Going to China and exploring the well worn tourist trails is one thing, it’s another thing again to live in one of China’s major urban cities for a period of time, and it’s very much another thing again, to live outside those urban cities. It’s a journey that can push you to explore all of your social conditioning and values, while considering those of people who have grown within different cultures.
1. A Hierarchical society – people have to work hard to claim a position in society and without it, it’s a VERY difficult life. To have wealth, or status that’s afforded by a high position in a company, especially within government, ‘greases the wheels’ and smooths the way of every step in life, and maintains your acceptance into groups, or your ‘Guanxi’ network. Everything is done by recommendation, without a network of friends, to find a job is difficult, to find a partner is difficult and so on through the steps of life. The more powerful your network, the smoother your existence. In a society that doesn’t have a well developed social system it can also mean the difference between eating from a table or eating from a bin, and at the extreme, life and death. I’ll never forget the facial expression of doctor I was visiting frequently while attending to some kidney trouble. Over tea, he explained that he had just witnessed a girl jump from the roof of the hospital. She was a cancer patient who didn’t have the money to stay in the hospital, when told of the costs the family simply walked away, without payment for the hospital bed, the staff had to ask her to leave. She walked to the roof. You’ll perhaps understand why Chinese are so determined when it comes to education, passing the all important entrance exam, Gaokao, which can mean the difference between a good life and a difficult existence, perhaps it also explains their ruthless determination in business, and get rich at any cost attitude. There isn’t a floor, unless you make it yourself.