Have the Chinese People Changed Their Social Behavior?
Findings from a 1999 Survey

Xia Lollar
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

 

Introduction

The economic transition from a central planning to a free market economy in the People's Republic of China has been widely recognized. Equally important, this transformation has also brought about enormous political, social and cultural change in Chinese society. The purpose of this study is to evaluate changes in attitude, values and behavior among the Chinese people and argue that one can best understand these changes in the context of the economic reforms since 1978.

Inglehard argues that mass belief systems have important economic, political, and social consequences. They provide the cultural basis for loyalty to given economic and political factors in shaping social change.1 He also points out that cultural patterns are closely linked with economic development:

The central claim of Modernization Theory is that economic development is linked with a syndrome of changes that includes not only industrialization, but also urbanization, mass education, occupational specialization, bureaucratization, and communications development, which in turn are linked with still broader cultural, social, and political changes.2

In his Exploring Individual Modernity, Inkeles describes the character of modern man:" He is an informed participant citizen; he has a marked sense of personal efficacy; he is highly independent and autonomous in his relations to traditional sources of influence especially when he is making basic decisions about how to conduct his personal affairs; and he is ready for new experiences and ideas, that is, he is relatively open-minded and cognitively flexible."3 We believe that the economic development in China has changed people's traditional values and moved up their scale of modernity. The Chinese people have become more self-reliant, taken on more social and personal responsibilities, accepted the diversity of opinions and social behaviors, and are more open-minded and more willing to take risks for a better life. According to Inkeles, as individuals move up the scale of individual modernity, they regularly become more informed, active, participant citizens. They are more likely to vote, join social organizations, follow political news and keep up with political events.

In this article, we will first examine social and cultural value changes regarding personal responsibility, a sense of personal efficacy, risk taking, personal trust and tolerance and openness to new experiences. Then we will discuss the correlation between the economic development and the change of social and cultural values. Finally we conclude that traditional values are eroding while modern attitudes, values and behaviors are thriving in China and these new values will lead Chinese people to support democracy in the future.

Research Design and Methodology

1. Sample Structure

Our data came from a survey of 549 individuals conducted in June and July 1999 in

China. Since social and cultural structure in urban areas is different from that of rural areas, social values and behaviors in the countryside may be different from that in cities. In order to get separate estimates, the sample of 549 individuals was randomly selected from the cities of Tianjian, Shijiazhuang, Langfang and counties of Dongguang and Jixian. Tianjin is the third largest city in China. Shijiazhuang is the capital of Hebei province and Longfang is a newly developed city located between Bejing and Tianjian. Dongguang and Jixian are counties with small towns and rural villages in Hebei province. Hebei is located in central China and covers an area of 187,700 square kilometers. In 1996, Hebei's population was 64.84 million. It is among the fastest growing coastal provinces in China.

The second stage of selection was villages in the two counties and work units and schools in the three cities. At the village and work unit levels, lists of members were obtained from the county officials, work unit managers or school administrators. Samples consisted of four main groups. Those groups are peasants, industrial workers, state employees and college and technical school students. (Refer to Table 1 for occupational distribution.)

   Table 1 Occupational Distribution of Individuals Surveyed

Occupation                Number      Percent

Students                        98            17.9

Teachers                       16              2.9

State Employees        159            29.0

News Reporters            6              1.1

Bank Employees         22              4.0

Store Managers           33             6.0

Police Officer                4             0.7

Industrial Workers      95           17.3

Joint Venture Workers 18            3.3

Unemployed                   4             0.7

Peasants                       94           17.1

Total                          549         100.0

About equal numbers of men and women are in the sample, along with age groups ranging from young (18-29, 21%), middle (30-49, 55%), to old (over 50, 24%). Young respondents answered questions about social values and behavior twenty years ago based on their knowledge and understanding of the situation then. The education levels of the respondents range from middle school education (20 %), high school and technical school education (56 %) to four-year college degree (24%). Regarding the respondents' residence, 58% were from cities and 42% were from rural areas. In terms of communist party membership, 27 % are party members and the rest are non-members. Also, about 8 % of respondents had visited foreign countries, and the other 92% of respondents had never been abroad.

2. Questionnaire

The questionnaire was developed and provided by the China Youth Daily and the Chinese National Youth Association in 1998. The questionnaire was originally designed by these two prestigious Chinese national organizations to obtain basic factual information on changes in Chinese young people's economic, social and political life during post-Mao economic reform. These changes are evidence of abandonment of communist tradition and substitution of new democratic attitudes, values and behaviors of the Chinese people.

3. The Validity of the Survey

Since the survey reported in this study was conducted in China which is still

a communist country, there is every reason to suspect that some respondents may not give accurate answers or may hide their real opinions. I believe that the data are valid for the following reasons:

(1) The questionnaire was designed by the China Youth Daily (CYD), a major national newspaper, and the Chinese National Youth Association and published in CYD in October of 1998. There were 25,200 readers nationwide participating in the survey. Part of the findings was published in CYD a few months later. This means this survey was legitimate in China and participants would not be punished.

(2) Chinese respondents feel very comfortable expressing their views in such a questionnaire developed by Chinese media and organizations. When I contacted the officials in the sample institutions, I was told that questions written by Western media or organizations would not be permitted. When I showed them the questionnaire, directly down loaded from the Chinese internet, I received the approval immediately.

(3) The major goal of the survey was to test the changes in social values, beliefs and

behaviors among the Chinese people after the economic reform. Therefore, most of the questions asked are social and cultural in nature and are not political sensitive. Respondents were less likely to be afraid of getting into trouble with political authorities.

(4) Respondents were offered confidentiality. They were not asked to identify themselves or their work units.

I. Social Value Changes: the Dependent Variables

1. Coping: The Ethic of Self-Reliance

China was a country where all major decisions regarding public and personal issues were made by the Communist Party and the government before the economic reform. The government provided jobs, housing, education, medicare for the people and when the people have problems they turned to the government for assistance and solutions. In the survey we asked several questions about self-reliance. We asked : If you run into the following problems in your life whom do you turn to for assistance? 1) the government, 2) the work unit, 3) family, 4) friends, 5) yourself, 6) others. Table 2 shows the results.


                                                  Table 2 Measuring of Self-Reliance

                                                          Percent of respondents

                               Government   Work Unit  Family  Friends  Self  Others  Total

Laid off                           16                  8              5             3          66         2      100 (549)

Bicycle stolen                 17                  3              6             3          61      10       100 (544)

Broken relationship         3                  1              5             5          82         4      100 (549)

Being unfairly treated    11                  4            10             7          62         6      100 (543)
by other people

Cannot find a job           13                  4              5             9          66         3       100 (538)

    (N's are in parentheses)

Sixteen percent of respondents said they would turn to the government for assistance if they were laid off, eight percent would ask the work unit for help, about eight percent would rely on the family and friends and sixty-six percent would rely on themselves for the solution. If his/her bicycle was stolen, seventeen percent would report to the government, three percent would tell their leaders at their work units, six percent would get help from the family, three percent from friends and sixty-one percent of respondents said they would solve the problem by themselves.

We also asked respondents what he/she would do if he/she just ended a relationship with the person he/she loved dearly. Three percent said they would turn to the government for assistance. One percent would tell leaders at their work units. Ten percent would ask help from their families and friends and eighty-two percent said they would deal with the problem by themselves. If they were treated unfairly and rudely by other people, eleven percent would report to the government, four percent would report to the work unit, seventeen percent would tell their families and friends and sixty-two percent would rely on themselves for solutions. Finally we asked respondents what they were going to do if they could not find a job. Thirteen percent would turn to the government for assistance, four percent would talk to the work unit, fourteen percent would get help from family and friends and sixty-six percent said they would try to find a job by themselves.

The results show that many Chinese people demonstrate strong belief in self-reliance. It is entirely up to themselves to deal with their problems. By contrast, only a small percentage of the respondents believe government ought to play any role at all. Why should we be concerned about whether citizens think they should cope with their personal problems themselves or government should provide solutions? Sniderman and Brody argue that the importance is that personal problems can become translated into political discontent when 1) individuals believe government is under some responsibility to provide them assistance but 2) in their eyes has failed to do so.4 They further argue that a personal problem becomes translated into a political demand when a citizen feels that the government should take care of the problem. "Viewed from this perspective, the significance of the ethic of self-reliance is clear: the idea that one should cope with one's problems on one's own, is a major restraint on the production of political demand."5

Clearly most Chinese do not believe government has an obligation to help solve problems they face in their daily lives and they are personally responsible for coping with their own problems. This belief makes a difference in their judgments toward government performance and the political system in general.

2. Means of Success

Economic reform has brought the Chinese people great opportunities for developing and realizing their potentials. People have more freedom to choose jobs, seek educational opportunities, compete for promotions and even open their own businesses which they were not able to do twenty years ago. In the survey we asked respondents this question: Among the following conditions, which one is more important now for helping people to become successful? Which one was more important twenty years ago? ( 1 = more important 20 years ago; 2 = more important now; 3 = important both now and 20 years ago; 4 = important neither now nor 20 years ago). Table 3 shows the results.


                                             Table 3 Means of Success

                                                Percent of respondents

                                              1       2      3       4      Total

good education                     16     46    34      4     100 (547)

born in a rich family             14    48     28    10    100 (543)

born in a powerful family    10    47     33    10    100 (549)

hard working                        14     43    39      4     100 (542)

willing to take risks              11     48    32     9      100 (539)

good relationship with boss 10   48    38       4    100 (549)

good personal connections    8    49    34       9    100 (539)

born intelligent                       8     37    45    10    100 (547)

good luck                             20     47    15    18      100 (543)

   (N's are in parentheses)

The findings suggest that almost fifty percent of the Chinese people believe that all the above conditions are more significant for personal success now than they were twenty years ago. Among all conditions mentioned above, we believe that good education, hard working and willing to take risks are positive ones and will encourage an individual to dominate his environment in order to advance his own goals and objectives. On the other hand, if an individual believes only way to success is to be born in a rich or powerful family, have good connections with his boss or other important people, is very smart and has a good luck, he would be dominated entirely by that environment and would make no effort to achieve his goals and dreams for success.

Why do people have such a passive feeling about achieving personal success? There are two possible explanations. First, China does not have a well-established free-market economy and many economic activities are not carried out according to free-market principles. A highly qualified person might lose the competition for a job to a less qualified candidate because the latter has personal connections with the work unit. Many hard working farmers cannot move to cities to seek more opportunities for their future since they do not have city-citizen status. Second, corruption of political leaders has destroyed many peoples' dream for success. Since the economic reform, the Chinese government has allowed the private sectors to exist and encouraged them to compete with state-owned enterprises in production and services. As Hao points out, many newly-established private companies were formed by officials or their relatives. They had the power to distribute administratively allocated goods at market prices, issue production and foreign trade licenses, obtain bank loans and use their offices and connections to do business in the mixed economy.6 Corruption in its most serious forms requires money, Hao argues, and thus most likely to benefit the well-connected and newly-rich. Therefore, without money and power, many people feel that their chances to succeed are limited.

3. Openness to New Experience

One traditional Chinese cultural characteristic was an unwillingness to try new experiences and a reluctance to take risks. As Chu and Ju reported in their 1993 book:

This typical spirit of "no adventurism" can be summarized by the words of a young peasant in a poverty stricken region in interior China, as reported in the much-debated 1988 television documentary, The River Elegy. When asked by the television reporter why he was not leaving that village even though he saw no hope of a better life there, he said: "My parents did not give me the guts when I was born." Taking risks, maoxian, has the connotation of facing danger weixian.7

This traditional aversion to risk taking had been reinforced by central planned employment structure by which the government guaranteed a job for nearly everybody. As long as one could eat from the "iron bowl," there was little incentive to take any risks.8

Economic reform has given people more freedom to choose their careers and find jobs they like. In the survey, we asked respondents the following question whether they would prefer to work in an environment in which the work place was demanding but the potential for greater reward existed or one in which the work was less demanding and the salaries were relatively low but stable. Table 4 and Table 5 show the findings.

                  Table 4 Openness to New Experiences

Work environment                    Number of respondents          Percentage

high income, less security                       401                                  73

low income, high security                      148                                   27

Total                                                      549                                 100

 

                  Table 5 Openness to New Experiences

Work environment                     Number of respondents         Percentage

high demanding, high rewards               420                                   77

low demanding, less rewards                129                                   23

Total                                                      549                                 100

The data indicate that seventy-three percent of Chinese people would prefer to work in an environment that provides high income but low security and twenty-seven percent would accept low salaries for job security. Also, seventy-seven percent of the respondents said they would like to work hard for greater rewards and twenty-three percent prefer low demanding jobs even if rewards would be low as well. We can conclude that with rising levels of economic freedom and greater opportunities for a better life, the majority of Chinese people saw themselves as hard workers and preferred a work unit that offered the possibility of increased rewards for hard work.

4. Social Tolerance

In his Exploring Individual Modernity, Alex Inkeles mentions that

We also consider a man to be more modern if his orientation to the opinion realm is more differentiated and democratic. Here we mean that he shows more awareness of the diversity of attitude and opinion around him, rather than closing himself off in the belief that everyone thinks alike and indeed thinks just as he does. In our conception, a modern man is able to acknowledge differences of opinion; he has no need rigidly to deny differences out of the fear that they will upset his own view of the world.9

During the Mao era, Chinese people were less tolerant of differing opinions and stayed away from people with unpopular social behaviors, since one's career could be put in jeopardy by making "bad friends." People assumed that friendships and acquaintances were associated with a political and moral line, that is put forth by a popular saying: "He who stays near vermilion gets stained red, and who stays near ink gets stained black-one takes on color of one's company (jin zhu zhe chi, jin mo zhe hei)."

Economic reform has made Chinese people open to the outside world and willing to accept differences. In the survey, we asked a question about social tolerance. What would you do if your friends had participated in the following behaviors: homosexuality; extramarital affairs; using drugs; stealing from others and showing no respects to their parents? The choice of answers is as follows: 1) breaking the friendship, 2) tolerating the behavior and continuing the friendship. Table 6 indicates the results.


                                           Table 6 Measure of Social Tolerance

                                                      Percent of respondents

certain behavior                      Tolerance         Not tolerance         Total

homosexuality                               75                       25               100 (543)

extramarital affairs                       53                       47                100 (549)

using drugs                                    85                       15               100 (547)

stealing from others                      84                       16                100 (547)

showing no respects to parents    85                       15                100 (549)

  (N's are in parentheses)

Our findings suggest that Chinese people seem aware that a diversity of opinions and behaviors is possible and indeed exists in complex societies. Seventy-five to eighty-five percent of respondents said they would tolerate their friends' behavior and continue the friendship even their friends were homosexuals, used drugs, had stolen things from others and showed no respects to their parents. Fifty-three percent would tolerate their friends if they had extramarital affairs.

When individuals become more tolerant toward different social values and behaviors they will be more likely to tolerate different political views and opinions. As pointed out by Nathan and Shi, "Political tolerance is associated with two principles underlying the democratic process: the commitment to the equality of citizens and the protection of minority rights. Both require tolerance for the viewpoints and political activities of its opponents. Some students of democracy consider tolerance the essential ingredient of democratic politics."10 Our survey results indicate that Chinese people have become more tolerant for unpopular or, according to Chinese standard, unacceptable social behaviors. Therefore, in the future, they will be more likely to tolerate different political views and opinions.

5. Personal/Political Efficacy

As Inkeles points out, "The modern individual believes that, to a substantial degree, man can learn to dominate his environment in order to advance his own purposes and goals, rather than being dominated entirely by their environment. ... His sense of efficacy, then expresses the modern man's confidence in his ability, alone and in concert with other men, to organize his life to master the challenges it presents at the personal, the interpersonal, and communal, the national and the international levels."11 Nathan and Shi also point out that the sense of efficacy is a powerful determinant of people's involvement in politics. Whether or not citizens can influence politics, their belief that they can do so helps guild their political behavior.12 Chinese people did not have strong sense of personal/political efficacy before the economic reform because the communist party controlled every aspect of individual's life. People did not believe they could protect themselves or had any influence on governmental decisions. How do people feel today? In our survey, we asked respondents if they agree with these statements: First, I can protect my rights through the legal system. Second, I have influence on government policy too. Finally, if the government makes mistakes, I should take the responsibility too. The choice of answers is as follows: 1) strongly agree, 2) somewhat agree, 3) no opinion, 4) somewhat disagree, 5) strongly disagree. Table 7 shows the results.


                                      Table 7 Sense of Personal/Political Efficacy

                                                                                Percent of respondents 

                                                                               1       2      3       4      5       Total

I can protect my rights through the legal system    55     25     6      6       8    100 (549)

I have influence on government policy too             24    10    11    24    31    100 (549)

If the government makes mistakes, I should
take the responsibility too                                      27     18   14    15    26     100 (549)

  (N's are in parentheses)

The data suggest that fifty-five percent of the respondents strongly believe that they can protect their rights through the legal system. Twenty-five percent somewhat agree with this statement. Only eight percent strongly disagree. This public opinion reflects the results of legal reform. As Minxin Pei reports, between 1978 and 1994 China's People's Congress passed 175 laws, and local people's congresses enacted another 3,000. On paper, Chinese laws borrow extensively from Western legal doctrines, concepts, procedures, and terminology. He also points out that more and more Chinese citizens have turned to the legal system to protect their property and personal rights.13 "One-yuan lawsuit" reported by the Being Review shows a good example:

On April 19, 1998, Gao, a teacher from Shanxi Province, came to Beijing with his wife on a tour. He bought a book named Go to the Court at the Tianping Book Center. A few days later, Gao found that more than a dozen pages were missing. A week later, he returned to the book center, claiming a refund for the book and also the payments of his one-yuan bus fare. The book center agreed to refund the cost of the book, but rejected the bus fare claim, because "there never had been such a case before," and "there is no such rule." Dissatisfied, Gao launched a lawsuit. In its judgment, the court said that Gao did no wrong during the whole process, and that the one-yuan bus fare was spent in order to return a substandard product. It was a reasonable expenditure and the lowest necessary cost. Therefore, it should be paid by the Book Center.14

Cases like this show that the Chinese people have learned to use law to protect their personal rights, and according to the Beijing Review, such cases are constantly on the increase.

Public opinion is about evenly divided regarding citizens' influence on government policy and whether they should take the responsibility too if the government makes mistakes. Twenty-four percent of people strongly agree that they have influence on government policy, and thirty-one percent strongly disagree. Twenty-seven percent of respondents strongly feel that if the government makes mistakes, they should take responsibility too and twenty -six percent feel strongly that they should not. As Almond and Verba pointed out, a belief in the ordinary person's ability to participate may have significant consequences for a political system. If people believe they have influence, they are more likely to attempt to use it, and government officials are more likely to respond to them than to passive citizens who make no demands. "Thus, the extent to which citizens in a nation perceive themselves as competent to influence the government affects their political behavior."15 China is a non-democratic country and its public officials are not elected by the people. Therefore, some citizens do not believe they should take any responsibilities for mistakes made by those officials they even do not know.

II. Factors Related to the Social Value Changes: the Economic Development

Having described the social and cultural value changes of Chinese people after the economic reform, we must now specify the factors that cause these changes. There are many independent variables which could bring a population to develop new attitudes and values. However in this paper, we will examine only the one we consider most important: the economic development. The economic development has brought about significant change in Chinese society. It has offered the opportunity for Chinese people to "see" the outside world and have access to foreign trade, investment, technology, tourism and the internet communication. At the same time, Chinese people are heavily influenced by Western democratic ideas and have accepted these ideas.

In the survey, we asked respondents these two questions: "Do you think you are a beneficiary of the economic reform?" and "do you think the reform has created more opportunities for you?" Table 8 shows the results.


                          Table 8 Measuring the Results of Economic Reform

                                                                                                  Percent of respondents

                                                                                                      Yes       No      Total

Do you think you are a beneficiary of the economic reform?           77        23    100 (549)

Do you think the reform has created more opportunities for you?    77        23    100 (549)

  (N's are in parentheses)

The results show that 77 percent of respondents think they benefit from the economic reform and the reform has brought more opportunities for them. We also asked respondents about their living conditions. Table 9 shows the results.

                   
                         Table 9 Measuring Living Conditions of Chinese People

                                                                                                        Percent of respondents

                                                                                                    Better     Same    Worse    Total

Compared with the people you know, your living condition is     30           62            8       100 (549)

Compared with the last year, your living condition is                   51            39          10      100 (549)

Do you think next year your living condition will be                     50           45            5        100 (549)

  (N's are in parentheses)

The table shows that 30 percent of respondents think their living conditions are better than that of the people they know, 51 percent feel their lives are better now than the last year and 50 percent believe that their living conditions will be even better next year. If we can make a statistical inference about the people's living condition on the basis of this survey, we can conclude that the majority of Chinese people are better off than a year ago or at least have maintained the same living standard.

Given the fact that the Chinese people are much better off economically now than before the economic reform, we would like to know whether the economic development has a linkage with the changes of social and cultural values among the Chinese people. We will use the beneficiary of the economic reform as the indicator of the economic development. We assume that if a person considers himself/herself as a beneficiary of the economic reform, he or she must have experienced a relatively high living standard and enjoyed more economic opportunities, and should have relatively high levels of modern values we have discussed earlier in this article. In the analysis to follow, we explore the relationship between being a beneficiary of the economic reform and patterns of change in values and believe systems.

1. Economic Development and Sense of Self-reliance

 

Table 10. Relationship between Being a Beneficiary of Economic Reform and Sense of Self-Reliance

                                                                                        Percent of respondents

                                                                 Government Work-Unit Family Friends Self Others Total

Laid off
Beneficiary of the economic reform                  18                 9             7            2         63     1     100 (422)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform         41                 3             3            7         44     2     100 (126)
R=.28 P=.00

Bicycle Stolen
Beneficiary of the economic reform                  19                 4             7            4         59     7     100 (422)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform         40                 0             1            3         39   17    100 (126)
R= .27 P=.00

Broken relationship
Beneficiary of the economic reform                   4                  2             6            5         80     3     100 (422)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform           1                  1           21          13         60     4     100 (115)
R=.14 P=.00

Being unfairly treated by other people
Beneficiary of the economic reform                12                   4           12           7          61     4     100 (420)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform       27                 22             3           8          25   15    100 (121)
R=.25 P=.00

Cannot find a job
Beneficiary of the economic reform                15                   6             6           9          63     1     100 (421)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform       33                 18             2           7          33     7     100 (121)
R=.24 P=.00

  (N's are in parentheses)

We find remarkably strong linkages between being a beneficiary of the economic reform and sense of self-reliance. From fifty-nine to eighty percent of beneficiaries of economic reform would rely on themselves for solutions if they had various personal problems, compared with only twenty-five to sixty percent of non-beneficiaries. Non-beneficiaries were more than two times likely as beneficiaries to turn to the government for assistance if they were laid off or cannot find a job. The economic reform has a significant effect on people's sense of self-reliance with significance p=.00.

 

2. Economic Development and Means of Success

      Table 11. Relationship between Being a Beneficiary of Economic Reform and Means of Success

                                                                     Percent of respondents

                                                                    1       2      3       4      Total

Good education
Beneficiary of the economic reform           15     36     45     4    100 (420)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform  20     38     38     4    100 (125)
R=-.03 P=.5

Born in a rich family
Beneficiary of the economic reform           13    37     40    10    100 (426)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform  17    33    37     13    100 (121)
R= .03 P=.44

Born in a powerful family
Beneficiary of the economic reform           10    40     42      8   100 (424)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform  13    23    50     14   100 (124)
R=.11 P=.01

Hard working
Beneficiary of the economic reform         13     36    47      4     100 (419)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform 18    19    60       3    100 (124)
R=.08 P=..06

Willing to take risks
Beneficiary of the economic reform         10     40    41     9    100 (419)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform 14    23    51    12    100 (120)
R=.1 P=.04

Good relationship with boss
Beneficiary of the economic reform          9      43    43     5     100 (420)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform 11    24    61      4    100 (123)
R=.1 P=.03

Good personal connections
Beneficiary of the economic reform            8    41     43     8    100 (420)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform   7   30      51   12    100 (121)
R=.1 P=.00

Born intelligent
Beneficiary of the economic reform            8    28     54   10    100 (423)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform   6    20     61   13    100 (121)
R=.07 P=.1

Good Luck
Beneficiary of the economic reform            9    31     53     7    100 (425)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform 12    13    63    12    100 (124)
R=.1 P=.02

  (N's are in parentheses)

Our findings suggest that there is no significant relationship between being a beneficiary of the economic reform and sense of conditions to success. In fact, it seems that the more people think they are beneficiaries of the economic reform the more they believe personal connections and powerful family background are more important for success. This is the result of one of the negative consequences of the economic reform: corruption. As Hao reported: "While the Chinese economy is experiencing spectacular growth under Deng Xiaoping's reform program, embezzlement, bribery, extortion, favoritism, nepotism and smuggling have not only increased in frequency, scale and variety, but have also spread into every corner of society. The perversion of government function (using existing office for the purpose of private gain) has become so serious an issue that it begins to threaten social and political stability."16 According to a recent China Youth Daily report, the party secretary of Zhenghe County in Fujian Province had received 72 personal gifts which were worth 503,066 yuan and 2,300 dollars within three years. To repay those individuals for their gifts, the party secretary promoted 42 of them, offered others government contracts and bank loans.17 The Chinese government seems to have realized the crisis of the corruption and the importance of strengthening the legal system to handle the issue. The party secretary mentioned above received a life sentence ruled by the court. Cases like this have been widely reported by news media and government reports. As Hao stated corruption may trigger a dynamic process moving China further toward rational and institutional government.

3. Economic Development and Openness to New Experience

Table 12.  Relationship between Being a Beneficiary of Economic Reform
                  And Openness to New Experience

Work environment                          Beneficiary (%)           Non-Beneficiary (%)

High income, less security                      80                                     52

Low income, high security                      20                                     48

     Total                                                100 (423)                         100 (126)

High demanding, high rewards                81                                     62

Low demanding, less rewards                19                                      38

     Total                                                100 (423)                           100 (126)

R=.24 P=.00

  (N's are in parentheses)

The table shows that eighty percent of beneficiaries of the economic reform would prefer to work in an environment that provides high income but low security. However only fifty-two percent of non-beneficiaries would be willing to do so. Thirty-eight percent of non-beneficiaries would prefer low demanding jobs to high demanding ones even if rewards were low as well compared with only nineteen percent of beneficiaries. As the modernization theory implies, we do indeed find that the economically advanced are likelier to be more open to new experiences than the less advanced economic group.

 

4. Economic Development and Social Tolerance


        Table 13.  Relationship between Being a Beneficiary of Economic Reform
                         and Degree of Social Tolerance

                                                                             Percent of respondents

Certain behavior                                          Tolerance            Not tolerance          Total

Homosexuality
Beneficiary of the economic reform                   83                          17                  100 (426)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform           68                          32                  100 (117)
R=.09 P=.05

Extramarital affairs
Beneficiary of the economic reform                    67                         33                   100 (431)
Non-beneficiary of the economic reform             49                         51                   100 (117)
R=.08 P=.08

Using drugs
Beneficiary of the economic reform                    89                         11                   100 (427)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform           79                          21                   100 (120)
R=..04 P=.4

Stealing from others
Beneficiary of the economic reform                    89                         11                   100 (426)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform            79                         21                   100 (117)
R=.06 P=.16

Showing no respects to parents
Beneficiary of the economic reform                    88                         12                   100 (427)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform            87                         13                   100 (116)
R=-.04 P=.3

  (N's are in parentheses)

The data suggest that average tolerance levels in China are likely to increase as people are provided more economic opportunities. For instance, eighty-three percent of beneficiaries of the economic reform would tolerate their friends' behavior and continue the friendship even if their friends were homosexuals compared with sixty-eight percent of non-beneficiaries. On the other hand, fifty-one percent of non-beneficiaries of the economic reform would break up the friendship if their friends had extramarital affairs compared with only thirty-three percent of beneficiaries. There is no significant difference of tolerance levels between beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries of the economic reform regarding issues of using drugs, stealing and showing no respects to parents.

There are some possible explanations. First, in China, homosexuality is a crime. People can be jailed by being homosexuals. Second, people always dislike extramarital affairs because the damage done to families and children. Therefore there are still quite a few people who would not tolerate such behaviors. Finally, the drug issue in China is not as serious as it is in the United States. Most of the people do not feel that their daily lives are affected by drugs. In general, however, beneficiaries of the economic reform are more aware of the diversity of opinions and behaviors than non-beneficiaries and they will be more likely to tolerant different political views and opinions as well.

5. Economic Development and Sense of Personal/Political Efficacy

               Table 14.  Relationship between Being a Beneficiary of Economic Reform
                                and Sense of Personal/Political Efficacy

                                                                                      Percent of respondents

                                                                                     1       2      3       4      5       Total

I can protect my rights through the legal system
Beneficiary of the economic reform                           68      20      5       5      2      100 (417)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform                   31      30      3       5     31    100 (126)
R=.36 P=.00

I have influence on government policy too
Beneficiary of the economic reform                           41        9      9     21    20    100 (422)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform                     5        6      9     22    58    100 (125)
R=.32 P=.00

If the government makes mistakes, I should
take the responsibility too
Beneficiary of the economic reform                          42     18     12    12    16     100 (418)
Non-Beneficiary of the economic reform                    5     11     16    19    49     100 (126)
R=.33 P=.00

  (N's are in parentheses)

We find remarkably strong linkages between being a beneficiary of the economic reform and sense of personal/political efficacy. Sixty-eight percent of beneficiaries of the economic reform strongly believe that they can protect their rights through the legal system compared with only thirty-one percent of non-beneficiaries. Beneficiaries of the economic reform were about eight times as likely as non-beneficiaries to believe that they have influence on government policy and if the government makes mistakes they should take the responsibility as well. With economic development and opportunities, people do believe that their own actions can have a positive impact on the quality of their lives and they express higher aspirations for themselves.

Conclusion

China's post-Mao economic reform was carried out under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping for building a modernized China. The economic reform has brought about significant change in China's economic system and people's living standard which in turn has influenced China's political system and society. Today, twenty years after the economic reform, Chinese people not only have watches, washing machines, color televisions and VCRs, but a significant and rapidly increasing portion of them, are using mobile phones, computers, internet and even driving private cars and taking vacations in foreign countries.

This economic development has substantial effects in inducing more-modern attitudes and values, such as self-reliance, greater sense of efficacy, openness to new experience, increased tolerance of different opinions and behaviors. We can see a trend of eroding tradition and the fostering of new attitudes, values and behaviors in Chinese society. As long as the economic reform continues, this trend will continue as well. Chinese people are generally optimistic about the future of the reform and the country. In our survey, we asked respondents' opinion about the direction of China's social and economic development since 1978. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country is headed in the right direction. Sixty-seven percent of people feel that they have more freedom and fifty-five percent of respondents agree that the majority of the people are getting more and more happy. Also, fifty three percent of the respondents believe that today's younger generation will have a much brighter future. This economic development will continue to induce social changes in Chinese society and lead Chinese people to support a larger political reform and democracy in the future. These findings may not represent the stage of the changes in the less developed inland provinces in which reform is behind as Ningxia or Guizhou. However, in decade or so, these inland provinces will reach a stage comparable to that of Hebei in 1999 and then the inland inhabitants will come to share the attitudes and values of their counterparts in Hebei.

Endnotes

1. Inglehard, Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic, and Political Changes in 43 Societies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), p.49.

2. Ibid. p.7.

3. Inkeles, Exploring Individual Modernity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), p.14.

4. Snider, Paul M., and Richard A. Brody, "Coping: The Ethic of Self-Reliance," American Journal of Political Science, xxi, 3. (1977), pp.513-514.

5. Ibid. p.520.

6. Hao, Yufan, "From Rule of Man to Rule of Law: An Unintended Consequence of Corruption in China in the 1990s," Journal of Contemporary China, Vol.8, No.22 (1999), p. 407.

7. Chu, Godwin and Ju Yanan, The Great Wall in Ruins (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), p. 296.

8. Ibid. p. 297.

9. Inkeles, Exploring Individual Modernity, p.37.

10. Nathan, J. Andrew and Tianjian Shi, "Cultural Requisites for Democracy by China: Findings from a Survey," Daedalus, Vol.122, (1993), p.111.

11. Inkeles, Exploring Individual Modernity, p. 38.

12. Nathan and Shi, "Cultural Requisites for Democracy in China," pp. 104-105.

13. Pei, Minxin, "Is China Democratizing?" The Rise of China (A Foreign Affairs Reader, 1998), p. 101.

14. Li, Rongxia, "Heading Toward Rule According to Law," Beijing Review, Vol.42, No.33 (1999).

15. Almond, gabriel A., and Sidney Verba, The Civil Culture, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), p.139.

16. Hao, "From Rule of Man to Rule of Law," p. 1.

17. China Youth Daily, Beijing, March 31, 2000.


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1 Inglehard, Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic, and Political Changes in 43 Societies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), P. 49.

2 Ibid.. p.7.

3 Inkeles, Exploring Individual Modernity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), p. 14.

4 Snider, Paul M., and Richard A. Brody, "Coping: The Ethic of Self-Reliance," American Journal of Political Science, xxi, 3. (1977), pp.513-514.

5 ibid. p. 520.

6 Hao, Yufan, "From Rule of Man to Rule of Law: An Unintended Consequence of Corruption in China in the 1990s," Journal of Contemporary China, Vol.8, No. 22 (1999), p. 407.

7 Chu, godwin and Ju Yanan, The Great Wall in Ruins (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993),p. 296.

8 Ibid. p.297.

9 Inkeles, Exploring Individual Modernity, P. 37.

10 Nathan, J Andrew and Tianjian Shi, "Cultural Requisites for Democracy in China: Findings from a Survey," Daedalus, Vol.122, (1993), p.111.

11 Inkeles, Exploring Individual Modernity, P. 38.

12 Nathan and Shi, "Cultural Requisites for Democracy in China," pp. 104-105.

13 Pei, Minxin, "Is China Democratizing?" The Rise of China ( A Foreign Affairs Reader, 1998), p.101.

14 Li, Rongxia, "Heading Toward Rule According to Law," Beijing Review, Vol.42, No.33 (1999),

15 Almond, Gabriel A., and Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), p.139.

16 Hao, "From Rule of Man to Rule of Law," P. 1.

17 China Youth Daily, Beijing, March 31, 2000.

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