has been soul searching after the release of video footage showing
two van drivers running over the two year-old Yueyue and eighteen pedestrians
nonchalantly leaving her for dead. One microblogger Reissent1987 exclaimed
"Where did conscience go... What has happened to the Chinese people?"
to help strangers is often blamed on a culture of compensation.
In 2006, a young man named Peng Yu helped an old woman to the hospital after
she fell running for a bus. Later, a judge concluded
that Peng must have been responsible for the fall, and was ordered
to pay 40% of the woman's medical fees. Although that took place
in Nanjing City, Jiangsu Province, some netizens have blamed the judge
in that case for the death of Yueyue in Foshan City, Guangdong Province over
1000 kilometers away.
there is evidence that the problem of Chinese, especially in urban areas,
failing to help strangers goes back much further. Lu Xun wrote about
the problem in his 1933 essay, "experience." China has historically
suffered from what Hong Kong University research student Trey Menefee called
the "Confucian blind spot." China is made up of institutions, such as
the family and the work unit, that depend on personal relationships and every
person knowing their place.
families and friendship circles, extremely selfless behaviour can
be seen every day. Author Xue Xinran described Chinese mothers as candles,
burning themselves out to give light to children. It is common, maybe even
expected, for young people to financially support their parents as soon as they
are earning their own money.
is clear however, that as Chinese people change their object of worship
from Mao to the market, a moral vacuum is being left. And as G.K.Chesterton put
it, the problem with people ceasing to believe in God is not that they will
believe nothing, it is that they will believe anything.
Jun, a dentist from Hunan Province, once boasted to me that he was
the only person who did not cry at his grandfather's funeral in 2010.
His grandfather was a practising Catholic who had fought for the nationalist
army in the 1940s. Zhou explained that in his own belief system, Nazism, men
were not allowed to cry. When I left Hunan I gave him, as a gift, a translated
copy of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. Confucianism
teaches us to respect one another but not "the other." That is partly
why Zhou, an upstanding husband, father and dentist, does not sympathize with
the victims of Nazism.
is an argument to say that public morals have declined in China since the days
when Lei Feng was held up
as an icon of self-sacrifice and stoicism. But there is evidence to the
contrary. Public executions are a thing of the past, eating dog and cat meat is
increasingly frowned upon, and people who express unfashionable opinions are lambasted
on their microblog instead of being forced to wear a dunce cap and whipped in
is a wonderful thing, but it is also a trick of the brain.
This year’s COP26 meeting in Glasgow has been hailed as the most significant climate event since the 2015 Paris Agreement. But what action must world leaders take to put the planet on a sustainable path? And what does this mean for the future of global capitalism?
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