Category Archives: Government

People Don’t Obey Rule Set by Others

It is about 11 pm now, and the people are still gathering outside on the Jinzun Road. They have surrounded 7 policemen for few hours tonight.

The Road

The road outside our residential area is a small street leading to the river side. It is a branch road for people in this area only. Due to the parking space limitation, many people park their cars on the both sides of the street. There are about 100 cars there every night. Since there is no through traffic, and the security level in that area was pretty good, people feel comfortable doing that. This peaceful use of the road parking has been lasting from the day one the road was built – about few years ago.

Parking Violation Ticket

This afternoon, two police car came, and started to stick parking violation ticket on the window of all the cars. They were stopped by angry drivers and residents half way before the issued tickets to all the cars. Then more and more people gathered and didn’t want to let the policemen go.

The Argument

I didn’t spent time there so I don’t know the exact arguments, but I assume that people don’t feel comfortable paying 200 RMB fine for each of the cars. I don’t know how the issue will be finally resolved.

This is one of the typical samples of the conflicts between the people, and the police, or the government. It goes back to the root of the question: “Who define the rules”.

People don’t want to obey rules that they have no idea how it is set. Just like the street parking. I would vote to allow street parking on this road, if given a chance, but the rule has always been “No parking at any time”.

Meanwhile, the rule is not enforced anyway, for few years. Practically, people don’t have the right to ask the rule to be enforced. Another example is the parking on the pedestrian – making walking on the pedestrian from my home to shopping center like going through a parking lot. No one care about it, and people don’t have a right to ask the rule to be enforced.

So, the situation is, the police arbitrarily decide the rule and whether to enforce the law. The gives people the impression that Chinese don’t want to obey rules. The matter of fact is, Chinese, as any other nation, don’t want to obey rules that are set by others.

My Hope

My hope will be, the people living in the area can openly discuss and democratically decide whether street parking on this street is allowed or not. Then the police will be held responsible for the execution of the rule. That is how this small street should be governed.

Shall I Sign for Measles Vaccine

Yifan got a letter to parent from kindergarten. It is about a sudden action to inject Measles Vaccine for the upcoming nationwide measles immunization campaign. That was a big shock to me.

Only after I got the letter that I realized that it is not just for Yifan. Parents of more than 100 million children in China received the same letter, and the deadline for signing the letter is just tomorrow. There are about 3 days for us to decide whether to accept it.

I was very shocked that a campaign involving 1/60 people on this plant, and all of them are just between 8 months, to 4 years old, just come out so quickly, and quietly, and the deadline is just tomorrow. That of caused caused panic among parents. All kinds of rumor started to spread like wild fire in the parent community, suggesting not to sign it.

This happens at the background that people’s trust in the health system has maybe reached to the lowest point in history. The poison milk, the AIDS infection from injection, and recent early-mature of kids… We don’t have much confidence that it is safe to inject anything the government requires. Ironically, my panic does not stop when the spokesman from Beijing claimed it is absolutely safe – the memory of “There is absolutely no SARS” was just 7 years ago.

What decision shall I make for Yifan?

Similarity among Opposite Opinions

I found out an interesting fact: there are more similarity among the two opposite opinions than those who share more similarity.

Here are example:

If Tom and John are arguing Linux is better or Windows is better, they share more in common than another guy who thinks both Linux and Windows are good, depending on where to use.

Another example: Tom loves Facebook, and John hates Facebook, but they share much more in common than another guy who has never heard of Facebook, or yet another guy who does not care.

Notes on Harvard Justice Course Part 3/4

Quote from the section 3, part I of Justice – What is the right thing to do.

Taxation = Taking of Earnings

Taking of Earnings = Forced Labor

Forced Labor = Slavery (You are not longer the 100% owner of your own life – taxation means the state is a part owner, or a share holder of you).

Slavery = Against Principle of Self possession (we are the owner of the individual person – wholly)

Even laws to prevent us from hurting ourselves (like helm requirement and safe belt laws) are unjustified.

Fire Fighter’s Case

The example of the Arkansas Fire Corporation is interesting and inspiring – they only put off fire of the houses of its yearly subscriber, or only to make sure the fire does not spread to its subscribers. They get to the house with full equipment of a non-subscriber, and see the house to burn before them, only to make sure it does not hurt its subscriber’s house. The CEO said, he has no any choice to break the rule.

It reminds me that only a society where strange things happens everyday, is a society that has self-improving internal driven force.

Dilemma

Needing something is different than deserving something.

Need is one thing, and deserve is another.

Even for victims of earthquake, they need house, they need food, but they don’t deserve it. Ops. Seems very wrong.

The next question: Is it justified for the father to steal bread for his starving children? Is it justified to rob a store of drugs, to save his child’s life?

How about “use persons” for the aggregated sum of happiness of others?

If I am the 100% of owner of myself, do I have the right to give this ownership to another person? To become a slavery? Can one gives UP his natural right, like life, and property?

John Locke thinks the rights that naturally comes with human kind is unalienable, just like non-transferable air-line tickets. It is just for this person and cannot be transferred to another. It in one sense, makes the right less “owned”, but in another sense, make it more profound.

Private Property

John Locke says, we are the owner of our labor, so the fruit of the labor is the private property, so does anything that is mixed, or joined with the labor. If someone enclose a land from the common, it is his private land. If someone cultivate a land, that is also his private land. Because those things are mixed with his labor.

That implies that we can turn something from unowned to ours with our label.

Human laws is legitimate only when it respect the natural rights of life, liberty and property.

OK. That is all for today. I have paused at 27th minutes of this video .

Crazy Week in 2010

No one predicted that we started 2010 in such a chaos way. Following the suspension of many Internet sites in China, Baidu was hacked on Tuesday and stopped serving for 11 hours, which made Internet traffic shuffled upside down because of the big traffic distribution role Baidu played.

Soon after that, Google issued the announcement about uncensored Google.cn. I was at first thought the ball became at the government’s hand, then I was surprised the Google didn’t wait the government take the initiative to shut it down. They simply started to prepare the post-mortem of the office without any real pressure from the government.

According to the announcement, Google is no longer willing to censor Google.cn. They know this will for sure cause the Chinese government angry, and intensive punishment will follow. Then they HAVE TO close their office. But they just didn’t wait. Everything on the news shows that at the day they made the announcement, they started to go ahead to stop the business operation, development, and prepare for withdraw. Employees were no longer able to access corporate network, and the company simply bought everyone a ticket to watch 3D Avatar.

Is that strange enough?

It is also strange that the censorship has been long enough and Google reacted so dramatically only after a cyber attack. What kind of the cyber attack it should be? Why that is more unbearable than another other attack? Is there any other reason besides the target is human right activist? (This is serious enough, but still seems over-react for that) Why IP (Intelligence Property) is involved in that statement? It is hard to believe that the event is simply the last straw that broke the camel’s back. It seems alone is the biggest portion of the weigh that broke the camel’s back.

Only a fiction style rumor can solve all my question: the attack is from within.

P.S. This is the fiction version – the type of conspiracy theorist like, with no any ground evidence. Just a fiction.

Google’s (Right) Choice

Today’s biggest news is Google’s blog about stopping censoring its content on Google.cn, and considering quitting from China. I typically don’t comment immediately about any news, because often, I need more time to under the situation better (as I stated here). But for this topic, I have been thinking it for a long time. I know what I am going to say about this, when it happens.

The Nature of Google’s Choice

The dilemma Google faced is the dilemma every international international companies face, and every Chinese Internet companies face (although it is not often discussed or even thought about). Google’s choice, not as most media headline stated, was not to cease from China. Their choice is to stop censoring the Google.cn content, which may in turn lead to very high possibility to be forced to shutdown in China. Although these two events are connected, but they are very different.

Now the ball is at the Chinese authority’s hand: Google made a clear statement, and the ball is no longer at Google’s hand – it is the government’s turn to make the tough decision (although I believe it won’t be too hard for them to make) to drive Google away.

It sounds like suicide, but stopping censor itself is different than killing the business – it just gives the gun to another party. It is not “kill himself”, it is “has himself killed”.

What is the Right Thing to Do

There are many debate about whether Google is doing the right thing, or acted as stupid, and naive as a boy. Different people have different principles to judge what is right. Thanks Xiaolai to share the wonderful Harvard course on justice: What is the right thing to do. Hope by watching that movie, we get some inspiration about the answer. It is a vivid case that people will continue to study for many years, I guess.

P.S. Do a Flickr search for Google China and order by time these days, to discover what is happening outside Google office:

Photograph credit: Qifei

Freezing Winter for Internet in China

My friends Lv Xinxin comes from Beijing today and we had a nice lunch with other friends from websites. We chatted a lot about the status of many of our friends – most of them run websites.

Xinxin brought me back to the year of 2005. I said so, because 2005 is the Spring for Internet in China. The global Internet recovered from the Internet bubble crisis in 2003 to 2004, and in China, the real beginning was 2005. Many websites emerged at that time, and we had interesting gathering so frequently at that time. I got to know Xinxin at that time, and I got to know many of my current friends in the Internet space in that year.

In 2006, people were busy developing their sites, and in 2007, many of them faced big challenge in both financial sides, and from business model side. In 2008, I started to hear bad news of shutdown of websites. Many of others were just trying very hard to keep their head above the water. In 2009, it is the end of many sites. Many sites went bankrupt due to financial reasons – very reasonable, but to my greatest angry, many of them were shutdown in this new round of Internet cracking down.

Today, I heard some other bad news about websites.

It is obvious to me that THEY are tightening the Internet control. There are rumor that they will implement something called “whitelist” for Internet sites outside China. The rumor was, only those sites who register with the Chinese government can be accessed by people in China. I just don’t believe it. It is so naive to think about this idea, but many naive, and impossible measures were already taken that I am not 100% sure that they won’t do stupid things like this.

No Domains for Individuals in China

In the recent years, regulations come out like jokes. Everyday there are some national level regulations coming out to shock everyone – just like the jokes does, but not that fun.

From 9:00 December 14, 2009, no individuals in China can register a domain name in China. The interesting thing is, it is just a regulation for the Chinese domain registars. Anyone can easily register a domain via Internet from foreign providers like GoDaddy.com.

They believe by controlling who can register domains, they can control the whole Internet.

60 Anniversary of … Motherland?

Tomorrow is the so-called “60 anniversary of the motherland”. It was called 50 anniversary of the motherland 10 years ago, and people just let it go, but this year, with the popularity of blogs, and social media, more and more people are challenging the idea: Is the motherland of China just 60 years old?

I would support to change it to “60 anniversary of the regime”.

In 1 and half hour, the traffic control measures will be implemented in Shanghai. Several roads and buses are blocked. But we are much better than Beijing. Just had a phone call with my friend in Beijing, and they are busy moving out the building. The whole building near the east 4th ring will be shutdown shortly.

Nice Discussion on Politics

I’d like to draw people’s attention to the follow three thread where there is great discussion happening. I admire people’s thoughts in the comments section. Please join us if you are interested.

Does Policital System in Taiwan Work? 24 comments so far.

Millionaire Country Singapore. China? 12 comments so far.

Life in Beijing Must be Interesting 33 comments so far.

Be patient to read the long thread. There are some very nice thoughts in it.

Small Cartoon Policeman at Each Website

My reader ecodelta asked:

I have one question. What are those small cartoon police at the bottom of the website? To denounce violation of copyright by TV viewers? Strange…. I am confused ;-)

He was referring to the two small policemen icons at the bottom of http://ppstream.com/. It is not just for their website. If you browse Chinese Internet more often, you will find it everywhere. It is standard requirement by the police department for most Internet companies.

The Icons

The three icons are: a male policeman on the left – he is called Ping Ping; a female policeman on the right – she is called An An; a police office in the middle (no name given yet).

Ping An means Safe in Chinese. You can just think of it as calling two policemen “Sa” and “Fe”. The same type of meaning.

The Goal

Internet has been so important in people’s life that policeman cannot ignored. And the police department has so strong power that they can ask commercial websites to do anything they want them to do. So they asked them to put on this logos. Clicking the logo will land you to an online forum the local police department setup. There are dedicated resources to answer the questions, and to react to people’s claim. The idea is, it is just like a virtual policestation that people can turn to for help.

Is it an interesting idea that is only feasible in China?

Links at Footer

From time to time, there are government departments to add links at the homepage to different government websites. At the very beginning, all websites require an ICP license displayed at the bottom, and link to the page of Ministry of Information Industry, then Ping Ping and An An to police, and later, there are National Anti-Virus, and Anti-Attack Information Center. The idea behind it is simple: a link can solve the problem, so adding more links.

Hospital is Badly Needed

Yifan got fever from Saturday. Not a very big deal – just the typical fever because of getting cold. However, I took the chance to get to a world that I haven’t touched too much before.

Yifan started to be hot at round 5:00 AM in the morning. Wendy and I got up and sent him to Huashan Hospital. When we approached the hospital, we saw about 100-200 people lining up already. It is obvious that they have been there for a while. They waited just to get a “number” to see an expert doctor. The big gap of healthcare resources and people’s demand for such services is obvious. Among the hundred people, there are 10-20 agents greeted us and asked if we need to “buy” a “number”. They make a profit by getting tickets from either inside the hospital or wake up earlier to line up.

Huashan Hospital does not accept children, so we drove to another hospital – Ruijin Hospital. It is the same there – 100 people lined up at 5:00 AM. I am sure many of them need to go there to line up the second day because of the scarcity of the “numbers”.

What if Someone Cut my Tree?

I was asked the question in a family gather in the States on July 4 about “what happens if your neighbor gets to your garden and cut your tree?” I answered: “I will jump to their garden and cut their trees, and if I can break their window, that is even better”.

I was kidding, but the bitter reality in China today is, that is maybe the only solution left.

Legal System

Legal system is designed to protect the common people, but not so true in practice. As I said, I never sued someone in my life, and wasn’t sued, because suing is not that useful, in practice. People solve problems by themselves (some times violently).

My colleague A encountered something similar. Two guys got into our company violently on one weekend. They threatened to destroy the computers, and office equipment. At the emergency, my colleague had to defense and pushed them out of the office by violence – someone got hurt. My colleague then immediately called 110 and the police came.

The police educated A that he should not have done it. When asked what he should do when two strangers get into the office and when there is only one person inside, this is what the police suggested:

You should not force them to leave, even when they are in your office. If they threaten to destroy something, you should let them destroy it. This way they break the law, and then you can call us. But before they destroy anything or beat you, you should NOT do anything.

Although we have all the CCAV record of what happened (how they broke in, and what happened), the police insisted that A pay 500 RMB for the damage he made to the two strangers. After several hours of wasting time, A finally paid the money and get the thing settled.

This is very common. I personally encounter stuff like this many time. The typical thing policemen will tell you is: “Do you want to spend endless time and effort to sue them? The court cannot solve the problem.” or “for small things like this, no court will handle it. Take it easy and let it be.” I recorded one of the even 5 years ago: Goudaner Scratched by Drunk Driver. My car was scratched badly by a drunk driver, and police came, and the driver/passengers left the car. The policeman came and said he could do nothing. I called to complain and I was told that if I insist, I can bring witness to their office to record it. Well. There is no chance for a file to the court without their written confirmation…

So, many years of social experience tend to teach people to protect themselves by themselves. That is maybe the reason many people (I mean my friends!) believed that violence is always a better choice.

BTW, any reader has any experience to sue someone on the court when the damage is less than 100K USD? What was the experience and how it worked out? (Well. Even if the court find the other party is guilty, there is few ways to enforce it.)

Legally Speaking…

When I encounter with the security guard in my residential area, I felt more confident than having the same conflict with the security guard in my office building. Why? Because I know in the first case, I am the owner of the property, but in the second case, I am just a leaser, not an owner. You see the difference? As a leaser, I only have the option to complain to the owner of the building, and if they refuse to take their right to do something with the property management company, my only choice is economical – move out. But if I own something, the right is more political – I have the *right*.

However, to think it deeper, even my own house, I don’t own it. I LEASED it from the country. I am a leaser of my own house. For many people who don’t have their residence permit (several million people live in Shanghai without that resident permit), they can only get a TEMP permit for living in Shanghai. In this case, they don’t have the right too – they are just visitors to this city, no matter how long they live here – 10 years? 20 years? and their children don’t have the residence status of this city. (Refer to this Hukou article).

In both situation, legally speaking, you don’t have any right. You have the right to complain to the landlord of your house, or complain to the city that you are visiting, but that is suggestion based right, not a legal binding right.

In that sense, we are all *leasers* or guest in this country, even after paying one million USD to get an apartment in Shanghai – the apartment still belongs to the government, and you just get a lease contract of 60 years.

The Hope

There is still hope though. Now we do have a legal system. Although it does not work as well as it was designed, but it is improving. More and more people turn to the legal system for justice, instead of violence.

Zhiyong is one typical example of it, although he himself was officially arrested the other day. He was accused for tax evasion. According to tax law, he is free of penalty if the company pays the tax and fine in full (the tax evasion is about a pending charity donation from Yale University for doing research.)

Many people from around the country donated to pay the 1.42 million RMB fine ticket (well. Think about it. People donate to pay the fine by government!), but the tax department rejected the money because the Legal Representitive of the company, Zhiyong, is not able to go to their office to sign the document. Zhiyong cannot go because he is arrested. He is arrested because he wouldn’t pay the fine. He wouldn’t pay the fine because he is arrested… the loop is intentionally kept there. In that logic, the only way for Zhiyong to solve the infinite loop is to complete his 7 years in jail, and then go to the tax office to pay the fine. At that time, I believe the penalty of delaying the fine (3% per day) would be 100 million.

However, I still keep the hope that as long as there is still a place to talk about the legal system. Just like the dead loop here – it is still legal term and legal process any way. There must be a way out as long as it is still legal talk. In this sense, the country has improved.

Keep the hope.

Second Child For Some Family

China has implemented the One Child Policy for more than 30 years. I have two brothers, and I am among the last generation to have brothers or sisters in the last 30 years. If the policy were enforced earlier, there would be no “me”. Well. In China, there is always a grace period between announcement of a policy and enforcing it.

Recent years, it changed. I don’t know exact the date, but for certain family, they can have two children. The criteria are, the both parents have to be the only child in their family. Before, there is a several year gap between the two children. I heard the interval requirement has been canceled.

Encourage to Have Second Child in Shanghai

At the same time of population pressure, there are aging pressure. In 2050-2070, there will be so many old people for the society to support, but there are so few work force at that time. To solve this problem, to increase the birth rate is a choice.

Shanghai has been in negative birth rate for many years. Shanghai is among the first to publicly encourage people who are both the only one child in their family to have the second child.

Ban at the Same Time

At the same time, people who are not qualified to have the second child still need to follow the one child policy. Violation will subject to fine of 2 times of annual household income, and other punishment. Interestingly, people who are not party member, or working for the government takes advantage here. For most people like myself, there are just huge amount of fine. For party members, and government staff, they face much more severe punishment than myself. They will lose their job, ruin their future, and more interestingly, hugely impact their manager’s future. If they have the second child, their manager will lose their job, and their manager’s manager will look very bad.

So, on one hand, it is not allowed for anyone else to have the second child, and on the other hand, they encourage others to have second child.

The Conflicting Policy

I can understand how this confusing policy comes. In a big system, it is not easy to coordinate different departments, and people to follow the same guideline. It happens in a small company of just few people, and it happens to a big government like that in China.

I believe eventually, the one child policy will expire, but not soon.

Tax Rate in China is Low?

Just get back from the party. We talked about the tax rate in China, and it gave me the impression that the tax rate in China is low.

Business Tax

5% of revenue as operating tax, and 20% of profit – for an Internet company.

For other type, like the trading cmopany, they do not pay according to revenue – they pay value-add tax.

For certified high-tech company, the tax of the first 3 years will be 0, and half of the tax due in the following two years.

Personal Tax

Basically it is about 20% for most people, and up to 45% for the rich.

Is it high or low?

My 2 cents: I think the problem for today’s tax structure in China is not how high/low the tax is, it is about the government collecting the tax but do not provide the service they should.

Controlling Software is Everywhere

At client side, all newly shipped PC are required to pre-install a spyware by the government (well. The nature of a software is really about what it does, instead of who installed it). This is just like a fiction.

At the server side, more and more internet companies are required to install a server controlling system to get information automatically to the government of the user information.

It is unbelievable but it is happening these days in China.

Bribe for Driver’s License?

Many of my friends are trying to get their driver’s license. The driver’s license exam consists of different stages of exams. Here are my experience:

If you want to Learn to Drive, you first sign up to a

driving school, and pass the Written Test for Driver’s License then Pass the Field and Road Driving Exam. That was pretty straight forward.

However, the straight forward thing is not so simple in Shanghai.

Give Money (bribe) or Not

My friends are discussing everyday is, whether they give the standard 200 RMB fee for each of the three exams (600 RMB in total). It is the “industry standard” that almost everyone knows.

For the written test, most people don’t pay the official for the 200 RMB, since if they can remember the answers, they can pass by themselves. Those who need “help” can pay the money, so the person at the test room will give you hint so you can make sure you pass.

For the stage two and three, especially for the field and road test, the rule of thumb from the previous people are, you should always pay the money. Since if you don’t pay, it is for sure that you don’t pass, and you have to pay another 100 RMB to take the exam again and you may not pass again.

For field test, and road test, four persons get onto the same car with the policeman (the person who gives you pass or fail result), and the four will drive in turn, and the “boss” will decide.

The rumor is (not verified, and I don’t think any person can verify), if three of the persons pays, and one person don’t way, it is for sure the person will fail, since there is quota. If all the four person pays, they will switch one person with another not paid (bribed) person, so they can give fail to at least one person for that car.

My survey is, more than half of people paid the government official to get passed.

System Problems, and Do We Still Hold the Hope

This is just one of the many small instances to prove that the system of this country does not work. No one is really upset because of the existence of this. Along with the red bags for doctors, and kick-backs of many transactions, I found it is a system combined interest, and power, and thus that can be pretty hard to fight against. It is especially hard with censorship, and control of media – most people are not aware of it (although everyone with a driver’s license in this city should have faced the dilemma).

I was happy that I didn’t pay anything the time I passed the exam. The initial result for me was “fail” – there are one thousand thing that you can say if the standard is just one person’s subject judgment. My tutor was nice and got back to the room to talk with the policeman, and 10 minutes later, my result turned to “pass”. I would suspect that I fail for the first time was because I didn’t give him the 200 RMB This was just my guess, since I don’t want to defame people for something I don’t have evidence. But, I have a pretty high confident that my guess can be true depending on what I heard about.

It is Easy Said than Done

I know many people who claimed to have higher morale standard will jump up and say: “Don’t Pay! Don’t Pay!” It is easier said than done.

I am the type of person who would stop at a broke (always red) red light at mid-night for 15 minutes, and then call the TV station, and then report the issue on the hottest TV program (the full story). I know there is something that we need to do, but I admit that even after reporting to Oriental TV, and waited at the cross road of Nandan Road, and Caoxi Road, around 11:30 PM for 15 minutes, I finally choose to pass the street at red light. My point is, we can do our part to fix the problem (like what I am doing by letting more people be aware of the issue), we are still individual living in this world, which already have so many rules (unwritten rules) that you need to follow. I just want to put a disclaimer here before tens of negative comments flow in pointing fingers to my friends who actually paid the money – pretty similar situation as you are stuck in the middle of a cross road with all directions showing red lights.

Bad Behavior, Its Reason, and Future

Under this blog entry Beer Can by the Highway vs Spitting about bad behavior like spitting, traffic rules (jay walking) and pushing in China, Stephen left comments, and I posted my response. It seems it worth sharing with more readers in case you ignored the comment part.

Disclaimer: Although we hold different point of view, I’d like to thank Stephen for pointing out a valid point, and he has all my due respect for doing this.

JS, your comment is not only passive but evasive!

Look at Singapore, you can call the ruling party the dictator, but it represent an effective government.

Posted by: stephen on March 12, 2009 11:10 PM

My first response:

As I always insist, to compare China and Singapore is always the easiest mistake to make. Singapore’s total population (4.6 million as of July 2008) is just like a district of a city like Shanghai. A pretty small city is bigger than Singapore. If there were only 4.6 million people in a city, and there is a immigration system to choose who can come into the city, that is much easier job to do. (Imagine twice as many migrate workers rushing into Singapore in one day)

China is a very diverse country. You can see the span of very uncivilized behavior mixed with very nice people – that is all about the different stages. The more people you are, the more diverse they are, the more time people need to move forward.

Having said that, I am not saying that everything is exactly right, or the government shouldn’t play a better role to speed up the civilization process. Yes. I do believe one of the root cause of some of the bad behavior comes from the bad government, not working education system, and many other things. However, I am optimistic about positive changes in the future. To understand that everything needs time to change, instead of cannot change is a big step. When I do some study about what China looks like before 1940’s, and talk with some very old people who were educated before 1940’s, I was shocked to see how good their behavior are. The current behavior of people were made by poverty, wars, culture revolution, broken communist dream, and the dramatic society change after opening up again… There is a history behind everything. You can never talk about something without looking at its history, especially when you are talking about 1/4 of the earth’s population.

Posted by: Jian Shuo Wang (external link) on March 12, 2009 11:32 PM

Then Stephen’s response:

JS, thank you for your explicit comment!

I cannot envisage the present social norm is the result of the past history of China.

The City of Shanghai deployed an army of traffic assistances to guard the major intersections to prevent jay-walking and the result is encouraging.

I don’t see people smoking in a confined space when a ‘no-smoking’ sign is posted.

So don’t think the installation of contemporary norm and moral standard in China is a daunting task.

Posted by: stephen on March 13, 2009 1:08 AM

The traffic assistants example is very interesting. In case you don’t know what it is, in most cross road (where there are traffic lights) in downtown Shanghai, there is one to two, sometimes 4 people standing there all day, just to use their arm to stop people who insist to go at red light, and sometimes give signs to the right turning cars not to rush into the people on the pedestrian, or horn too long to people before them.

Yes. I do think the army of traffic assistance helped a lot, but considering the quick change of people in the city (there are more people coming to this city than any previous year ever), the task is a long-lasting task. Shanghai is not isolated. This is all I want to say. You cannot just improve the level of people’s behavior within just one city. With the massive urbanization in China, the generation of Chinese people need to face the challenge of living in a city, which is never been faced before. Living in a city not only means the density of people is high, the requirement for public service is higher, it also means people need to get used to live with strangers (city is all about strangers, especially larger cities). So new norms need to be setup v.s the lives in villages. US has spent the last century changing the norms, so this is what you see what it looks like today. China need to do the transform, but it is a much bigger topic than deploying traffic assistant. The change is deep, and it takes time. China has already been forced to complete part of the change in 30 years, instead of several centuries. The quick change obviously resulted in some chaos, in the economy orders, and more obviously, in the disorder of social norms. Spitting, pushing, yelling in public, and traffic rules are just some of the more obvious sample of the disorder. The root cause and symptoms are far beyond that. Read the BBS post in major portals, can you can get some idea.

Again, having said that, I am still more optimistic about China’s future than anybody else. By understand how the current situation came into being, we understand that time will cure this. “Installation of contemporary norm and moral standard in China is a daunting task.” I completely agree, but I won’t be surprised or disappointed, if this process lasts for more than two generations. If that happens within the next generations, it is already be faster than I expected.

Posted by: Jian Shuo Wang (external link) on March 13, 2009 7:26 AM

I’d like more comments about this issue. My thought is always inspired by comments, and even better, by debates.