Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Is China’s Society Really Advancing? Re: Prof. Gregory Chow

Prof. Chow's blog on

The Chinese society has made great process in the past few decades and will sure continue to improve in the future. This is the view Gregory Chow (Zou Zhizhuang), professor emeritus of political economy at Princeton University, wrote in an article published in China Business News and also posted on his blog on This article is listed as the “Opinion Leader” piece on sohu blog homepage on Tuesday.

Seems to me, however, Prof. Chow’s argument is ambiguous at best.

First, he listed the criteria for judging social progress: people should feel that the society is better than the past; the public should obey the law and don’t do things that harm others; the public observes high moral standards, and is willing to help others, etc. Prof. Chow threw the standards out there without making the claim that the current Chinese society has achieved them. Maybe he was actually subtly criticizing the current situation, which perhaps makes more sense.

Indeed, millions of people are feeling that the society is getting worse: people are more selfish, youth don’t respect the elderly, government is nothing but corrupt. The list goes on and on. Also, who is to say that people really obey the law in China? If so, then how come counterfeit and fake goods have become the hallmark of China’s burgeoning market, so prevalent that even baby formula could not be exempt? And what about altruism? Well, people will laugh if someone tries to advocate for this idea. “Are you dumb?” They are going to ask.

Prof. Chow did, however, praise progresses made in the past few decades in the Chinese society, such as education. “I believe, the Chinese society will continue to advance,” he went on to say. Why? “Because the government and the public are making efforts in the aforementioned directions,” he wrote. So again, people are trying to achieve a good society as he depicted, but not quite there yet. His other reasons for being optimistic include China’s economic growth and a “sufficient number of” excellent individuals in China.

I appreciate his insights but not sure about his prescription. For one thing, society-wide corruption—government, business, even academia—is not something that could be resolved by a stronger economy or a few excellent individuals. And don’t forget that if China’s environment continue to deteriorate at the current rate, there is no future for the nation, no matter how much money, how many talents it will possess.

Of course, I may sound just too bleak. What I’m trying to say is that, yes, China’s society may well get better, but certainly more needs to be done.

Prof. Chow’s blog on


chinamarketplace said...

China's economy is advancing. And through is, the poverty is decreasing. That makes the society work as well. And the market place here became one of the largest and most powerful around the world.

chinawholesaler said...

The economy is definitely advancing ( China became one of the biggest producers of wholesale goods) , and with it the welfare of the population. So yes, the Chinese society is on the right track.

sourcingchina said...

Foreign countries engage in global sourcing from China, in what manufacturing goods, people and services are concerned. This develops Chinese economy and moreover Chinese society.