For the longest time, I have sensed a major problem with Chiner society and its drive for market success has been its lack of 'faith.' That is, its lack of some sort of religious faith. I have often commented to Tai-Tai that the only religion you can spot on the streets is the church of money.
Danwei has republished an essay by a government economist, written in 2002, but it is spot on in its analysis of the difference between American and Chiner's economic rise. This is required reading...
Then where does the greatest difference between the US and China ultimately lie? My personal opinion: churches. Only in this area is the difference between China and the US not a question of numbers, but rather an essential difference between presence and absence. In the US, the spires of churches are more numerous than China's banks and rice shops. On a street near Harvard Square, I once stood and looked about me, only to find that in three different directions there were three churches. In truth, from the east coast of the US to the west coast, from towns to cities, in any place you look, you will find that this country's most numerous structure is none other than the church. Churches, and only churches, are Americans center; they are the very core that binds Americans together.
These days Chinese people do not believe in anything. They don't believe in god, they don't believe in the devil, they don't believe in providence, they don't believe in the last judgment, to say nothing about heaven. A person who believes in nothing ultimately can only believe in himself. And self-belief implies that anything is possible - what do lies, cheating, harm, and swindling matter?
Please read the whole thing.
When Tai-Tai and I first moved to GZ, we discovered that Macau was the place to go if you wanted to experience a church. Although we never attended services, it was nice just to walk into a place of worship that was well maintained and revered.
In HK, we discovered a church that was very similar to what we attended in the USA...so if we are staying a weekend, we would try and get over there for a worship. It was no coincidence that the first sermon we heard in that church was all about money and charity. Hong Kong is the seat of greed in the world.
As I live and work here today, I still see this lack of faith that concerns me here. Most of my colleagues save and save and invest in property. I have asked a couple of them if they give anything to charity and they just sort of looked at me as if I were nuts. It will be the undoing of this country when you have a minority of people making all the cash, and they have completely forgotten about those that are not making the cash. Despite all the 'unity' the government wants to espouse, this country is far from it when it comes to money.
Tai-Tai and I do like visiting temples and other places of worship. Being respectful (I never actually enter a temple, only tour the grounds), it is good to see people of faith going about their business. But, I do wonder how far that faith takes them when they are conducting their daily lives. They do seem to use the faith for their own family...but for complete strangers, it is a different story.
From the groans of present-day China's market economy, we can see that danger draws near: we have already bid farewell to humanity's most costly planned system, but because we lack a reasonable set of market ethics, we may be trapped in humanity's most costly market system.
Reality unquestionably requires us to move forward another few steps. The first is cultural transformation. We must find a cultural framework compatible with the modern free market economy. To achieve this, we may unearth from our own long-standing traditional culture a set of ethics that are compatible with modern economics, or we may use absorption and introductions from elsewhere to recreate our cultural DNA.
A bold statement and one that I just don't see happening.