mill religious teaching.

“Just stick with the One Holy Law”
—so there it is then. Forget China being secular. As long as the religion is CCP, that’s ok. And forget religious freedom too, cuz the only religion you can hold to is the CCP. One more way that the CCP can be authoritarian…that is actually quite consistent when it comes to you. Disgusting, but consistent.

“Banning all religions outright would make China a pariah state,”
—especially among Chinese who are religious. Yet one more aspect of their lives that CHinese people can’t control. That’s the CCP way.

We are no longer in the Crusades. There are already many people in China who practice religion in the closet. Giving them religious freedom doesn’t need to invoke laying-waste-to-the-landscape imagery and histrionics. That said, this is not a discussion about religion in China. It’s about the possible perceived moral deficit in CHina (not a deficit compared to any other nation; simply a deficit compared to what it should be). It should be noted that this deficit accumulated in a nation that doesn’t openly recognize organized religion, so regardless of the pros and cons of religions in other states, religion can’t be blamed for where China is morally today. By the same token, I’m certainly not suggesting that adopting religion would be any moral panacea. You don’t like religion and that’s fine. But it has little to do with CHina’s moral adrifted-ness.

June 13, 2012 @ 10:50 am | Comment

SK Cheung
You don’t like religion and that’s fine. But it has little to do with CHina’s moral adrifted-ness.

Tell that to the legions of sanctified morons suggesting otherwise.

June 13, 2012 @ 12:05 pm | Comment

China suppresses religion. China is arguably moral adrift. Doesn’t prove causation, but there is certainly a correlation. And it doesn’t prove an absence of causation either. So why wouldn’t it be part of the discussion? That it doesn’t auger well with your opinion of religion does not disqualify it as being a relevant aspect of the overall conversation about morality in China.

June 13, 2012 @ 1:44 pm | Comment

one of the first things my new boss told me was that if I walked down a busy Chinese street and saw someone unconscious on the sidewalk most people would walk right by and offer no assistance.

I have personally observed this on a street in Henan. I also witnessed an incident in Beijing where a person was stabbed. People tried to stop taxis to get the guy to hospital. One taxi driver after another refused to get involved, although one eventually did.

I also witnessed a guy collapse on the street in a different country, and in a few seconds all the passersby in the vicinity were either trying to help him or phone an ambulance, and I understood this was normal behaviour for them.

Highly moral individuals can arise in any culture, but not all cultures reinforce and foster moral behaviour equally. Which means, averaged out, some cultures are more moral than others. Also, the same culture can be more or less moral over time. I think by and large Westerners tend to assume that their culture is more moral now than it has ever been, although the fact that in most countries the murder rate is an order of magnitude higher than it was 50 years ago suggests otherwise.

At least some branches of Christianity come with their own built-in lack of morality, such as hatred toward gays and denying a woman the right to choose to end a pregnancy, and more.

Since I don’t want to offend more than 1 group at a time, I’ll just say that Christian opposition to abortion is an alternative morality, not the absence of one. Bluntly put, they privilege the life of the unborn child over the convenience of the unwilling mother. This is consistent with their understanding of the nature and value of human life, and it’s also consistent with Christian thought from the days of the Roman empire when they also opposed infanticide with the same reasoning.

Christians might have to do the same thing again if the viewpoint of certain secular ethicists, who have argued in favour of “post-birth abortion” up to 2 years, becomes mainstream.

June 13, 2012 @ 2:22 pm | Comment

At least it is encouraging that this kind of debate can be had, even if certain fairly logical conclusions are foreclosed. Most countries go through bouts of moral outrage when a particularly shocking incident causes people to call for change. The ongoing Leveson inquiry in the UK is an example of what the outrage over the discovery that at least one national newspaper was hacking into the mobile phones of murder victims brought about. The Xiao Yueyue event could not so easily act as a trigger for action because the culprits were the public in general – but if I were to suggest a concrete solution to ‘bystander syndrome’ it would be firstly laying greater emphasis on when to call the emergency services in public information, and secondly the teaching of first aid in schools and universities.

June 13, 2012 @ 2:59 pm | Comment

Peter
Christians might have to do the same thing again if the viewpoint of certain secular ethicists, who have argued in favour of “post-birth abortion” up to 2 years, becomes mainstream.

I think there’s a better chance of certain Christians legalizing rape.

SK Cheung
China suppresses religion. China is arguably moral adrift. Doesn’t prove causation, but there is certainly a correlation.

Chinese people usually wear shirts. China is arguably morally adrift. Ban shirts?

No, there is no proof that religiosity reduces crime rates – in fact its quite the opposite. States with the most intense belief in god tend to be the most violent (individually and nationally), and prison populations are usually more devout than society at large.

June 14, 2012 @ 4:55 am | Comment

http://tealeafnation.com/2012/06/netizens-chatter-as-prominent-hivaids-activist-leaves-china/

Not related to societal moral decay. But some suggest the continued moral decay of the CCP. That’s not really breaking news, i guess.

June 14, 2012 @ 5:28 am | Comment

While we’re at it, is there any truth to this story?
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-18435126

The fact that all the examples quoted, Chinese and western, have caused citizens to rally around in condemnation and shock seems to indicate that society itself is still good, morally speaking.

June 14, 2012 @ 9:20 am | Comment

“Christians might have to do the same thing again if the viewpoint of certain secular ethicists, who have argued in favour of “post-birth abortion” up to 2 years, becomes mainstream.”
I’m with CM on this one…and certain Christians have legalised rape for centuries (a husband could not legally rape his wife way back when – marriage was considered consent http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-18260552 ).
Regarding the post natal abortion, the imagery suggested is that any child can be killed if unwanted. I dare say the original remark to this effect (I’d have to find it – first I have heard about it) would be more akin to allowing a child who would not live to die, as was natural before present.

June 14, 2012 @ 9:27 am | Comment

To Mike,
and GT actually reported on it. Maybe we can even look forward to some words of wisdom on the subject from its fearless editor/leader.

June 14, 2012 @ 9:38 am | Comment

@Mike

While I’m ardently pro-choice, aborting a late term foetus like that is pretty diabolical. If it’s true, it’s another blow to claims of decency by the state.

June 14, 2012 @ 10:21 am | Comment

Given I know two lively kids who had to come out of the womb at that stage, it is pretty scary…
One wonders at the morality of the people enforcing the 1 child policy – certainly a certain “Allen_Snyder” in the Telegraph has no feelings about it – “It’s the law!”
But then, what was it someone said of Eichmann? “The Banality of Evil”? The perpetrators are probably really surprised at the outcry their actions have caused…

June 14, 2012 @ 11:19 am | Comment

Except there have never been so-called “claims of decency” by the state. Only one state claims it’s holy, free, faultless, and so much so that it has the right to carpet bomb any nation it pleases on a whim.

June 14, 2012 @ 11:35 am | Comment

There goes cookie again. Please stop pushing your luck.

June 14, 2012 @ 11:36 am | Comment

@CM

That’s absolutely not true! China has NEVER carpet-bombed another nation!

June 14, 2012 @ 11:42 am | Comment

heh

June 14, 2012 @ 11:45 am | Comment

“Great, Glorious and Correct”

June 14, 2012 @ 11:59 am | Comment

I’m still trying to work out what Israel has to do with anything….

June 14, 2012 @ 12:47 pm | Comment

Mike, looks like you’ve decided to take a leaf out of Cookie Monster’s book. Shall I bring up injustices committed in the name of rational secular humanism, or will it be enough just to mention the Opium Wars?

If you want to know about the abortion reference, it’s from a recent article from the Journal of Medical Ethics entitled After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?

The authors state “What we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”

http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/03/01/medethics-2011-100411.full

June 14, 2012 @ 2:42 pm | Comment

So, in sum, I think we can all agree that China does need some improvements to its moral system, but we disagree on

a) the urgency
b1) whether to adopt an external system
b2) which external system to adopt

is that pretty close to it?

June 14, 2012 @ 3:08 pm | Comment

To CM:
“Chinese people usually wear shirts. China is arguably morally adrift. Ban shirts?”
—only if you can sustain an argument that shirts are linked with morality in any plausible way. I think most people would recognize a plausible association between religion and morals, whereas most people would be hard-pressed to find a plausible association between shirts and morals. I guess I need to explain to you that, when considering correlation vs causation, you also need to factor in plausibility. Then again, you often make arguments that would be improbable for cognitively-functional humans to make, so plausibility is not much of a hurdle for you.

And like I said, there is no reason why religion would not be part of the discussion about morality in China. If you want to add “shirts” to that discussion, fly at’er.

“States with the most intense belief in god tend to be the most violent (individually and nationally”
—and that too is only a correlation. And crime rate is but one aspect of morality. China may not have a huge crime rate, yet the hand-wringing over morals continues, as even you admit. Besides, if you have states with no religion and bad morals (CHina), and other states with religion and (let’s assume for argument’s sake) bad morals, then religion is not the responsible factor. That’s not to say that bringing religion into China, or taking religion out of other countries, will improve morals necessarily. But it warrants a discussion…which is what the podcast did.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

To narsf #72:

I think pro-choice is quite far removed from the specter of forced abortions.

June 14, 2012 @ 3:25 pm | Comment

A morality debate seems a bit of a red herring when it is institutions — laws, courts, state media, police, chengguan — that are letting PRC people down in many cases. Assume a lack of morality as a human condition and build a firm, transparent, just legal system to deal with it. Under rule of law, it is less contentious to agree on what is legal/illegal than to agree on what is moral/immoral.

All threads ultimately lead to political reform or lack thereof.

June 15, 2012 @ 12:43 am | Comment

To Slim,

that’s true. It’s often been said that you can’t legislate morality. But you can certainly legislate a deterrent such that people don’t repeatedly run someone over in hopes of killing them so as to avoid paying damages for injuring them in the first place.

Also agree about the red herring. Xinhua is talking about morality, and as far as i’m concerned, that means the CCP wants to talk about it. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the CCP wants to talk about morality (something where they can shift the blame onto the people) as opposed to any of a whole host of things where they can’t. Maybe if people are wringing their hands about morals, they’ll be less fixated on corruption.

June 15, 2012 @ 1:46 am | Comment

Peter
Shall I bring up injustices committed in the name of rational secular humanism

Go ahead and try. There are no crimes committed under “rational secular” anything.

June 15, 2012 @ 4:50 am | Comment

Peter
Opium War, obviously. Lightly seasoned with Summer Palace and garnished with 5000 year history ;-)
Have to say, mind, the pictures one gets if you Google Feng Jianmei are rather shocking.
Read the paper – seems a more philosophical than a medical paper, don’t you think. This bit…

“If criteria such as the costs (social, psychological, economic) for the potential parents are good enough reasons for having an abortion even when the fetus is healthy, if the moral status of the newborn is the same as that of the infant and if neither has any moral value by virtue of being a potential person, then the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the stage of a newborn.”

…does sound to me like it is more a questioning of abortion itself. As I read it; if it is permissible to kill a foetus because (insert reason here) and a new born is the same, morally speaking as a foetus, then it should be OK to do the same to the new born.
That sounds to me more a condemnation of preterm abortion than post partum “abortion”.

@CM
“Go ahead and try. There are no crimes committed under “rational secular” anything.”"
Much as I want to agree with you here, unfortunately, due to human nature, there’s secular crimes and religious crimes. I don’t think the officials in the abortion case above cared any more than Eichmann or Arnaud at Beziers (you may recognise this quotation “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.”—”Kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own.”) about eh consequences of their actions – gods or none, some people are just utterly lacking in morals.

June 15, 2012 @ 6:26 am | Comment

That’s not rational then.

June 15, 2012 @ 10:00 am | Comment

Not to you or me, no. But if they are following the law to the letter, then yes…sorta kinda.

June 15, 2012 @ 10:58 am | Comment

There’s secular humanism. But what is rational secular humanism. Who gets to determine what is and isn’t “rational”?

June 15, 2012 @ 12:09 pm | Comment

http://tealeafnation.com/2012/06/netizens-agree-chinas-rape-law-must-be-reformed/

Going back to Slim’s point again in #83, you can’t legislate morality, so scumbags will do what scumbags do. But jeez-louise, China can certainly do a better job of legislating better deterrence for the morally weak.

June 15, 2012 @ 12:16 pm | Comment

SKC, who gets to define rational indeed. In the abortionists case, they were following the law. Laws are meant to be obeyed, so one can say that’s rational behaviour on their part. I got a ticket once – driving late-ish, empty road, straight but it had a speed camera. Caught doing 82kph in a 70kph zone. Rationally I was safe to both myself and to the oether users of the road. Rationally I broke the law. The camera is dumb and unthinking so guess which rationality was applied….

June 15, 2012 @ 12:38 pm | Comment

To Mike,
as you suggest, merely following the “law” does not define “rational”. In fact, the law itself can’t be presumed to be rational in all circumstances. For starters, simply saying that following the law constitutes rational behaviour would singularly sweep any and all police state atrocities under the rug.

June 15, 2012 @ 1:05 pm | Comment

I should have said rationalist secular humanism. Often these movements are anything but rational.

@Mike: I did wonder if the post-natal abortion article had been written as a prank by pro-line people. As far as I can make out, that’s not the case and the authors meant exactly what they said.

June 15, 2012 @ 3:24 pm | Comment

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