By Qiu Feng
The earthquake in Wenchuan inspired immense sympathy from the public and brought the Chinese closer. People believe that the earthquake will have a far-reaching effect on Chinese society and will lead to fundamental changes in the value system that the Chinese hold.
However, even if there should be such a change, the time is not now. On the contrary, people have been expressing different opinions based on various values after the quake, which shows their concerns and expectations about the value system of China in the future.
Vanke Corporation donated 2 million yuan to the quake area. The board chairman Wang Shi wrote in his blog on May 15 that it was the largest donation authorized by the board of directors. He also talked about the notice given to staff regarding donations, which set them to a maximum of ten yuan per contribution. This limit is in place because the company doesnt want to burden its staff with giving to charity. Even though Wang Shi has some supporters, most people dont take his point of view. The pressure from the public has pushed various enterprises to donate more, especially real estate companies. Some have asked if charity is voluntary anymore.
Fan Meizhong, a Chinese teacher in Guangya Middle School in Dujiangyan, Sichuan, told his students to remain calm when they encountered small earthquakes. But when the big quake came, he rushed out of the room first and left his students behind. Ten days later, he defended himself on his blog, saying that no one should ask people to sacrifice themselves for others. He stated that he had the right to escape from the disaster. He is now known as Fan Runner because people see he has no regrets about his action.
Fans act and defense irritated the public, and a flood of criticism came his way. Commentator Guo Songming said people should have a sense of morality, and a teacher should be responsible for his students. However, in a debate between Fan and Guo on television, Fan won more supporters. Many people said they preferred Fan because he was being true to himself and that he was not hypocritical. Some started to think about the relationship between human nature and morality, as well as the relationship between personal freedoms and professional ethics.
The government responded quickly after the disaster, and set May 19, 20 and 21 as national days of condolence. Some media believed that this was an indication that the state was moving in a direction where the rights of the public are highly respected, forming a sort of universal ethics. Si Manan, who is known as his anti-pseudoscience, rejected universal ethics in his blog.
On June 5, Yu Qiuyu, in his article, advised the victims of the quake to make the whole countrys interest their first priority, as many were demonstrating for the punishment of the corrupt officials who allowed the construction of unqualified buildings.
These all are proof that the value system of the Chinese people is now a mixture. Many respect the traditional values of China and are trying to restore them to their former prominence. The values shaped during the past half a century are also influential. Meanwhile, some new values have emerged from the development of the market economy. These are greatly influential on the youth, but conflicts can be found within them. Arguments among these different value systems are fierce. People with different values expressed their strong opinions after the earthquake, evoking an emotional response from the public.
People living in a society mixed with different values can feel uneasy and anxious. Today, is it possible to set up certain main values as a base line for the nation? Apparently, this kind of main value cannot be set up by the government from the top level down, as we have seen people critical of the governments actions such as the revocation of Fangs teaching license.
All in all, mainstream values can only be established gradually through free debate, communication and cooperation among people with different points of view from a combination of different traditions. The ideal system would be a society where various values coexist in harmony, as described by our ancestors.
(China.org.cn translated by Hou Xiaoying, June 28, 2008)