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Chinese Society Becoming More Tolerant
Until recently frivolous activities like beauty contests were frowned upon in China, but a new tolerance is developing as the country continues to open wider to the world.

The mentality shift was reflected in a recent local television show on the 11-year struggle of a Chinese girl to win the Miss Universe crown.

Her story moved many viewers to tears of sympathy.

"I never denied that I want to be Miss Universe, a high quality society chick," said Ma Xiaomei, who was born in Sichuan Province,southwest China.

"Since I was 10 years old, the dream has spurred me on to keep-fit classes and learning foreign languages," she said. "Now I speak English and German fluently and have a perfect figure."

"Everybody has the right to pursue his or her own dreams, no matter how much it will cost to make the dreams come true," Ma Xiaomei said.

Professor Hu Guangwei with the Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences said the new tolerance reflected a rapidly growing change in attitude brought about by continuing economic and social reform.

"In the wake of China's economic growth and accelerating integration into the outside world, Chinese society has become more tolerant and diversified."

"In the process, some traditional values that shackled personality development have started to weaken, and as a result, common people's dreams have gradually won the respect of society."

At the prestigious Beijing University, a special group of unregistered students have won approval from the university to attend classes and have discussions with teachers.

They call themselves "wanderers of Beida (short form of BeijingUniversity)".

Doctor Bian Yunshan from northeast China's Heilongjiang Province is an ardent lover of literature.

A year ago he quit his job at a hospital in the province and started to attend classes at the Beijing University as an unregistered student.

"Many well-known contemporary Chinese scholars, including Shen Congwen, Liang Shuoming and Ding Ling, attended classes at the university as unregistered students, experiencing hardships in seeking knowledge," said Bian.

"In comparison with their experience, the current difficulties in my life are not worth mentioning,"

Professor Lin Bin with the Sociology Department of the university said that unofficial class attendance had been increasing.

"The university has a tradition of overlooking class attendance by unregistered students," he said.

"This is related to the phasing-out of the household registration system and a more relaxed social environment."

Another example of the increasing tolerance of Chinese society comes from the remote mountainous province of Guizhou in southwest China.

In December 2002, a 23-year-old man from the province married an HIV carrier who was five years older, following a four-year relationship.

Their relationship engendered wide sympathy.

The bride, Xiao Qin, gave public lectures in Guiyang, the provincial capital, and even in Beijing in December 2002.

"Though I carry HIV and need to take medicine every day, I'm hungry for love and a happy marriage, just like other girls."

Her words moved many.

"Now we're in an era of market economy, we should abandon the old values, as more and more changes are happening," said Huang Xiulan, a 47-year-old Chinese woman.

(Xinhua News Agency June 13, 2003)

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