Let's show more knowledge than wealth

By Gong Wen
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, August 20, 2011
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A tribe of exhibitionist Chinese Internet users – many the sons and daughters of China's nouveau riche – have drawn widespread criticism for flaunting their wealth online, sharing photos of posh cars, designer handbags and even handfuls of cash. But one cyber show-off has drawn praise on China's blogosphere for photos of her professional certifications and pro-learning attitude.

Peking University Certifications Show Off Girl  [V1.cn]

The alleged Peking University graduate uploaded a series of snapshots featuring dozens of certifications she supposedly earned in everything from computer networking to accounting. Her motto, "It's better to get certifications than to speculate on real estate; it's better to worship knowledge than worship money," has earned her a lot of fans.

Showing off knowledge and skills one has acquired through hard work is certainly better than flaunting material things. Still, many remain skeptical about the authenticity of her certifications and question her intentions in making them public.

The Greek playwright Sophocles once wrote that "Wisdom outweighs any wealth." Like the Greeks, Chinese have placed knowledge and wisdom before wealth since ancient times. But it seems the Chinese people have lost some of their values amidst the rapid changes of contemporary China. Many people now care much more about social status and personal wealth than knowledge or social responsibility. According to a report by the Global Times, China is now regarded by some foreign media as the most wealth-obsessed country in the world. Similarly, a survey in 2009 found more than half of participants believe money brings happiness.

It is reasonable to pursue money and wealth through decent means. But money should not be the top priority of society. If citizens of a country, especially its youth, accept the belief that becoming wealthy is the only goal, if the idea of reaping without sowing and speculation instead of hard work takes hold or if showing off wealth becomes fashionable, will the country have a future? Definitely not! "Wealth is the slave of a wise man, and the master of a fool," the Roman writer Seneca said thousands of years ago. Unfortunately, people today do not understand, and some are still willing to be slaves of money.

The appearance of "certificate show-off girl" suggests some young people are rejecting conspicuous displays of wealth, instead encouraging their peers to respect knowledge and make their own fortune. As the certificate show-off put it, getting rich via property speculation or handouts from one's parents won't earn the respect of others. One can only be proud of making money on one's own. If you become rich, don't forget to stay grounded. Remember what Oprah Winfrey once said: "Though I am grateful for the blessings of wealth, it hasn't changed who I am. My feet are still on the ground. I'm just wearing better shoes."

The current atmosphere of greed in Chinese society has multiple causes. It is not enough for young netizens to publish a few pictures. Both government and non-governmental organizations need to shoulder some responsibility, promoting positive social values and rebuilding a reasonable attitude towards money. More importantly, authorities ought to improve social fairness and solve social problems. Civil servants are supposed to set an example for the public.

Gong Wen is a visiting scholar at the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.


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