'anti-society' spirit in Chinese psyche

please go to zhongwen.com General Discussion forum and look at SteveQ’s 6/30 post under ‘I’m miffed’ where he talks about an ‘anti-society spirit’ in the minds of many Chinese. I’ve seen this phenomenon and would like to get to the causes of it. Is there any way to change such an ‘anti-sociey spirit’ that could be applied to individuals of any culture/country? See you at zhongwen.com-v

Chinese society seems tp be a collection of families…while other (western) society is a collection of individuals…it is not that they are anti-society…it just means that their concept of society is their family…all outside that is not important to them…a world within a world if you like…

I think it is changing slowing though…espically in the younger people…but this belief …“your family is the most important thing to you, you must provide and contribute to the family’s survival… take care of granny and grandfather”…is a thing written in from birth…and had been around for a long time…as long as Chinese culture has been anyway.

The term “anti-society” is misleading. First of all, because the chinese culture may be more family oriented doesn’t make it anti society. And because American society stresses the individual more doesn’t make it MORE society oriented.
In fact if non chinese cultures are more “me” oriented, it could be argued that that is even more anti society than a family based one.
Its my contention however that this arguement is too general in the first place. There are differences in the cultures period. One is no more anti society than the other.
In fact there are aspects of the American culture that are VERY family oriented and there are aspects of the chinese culture that are very individual oriented…although that may not appear on the surface.
I’m refereing to my friends in Taiwan more so than in the mainland, as the communist political environment adds a whole other dimension to this debate.
Anyway, thats my two cents.
peace out.

Who was limiting the discussion to American society?

My idea of society also involves caring for strangers.
This is something I wrestle with all the time.
On the one hand my colleagues are all decent people who are friendly and often help me out. On the other hand I’ve seen people with blood pouring out of their heads in the middle of the road and nobody going to help them. I’m ashamed to say I did this with an old girlfriend of mine. I said we should do something. She just said we were late for our appointment and kept going.
At home I wouldn’t have done that but here I did.
Culture is a strong influence on moral behaviour.
I heard of a Canadian guy in Ilan who got knocked down and broke his leg after being in the country only a month. He left the country soon after due to his bad experience of nobody helping him. On the other side of the coin I’ve heard of a couple of instances where Taiwanese have helped the traffic victim , but have yet to observe myself.
It’s my nightmare to be lying there with the lights going out and a crowd around me staring open mouthed but nobody doing anything.

I have to unfortunately agree that Taiwan individuals do not think of others as often as my experience in other countries. This could be seen in anything from driving habits to littering to lack of helping others to general business practices (I’ve seen some DIRTY stuff…). (BTW, in Chinese they would say that they lack gong1 de2 xin1)

I think a lot of this stems from the sudden changes in the last 40 years within the country. Those who are, say 40-60 or so (not to put any artificial age ranges or anything) grew up in an atmosphere where they were dirt, dirt poor. Then within their generation, within just a few short years, they were able to make as much money as they could get there hands on. This turned into ‘I need to get as much money as I can,’ which in turn was followed by the ‘even if I have to crap on everyone else.’
But I’m starting to see something that happened to a small degree in Japan almost 10 years ago. The younger generation is seeing that their parents have all this wealth and such, and no one is happy; the parents argue all the time, the dad has a girlfriend, no one is close to each other, or even the simpler ‘why does everyone still want to emigrate to other countries?’ Their starting to realize maybe money isn’t everything.

Anyways, that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong. But this is what I use to comfort myself when I see stuff that bugs me. And this way, I can stay optimistic about the future of the country!

Chinese culture and interation with other Chinese people seems to be based on relationships.
If you go back years ago you will see that China built a wall, I am unsure was it to keep outsiders outside or the Chinese people inside and China has never expanded beyond this. Why I wonder?

Was it cause Chinese culture does not have the mechanism to integrate with other cultures or adapt. Therefore the logical decision in resolving this problem is not too interact. If a guy falls off a bike on the road, since you never taught to help strangers, would helping them not stray from the normal 'getting to know somebody" interaction thereby changing the relationship or the way you relate to that person; which is outside the norms for Chinese culture.

Or is it cause as that person does not have a relationship with you, then what happens to them is irrelevant and does not matter to you?
The choice of not stopping does not affect your relationship since there is no relationship

In the same way if you litter, and as long as you don’t litter your family or friend’s apartment, then it doesn’t matter as you don’t affect the ‘Guan Xi’ or the 'Mei You Guan Xi"

And the Chinese seems to hold firm to this concept of Guan Xi… Is not the apparent anti society just Guan Xi or a the absence of it?

What do Taiwanese say:
“You Guan Xi
Mei You Guan Xi
Mei You Guan Xi
JauGuan Xi
Jau Dou Guan Xi
You Guan Xi
You Guan Xi
Mei You Guan Xi”

I can’t write pin yin or the other type so I don’t know if you understand what I wrote just there

Guan Xi - relationship
Mei You - not have
Jau - Look for
Jau Dou - find

But this maybe a counter to my point above… this expression tells people that if you don’t have a realtionship, then actively seek one out, once you have it its ok.

Or maybe I am just spouting bull !!!

A couple of days ago, I was coming back home and it was dripping outside. So I came by the back door and rang the bell so that the guard can open. Well, he wasnt there and I didnt have an umbrella. Next to me, was a woman with her son. There was a guy inside standing there waiting for the lift, he saw us standing there, getting wet and didnt even bother to come and open the door for us. I thought that was rude.

Or in buses and MRT, I always give the priority seat to pregnant women, old people and women with children, but it doesnt happen quite oftenly here. There are so many reasons that just make taiwan so hostile.

I was coming back from Kenting with friends on New Years day. We were on the highway, when we saw an OVERTURNED car on the side of the road, with people who were obviously shaken up. It was clear that the accident had just occured, and there were no police or EMT or anything on the scene yet.
I turned to my friend and said “aren’t you gonna stop?” She said “No, cause in Taiwan, if you stop to help, when the cops show up, the other people might say it was YOU who ran em off the road, then you’d be rresponsible for all the bills.”
I think thats a load of crap. I have no doubt that there are some people who would try that, but I have real doubts about the ability to pull off a story like that. But even if it was the case, it doesnt matter. My friend and I are both Christians. We should therefore hold ourselves to a higher standard. It doesnt bother me so much when people, Taiwanese, or Americans, or whoever, dont behave in a socially responsible maner, but when those people are Christians, it really makes me sad. As foreigners, especially those of us who are Chrsitian, and I know you guys are out here, we should actively play the part of the Good Samaritian. Remember, he was a foreigner too (the Good Samaritian guy)

For some of you, what I just posted may make me flame bait, but thats cool.

Originally posted by aarondbu: She said "No, cause in Taiwan, if you stop to help, when the cops show up, the other people might say it was YOU who ran em off the road, then you'd be rresponsible for all the bills."

I heard the same thing several times in Taiwan. But I’ve also seen people stop to help others many times.

Yeah…I have to say…one must be careful when making generalized statements about a culture or society.
Personal observations can be biased or limited by ones perceptions.
I have been to Taipei several times…and have witnesses good and bad. Just like in any city in any part of the world.
Someone may see an accident and witness how NOONE came to the victims aid. This can be a shocking thing and skew their opinion. But then someone else can witness tremendous acts of kindness to strangers and form their opinion based on that.
Personally, I always prefer to ere on the side of optimism and faith in human nature.
I live in NYC right now…and its amusing how many of my foriegn friends have this preconcieved notion of how DANGEROUS NYC is…and as a result…deny themselves wonderful experiences. Some wont even go into Central park…during the day!! Obviously there have been cases of crime…but every city has crime.
I guess my point is, that if we make such sweeping stroke opinions, we risk blocking out a whole spectrum of colorful experiences in our life.
I think its great to analize the cultural differences the chinese society may have from others…but just as important it is to notice the similarities.
And to notice the small things…but not at the expense of the big picture.
Sound cool?

Regan, you make a good point about not making snap judgements about entire culture groups based on a few instances. Especially in big cities like Taipei. But this incident with the car wreck happend on the road from Kenting National Park to Pintung, about 2 hours away. I mean out in the BOONDOCKS. My point is, the “it’s not my business, I’m not gonna get involved” mentality is not just a big city thing over here. It seems to be very prevasive(sp?). More so than in the States. That being said, I’m sure that eventually someone would have stopped to help. Mabey even someone from Taipei

I’ve crashed twice and both times people have helped me immediately. I don’t think it’s because I’m a h0nkey becasue I had my helmet on and they wouldn’t have been able to notice quickly. I think getting accused because you stopped is vaguely possible because if you’re dealing with people who are shocked and perhaps angry it is possible that they will think you stopped beacuse you caused the accident. but that’s hardly going to stick and it’s just a risk you should take. BTW being Christina hasn’t got anything to do with it and a statement like

quote[quote] My friend and I are both Christians. We should therefore hold ourselves to a higher standard [/quote] is insulting to Buddhists. It’s like saying ‘because we are white we should hold ourselves to higher standards’.


Don’t get yourself all riled up, Bu. I doubt that arrondbu was intending to appear better than someone else. I think, judging from the writing, that what was meant was actually “high standard.” A lot of people I know have said “higher” in place of “high”.

Have to say I’m intrigued by this ‘higher standard’ comment as well. I wouldn’t call it a race thing though, I’m sure there are many white Buddists and many non-white Christians. You reckon you should hold yourself to a higher standard then who? I also deduce from your posting, though you didn’t state it directly, that you did not stop to help(?). So even with your great religious beliefs, high moral standards and holier than thou attitude, you did what everyone else did, and what you’re complaining that everyone else did, and that was to keep on truckin’. How proud you must feel. Like many people on here I’ve been around a bit stayed in various countries, seen various accidents, traffic or otherwise, and seen people choose to help and people choose not to help, simply human nature. I don’t hold myself to any high moral standard, I stopped and helped people, and I’ve driven by people. It’s not an exclusively Taiwanese thing, it happens everywhere.

I, for one, don’t mind hearing (or making) generalizations. The topic itself is about the generalization: Chinese people are anti-society…or something like that. We hear opinions pro and con, experiences pro and con. It is a worthwhile discussion. There are lots of ‘sweeping generalities’ that are true. (A generality is a statement that one believes to be true more than 50% of the time. All of our heads are full of thousands of them. If not, we are dead. Literally.) We shouldn’t be afraid to make generalities, and to change one when we find we hold an incorrect generality – though there is some strange P.C.-related notion that generalities are of themselves bad. I plan to beat this horse when I encounter it from time to time, because the anti-generality parroting only results in shutting down potentially fruitful discussion.

Regarding the topic…I find there is a high-level of not only civil neglect but civil mistreatment in Taiwan, especially in secret where it is unseen but perfectly understood by even Taiwanese themselves (precious are those Taiwanese who point this out themselves). I also agree that the definition of ‘society’ is important here. The first rule in any serious discussion is to define the terms. But, that does not really answer the question. If someone says Taiwanese are very good because their society is their families and they trea their families well, then we can ask the question in another way: Why do Chinese treat one other so poorly? (Frankly, I disagree with the proposition that CHinese, a “family-centered” centered, treat their family members well, unless ‘treat well’ is defined as “supporting financially”.) I am not saying that I agree with this generality…just pointing out that there is still something of substance in the perceptions of many of us, regardless of how we define the words.

By the way, I, too, have heard the rationale that people who help others after an ‘accident’ might be charged as the ones that caused the harm. I am curious where it came from. Why do so many Taiwanese say it? I suspect it is parroting. Does anyone know where this rationale comes from? Is it an excuse that has become popular because it is such a good excuse? Or does this sort of thing actually happen from time to happen? Or something else? I am amazed at how many ways so many people on this island have the same answers to the same questions, as if they have a special course in high school on good answers to foreigners’ questions.

yeah yeah ok, I knew I would be flame bait for some of yall. Hey thats cool.

Bu Lai En, I’m sorry you feel that way. Prehaps, I should make the post a little clearer. You are right, we didnt stop. (If I had been driving we would have, but thats beside the point) we just kept on truking, like everybody else. THAT IS THE POINT! thats what upsets me and makes me sad. here we are, calling ourselves Christians, and we dont even stop to help someone whose car has just flipped over. VERY HYPOCRITICAL (sp?) and very wrong. Thats what makes me sad, because we should have stopped, and we didnt.

Previously, I have stopped. Once on the way home from school, I hauled a 200 pound, bloodied up motorcycle accident victim to the Pintung emergency room on my 50 cc moped. Another time I stopped traffic in a busy intersection in Pintung City to help a girl that had just been knocked off her moped off the street. Does any of this make me a hero? No, it just the DECENET thing to do. I didnt mention any of this in the last post, cause I was trying to avoid the “holier than thou” comment. Im not holier than anyone, not with my past.

I’m not real sure how my post would offend a Buddist, or Mormon, or El Salvidorian or whatever.
Being a Christian is not like being white. Becoming a Christian was, for me, a concious decison. When I made that decision, I made a commitmet to live my life, to the best of my ability, in a way that pleased and honored (sp?) God. Driving by people certianly doesnt do that.

Agian, mabey I did not write my post very clearly, and I apologize for any confusion. But I dont apologize for the notion that as Christians, we should hold OURSELVES to a, yes, higher standard. I’m not saying Christians are BETTER than non-Christians, or that Christains, should judge those around us. Only that we have a responsibility to be light. If that offends, then I would say that the problem lies,not with me, but a little “higher” up.


quote[quote] I am amazed at how many ways so many people on this island have the same answers to the same questions, as if they have a special course in high school on good answers to foreigners' questions. [/quote]

That’s a kind of interesting point to follow up on. I, too, have heard the same comments again and again. I suppose every culture has it’s knee-jerk responses, we just don’t notice them in our own environment - no one really thinks about it. Whenever I feel annoyed by some repeated comment, I try to think of things that Americans say again and again. If someone’s got an emotional problem, you’ll often hear the advice “you might want to consider talking to a professional (therapist)”? Or if you’ve got a health complaint, “you oughta see a doctor about that.” A complaint about service, “did you ask to speak with the manager?” We talk about the weather when we’ve got nothing better to talk about, “Nice day, huh?”

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. Anyone got any other “parrot” responses, either in Taiwan or in your country?

I spent the last year before I moved here in San Francisco. I hear it’s worse there than in many American cities, but on your average San Francisco day you’ll meet or pass by, I would guess, 15-30 people who live on the street, off what they can beg or steal, and are most often mentally ill, that being sometimes a cause and sometimes an effect of their homelessness. That, mind, is when you avoid the places they frequent - which most people learn to do, to avoid unpleasant feelings.

And you think the Taiwanese are the bad samaritans? Get real. Compared to America, Taiwan is small, dirty, poor, lawless, and corrupt, yet here those who fall through the cracks of society stand a far better chance of being helped.

Well, (not to miss the chance to flame aaron) at least America has lots of “Christians.” Actually, I think Aaron is to be commended as is anyone who acts dutifully towards their fellow humans. But I would suggest that while, on the individual level, a religious doctrine may be helpful in guiding one to be of help, on the national level, all that’s required is a governmental decision not to tolerate mass poverty and the neglect of the mentally ill. The American government sees no reason to make that decision, and by and large the complacency of Americans allows that despicable decision to stand.

The Taiwanese, though they have many of their own weird behaviours to account for, seem to feel no such complacency.

I’m not against generalities perse. They help define our opinions on things. But one should not hold too strongly to such general statements however. Be open to the world around you. That is all i say.
I think one can do this and still be politically incorrect. Being politically incorrect can be as good or bad as being too general. For example at times the status quo becomes boring or backwards, and it is up to politically incorrect people to shake things up a bit…which is great! Also at times things can be volatile and delicate and generalized statements can inflame or exacerbate an already bad situation…in such instances, alittle restraint is in order and one should be careful of making general statements about a group of people.
There are no rules really. Ultimately, only good can come from people speaking their mind freely. I try to be opinionated and open at the same time. I can hold many diametrically oppossing viewpoints and can also be stubborn and pigheaded about certain beliefs. What I believe today may be influenced by others and I might think differently tomorrow.
I commented on the posts above about the view that Taiwanese in general don’t help accident victims. To me, a person who has lived in taiwan only a short time, this was a general statement. To others it may be fact. But I feel that it is a situation that can vary from person to person…and therefore I disagree. It may be based on personal observations, but it borders on such statements as “All blondes are dumb” and one should be leary of such conclusions. I mean how many accidents has one person seen? Even if it was as many as 5…one should be careful of saying all Taiwanese will ignore and turn away.
There was a big case here in NYC awhile ago where a woman was being attacked at night…and her neighbors ignored her screams for help. It was a shocking story and the poor woman was found dead the next day. Horrible. Many reading that story…could form opinions about NYC and its people. And who would blame them? But for every tragic story like that, there are just as many stories where people of NYC acted bravely or with compassion. Just the other week, while sleepingg in my upper west side apartment, at around 2am…I woke to the screams of a woman. I opened my window and looked to try and see where the sound was coming from…I noticed others looking out their windows as well…some called out…“WHERE ARE YOU”. I saw many windows that remained dark…perhaps they didn’t want to get involved. I along with others called the police who arrived in front of the suspected apartment moments later. I found myself on the street with perhaps 5 other concerned NYC citizens.
As it turned out, the woman, who sounded as if she was screaming for her life was in fact ok. The cops left…and I shook the hands of the people who had left their warm beds to help and said goodnight myself.
So you have two stories with totally different outcomes. Our perceptions are colored by our experiences.
I just refuse to believe that ALL Taiwnese feel one way. I think one can comment on the horrific attitudes concerning a certain event, but one has to be careful linking it to all other events.
Peace out,

I’m also dismayed at the anti-society, don’t help other people attitude that i see almost everyday here. But the most serious case of this that i ever personally witnessed was in Japan. Here’s what happened…

I was in my friends car in Machida just outside of Tokyo. The traffic was terrible and I was looking at all the cars when i suddenly spotted a three to four year old kid stuck in the middle of the street. The cars were going around this child and honking their horns. The child (i guess a boy?) was obviously frightened and didn’t know what to do so he was running down the middle of the street. I couldn’t open my door for 30 seconds, which seemed like the longest of my life, because the traffic was soo close and heavy. I seriously thought the kid would be dead before i could get to him but just when I was able to open my door he suddenly darted in front of a car and made it to the sidewalk.

Not one person stopped and no one on the sidewalk seemed alarmed. Is houldn’t have been surprised. When I got there I was briefed to not help anyone unless we wanted to get sued. I Japan if you stop to help someone you’re considered trained medical personel and you’ll be held responsible for that person’s life.

So does this phenomena apply to all of Asia or just the northeast?