Zhang Lijia

China’s latest scandal on the fake vaccine for hundreds of thousands of children is the latest example of a deep moral decline in the country, argues Zhang Lijia, author of Lotus: A Novel, a research novel on prostitution in China, in the South China Morning Post. “I believe that the lack of a value system and a spiritual vacuum lay at the roots of China’s moral crisis.”

Zhang Lijia:

Several high-profile incidents, such as the tainted milk scandal and the notorious “Little Yueyue Incident” – in which a two-year-old from Foshan, Guangdong, was run over twice by vehicles outside her parents’ shop, and 18 passers-by walked past her body on the street without helping – shocked and disgusted people around the world. Some even called China a “material giant and a spiritual dwarf”.

I believe that the lack of a value system and a spiritual vacuum lay at the roots of China’s moral crisis.

We have imported the concept of market economy but not the corresponding ethics. Traditionally, the core values were benevolence, righteousness, proper rites, knowledge and integrity, as mandated by Confucianism.

But all traditional and religious systems were destroyed after the Communist Party took power, especially during the Cultural Revolution, when Chairman Mao Zedong ordered the citizens to destroy the “four olds”: “old customs”, “old culture”, “old habits” and “old ideas”. The basic social fabric was torn to pieces.

This mad political movement marked the beginning of China’s moral decay and lack of trust among the people. At that time, people were encouraged to report and denounce each other – even their teachers, neighbours and parents.

In recent years, Confucianism, condemned by Mao, has gained popularity. Former president Hu Jintao’s call for a “harmonious society” was perhaps a sign of its rehabilitation.

Today, our top leaders like certain aspects of Confucian values, such as the ruler/subject relationship and respect for authority. But many of its values, such as its attitude towards women, are not in line with modernity.

That’s China’s problem: there isn’t really a united value system that resonates with the modern Chinese society.

More in the South China Morning Post.

Zhang Lijia is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need her at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

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