Multicultural exchange : Activity report #4

Social Norms vs. SDGs in China


Part 1. Basic information

The fundamental social norms in Chinese society are strong sense of family and pursuing harmony to avoid conflicts, due to long-lasting influence of Confucianism as well as modern social changes. Core beliefs of Confucianism include respect for elders, harmony between individuals, justice, loyalty to family and friends, and filial piety (親孝行 in Japanese). Sense of family and caring for the old are considered as traditional virtues. Generally, parents take responsibility in taking care of their young so matter how old their children are, and children also feel obliged to look after their parents. The bond between family members and how much people are influenced by their family of origin are generally stronger compared with other society. In addition, China had been feudal society for thousands of years before the establishment of People’s Republic of China, and governments have to govern with strict rules since it is a big country with a big population. Modern Chinese society follows ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, which is formulated based on Marxism yet allowing for capitalism in the market, therefore people generally long to make achievements and benefit themselves while revering rules and authorities even nowadays. People generally possess patriotism and nationalism in China. There are 56 official ethics groups on China, hence they all have unique cultures and sometimes religions, so policies are developed to let religions coexist with socialism. Most people take pride in their country and culture. People generally trust the government unlike in some other countries. They are usually ‘obsessed’ with national unity and spreading culture. Sense of ‘unity’ and pursuing for harmony mentioned earlier can be seen in Chinese international policy: showing strength while avoiding conflicts. Basic social norms in China formed over large scale of time are contributing to SDGs No.16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

One common impression on Chinese is, unfortunately, bad manners. One reason is imbalance between recent rapid economic growth and lack of education. Another major reason is people’s pursuit for personal interest which was mentioned earlier. Lab members have raised questions about people’s awareness of their bad manners. Despite some people that do not consider their deed bad and basically ignore others, some people do not mind the bad manners because almost everyone does so, whereas some people criticize this behavior yet cannot do anything about this. This is connected with SDGs No.4 Quality Education and personally I am looking forward to changes.

Part 2. Language and communication

The official language in China is Mandarin Chinese, yet dialects and accents vary from region to region. There are 302 individual living languages as well. As a result, it can be hard to communicate sometimes. This limitation is connected to SDGs No. 4 Quality Education. Similar to Japanese, Chinese is gentle and has an indirect way of speaking. In addition, the same sentence can mean differently if said in different intonations. When proper nouns in Chinese are put into foreign languages, they are usually translated word by word, which can be an obstacle in spreading unique cultural concepts.

Part 3. Food and diet

Chinese cuisine is diverse in cooking methods (more than 24 kinds of cooking methods) and ingredients. Similar to dialects and accents, food is also different from one region to another. ‘Leftover culture’ is also a quite unique part of Chinese food culture. On one hand, traditionally, eating all food provided by the host is considered to be impolite, since this may indicate that there is not enough food. Moreover, in modern days, ordering extra food when treating guests at a restaurant seems generous. On the other hand, for commoners in ancient days who did not have enough food, it was still important to save food. Therefore, on the contradictory, to cherish food is considered as a virtue as well. Although leftover culture itself is against SDGs No.2 Zero Hunger and No.12 Responsible Consumption and Production, people are becoming aware of the importance of not wasting food.

Part 4. Working environment

Generally working environment in China is quite harsh and stressful. First of all, Chinese society is credential society (学歴社会in Japanese) due to large population. For graduates from universities of similar level in different countries, it is relatively harder to find a job with similar wage in China. Women are also vulnerable in workplace. Other than power and sexual harassment, women are less likely to be hired or allocated with important tasks, especially for young, unmarried women. There is prejudice against women that they must eventually get married or bear children, eventually contributing less to their companies. Although according to Article 46 of the Labor Law of the People’s Republic of China, the distribution of wages shall follow the principle of distribution according to work and equal pay for equal work, many companies do not offer equal pay and opportunity to every worker due to lack of specific standards.

1 holiday policy in China is Chuanxiu (compensation day-off in English or 振替休日 in Japanese), which means working during weekends in order to take extra weekdays off, so that public holidays can be longer. People are dissatisfied with this policy for they have to work on extra days and work longer continuously near every holiday. Nowadays more companies are adopting new holiday policies, creating more agreeable working environments (SDGs No.8 Decent Work and Economic Growth and No.12 Responsible Consumption and Production).

Part 5. Summery

I tried to remain neutral when talking about social norms and basic information in my home country, but in terms of results I turned out to be talking about negative parts too much in my presentation. I would like to review myself that I was passive when introducing my country, which is not professional, so I tried writing my report more neutrally. Yet my lab mates were really considerate and supportive after my presentation. They told me that it is important to remain critical because criticism brings changes. They also told me to be more positive and think about the bright sides. Thank you so much for the comments.🥹