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July 25, 2010

Sprouts of civic norms in Chinese society and its implication for the governance

Lately I attended a seminar about the status of the Chinese society. One Japanese lady, a free-lance writer living in China, gave a very stimulating speech.

She said that the middle class Chinese are becoming more independently-minded, and they do not fixate any more on the government. This tendency is visible especially after the Beijing Olympic games. This event brought the world closer to the people, and they realized that today's world is more modern than their old image about the world, in which big powers engage in cut-throat rivalry for dominance.

So, this revelation may have lead to the recent tendency to engage in genuine (not manipulated by the government) NPO and volunteer movements.

Before the people were inclined to blame foreign countries for any problems in their society, but today they have realized that China has its own endogenous problems, which they themselves have to tackle. Those are the terrible pollution and the problem of the poisoned milk, which recently became a national scandal. Many Chinese go to Japan with an open mind and eagerness to learn what is good in the mores and norms in the Japanese society.

When the standard of life goes up, people stop engaging in the childish play, a remnant of the colonialism era: which country is stronger and better than which country. This phenomenon took place in post-war Japan, and even in the Soviet Union during the Perestroika era.

In China recently workers in many factories stood up in strikes for pay-raise. It is striking to note that the strikes happen concurrently in many places all over the country. They are not orchestrated by the government, but the workers use mobile telephones (Chinese SNS is highly developed) to convey information to their comrades all over the country.

All this may indicate that the gap between people's mind and the discourse of the government is widening. This gap will pose a serious problem for the governance of China. The official policy keeps addressing things which are remote from people's mind--this is no good for the government which used to be revolutionary.


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