Op-Ed Contributors

Society losing its moral compass

By Qin Xiaoying (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-05-17 08:00
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This kind of disequilibrium may result in extreme psychological states in individuals, such as losing confidence in life, doubting the value of their lives, and disregarding or being hostile to others.

For instance, take a look at the soaring prices of homes. This by itself has been enough to cause furious discontent in society.

Home rates in some of the western underdeveloped regions have risen to 10,000 ($1,464) or even 15,000 yuan ($2,196) per square meter.

In the case of eastern top-tier cities, it is common to see rates averaging 30,000 ($4,392) or 40,000 yuan ($5,856) per sq m.

These are rates that equate to the total annual income of an ordinary worker. At these astronomical rates, he may be able to afford just a 1 sq m residence.

This great disparity in home price-to-income ratio goes beyond the simple logic of buying or selling; its negative effect has permeated far below the levels of the property mart, fermenting severe social pressures in contemporary China.

Just think a moment. If most people believe their hard work through the year is just sufficient to buy a 1 sq m house, how can they live in dignity? How can they carry on without "losing face", which is so important to us Chinese.

As such, any ideology propounding the efficacy of "honest labor to create happiness" becomes impotent and hypocritical.

The value of labor is steadily losing ground to the relative value of capital.

The decline in the proportion of labor income in gross national income distribution is inducing people to despise honest labor and discard the spirit of mutual help and benevolence enumerated in collective labor.

This has also led to questionable ethics, which is the root cause behind scandals and crimes.

Therefore, in addition to taking concrete and timely measures, such as delivering steel forks to doorkeepers in Beijing's primary and secondary schools and deploying "one policeman and two security guards" at each school, the authorities should make determined efforts to address the underlying causes behind such tragedies.

The government should have the courage to admit that the competence of the local establishment and their social management endeavors need improvement.

Meanwhile, all relevant departments should cooperate closely and formulate short-term and medium- to long-term plans to address the problem.

The government should focus more on ways to narrow the rich-poor gap, prevent unfair distribution of income, crack down on corruption and incompetence, and instill correct social values and moral restraints.

Only then will the blood of those innocent children not have been shed in vain.

The author is a researcher with China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies.

(China Daily 05/17/2010 page8)

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