‘Seat-rob­bing’ on trains chron­i­cles clash of tra­di­tional and mod­ern so­cial val­ues

Global Times - - Viewpoint - By Jiao Kun

In re­cent years, China’s bul­let trains have stun­ningly stepped onto the world stage. But the “seat-rob­bing peo­ple,” who in­sist on sit­ting in oth­ers’ re­served space, have fre­quently shaken pub­lic dis­course. The is­sue has pro­voked de­bate. Peo­ple are hop­ing that the speed of Chi­nese civ­i­liza­tion’s de­vel­op­ment matches the speed of its bul­let trains. The heated dis­cus­sion shows that Chi­nese peo­ple now seek pub­lic or­der and so­cial norms in the con­text of so­cial trans­for­ma­tion and fast­paced de­vel­op­ment. Then why does “seat-rob­bing” still take place fre­quently?

China ex­pe­ri­enced thou­sands of years of agri­cul­tural civ­i­liza­tion with its so­ci­ety di­vided into clans and so­cial di­vi­sions based on blood ties. The fam­ily-ori­ented so­ci­ety val­ues fa­mil­ial ties more than in­di­vid­u­als and the so­ci­ety, hu­man re­la­tion­ship more than law, and moral­ity more than prom­ises. But in to­day’s in­dus­trial so­ci­ety, the spirit of con­tract has made rules and so­cial moral­ity para­mount. Hon­esty and trust­wor­thi­ness have risen above hu­man re­la­tion­ships. How­ever, the great so­cial trans­for­ma­tion hasn’t elim­i­nated all the fea­tures of the so­ci­ety, which is still evolv­ing. In agri­cul­tural so­ci­ety, dou­ble stan­dards may be ob­served as to how ac­quain­tances are dealt with in com­par­i­son to strangers, and fam­ily mem­bers are treated in com­par­i­son to out­siders.

Thus it is easy to see per­sonal in­ter­est trump con­trac­tual re­la­tions in China, vi­o­lat­ing the prin­ci­ple of re­spect and equal­ity in in­dus­trial so­ci­ety. Breach of eti­quette and un­civ­i­lized be­hav­ior in pub­lic is of­ten the re­sult of a clash be­tween norms of agri­cul­tural and in­dus­trial so­ci­eties.

China is the world’s big­gest de­vel­op­ing coun­try. As the econ­omy grows, pub­lic re­sources ac­cu­mu­late rapidly, and the dis­tri­bu­tion and use of these re­sources are still un­der ad­just­ment. Un­fair and un­sta­ble dis­tri­bu­tion af­fects peo­ple’s at­ti­tude to­ward liveli­hood re­sources in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment, health­care and trans­porta­tion. For ex­am­ple, China’s pro­vin­cial hos­pi­tals are packed with pa­tients, prices of school dis­trict houses keep go­ing up, and the job mar­kets are al­most sat­u­rated in Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Guangzhou. This leads to peo­ple’s dis­trust in the al­lo­ca­tion of pub­lic re­sources. If laws are not strict, the ethics of com­pe­ti­tion will be thrown to the winds, and bul­ly­ing and rob­bing will lead to the rule of rogues.

Re­li­gious be­lief and busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties have been play­ing an im­por­tant role in Western civ­i­liza­tion. Be­cause of the re­li­gious tra­di­tion of form­ing con­tracts and the busi­ness tra­di­tion of hon­or­ing agree­ments, the spirit of con­tract oc­cu­pies the main­stream of Western civ­i­lized so­ci­ety, and binds so­cial re­la­tion­ships. Since the 11th cen­tury, the West has had its tra­di­tion of law, which stemmed out of re­li­gious reg­u­la­tions to bind peo­ple’s chang­ing so­cial char­ac­ters. It also set up a so­cial credit sys­tem on the ba­sis of law to pre­vent peo­ple from breach­ing pub­lic moral­ity. Per­sonal credit be­comes the pre­req­ui­site of the en­tire so­ci­ety’s hon­esty. But these tra­di­tions have not taken root among the Chi­nese pop­u­la­tion. Com­pared to the West, the so­cial­ist le­gal and credit sys­tem shows its im­ma­tu­rity, and it’s still a work-in-progress.

What is miss­ing in the cur­rent Chi­nese so­ci­ety? It’s morals and dis­ci­pline; law and ex­ter­nal con­straints. Chi­nese peo­ple haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced re­li­gious con­tracts or agree­ments in long-term busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties. Tra­di­tion Chi­nese cul­tural traits such as benev­o­lence, right­eous­ness, man­ners, wis­dom and credit are not enough for the cur­rent de­vel­op­ing and trans­form­ing China. Law is un­doubt­edly the most im­por­tant and ef­fec­tive way. Law can stim­u­late dis­ci­pline and over­see so­cial hon­esty. With the help of so­cial credit sys­tem, the cost of vi­o­lat­ing laws and moral­ity is fur­ther in­creased. At the same time, we should es­tab­lish the au­thor­ity of law en­force­ment and em­pha­size the con­cept of moral­ity. Only in this way can we es­tab­lish laws and moral norms which tally with China’s na­tional con­di­tions and strengthen the soft power.

As a global brand, China’s bul­let trains are bound to create an­other mir­a­cle. But Chi­nese peo­ple also hope to make our civ­i­liza­tion stun­ning. It re­quires that ev­ery pas­sen­ger should pro­tect the rules to make our na­tion rise with the help of moral­ity and law.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.