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Characteristics and associated issues of culture and their application in fighting corruption in China

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 Characteristics and associated issues of culture and their application in fighting corruption in China

Author: Henggeng Wang

 

Various characters of culture and associated issues are discussed first in this article, also their real significance in curbing corruptions.

 

I.    Definition of culture

 

There are no less than 200 definitions of culture. Here, we quote Clyde Kluckhohm'' definition:

Culture is all the historically created designs for living, explicit and implicit, rational, irrational, and non-rational, which exist at any given time as potential guides for the behaviour of men. (1945)

II. Characteristics of culture

 

  In accordance with this definition of culture, as a mode of survival, a manifestation of culture has the following characteristics.

1.     Stability and repeatability of culture: ......

2.     Neutrality and tendency of culture

3.   Learning ability and adaptability of culture: ……

4.    Exemplary and groups imitation of culture: a feature manifested from cultural learning and adaptability. An individual''s behaviour is often imitated by other people. The first "person" behaves, the second person "imitates", the third person repeats it, their behaviours form "the masses" and therefore form a kind of "culture".

5.    ......

6.    Permeability & mutagenicity of culture: cultural mutation may be caused by cultural invasion through war or a major event that shocked the whole mass. When a culture is heavily bombarded with one or more cultures, the result is often either an amazing progress or a rebirth, or a complete demolition or destruction, of course, there may also be a combination of both. For example, China''s Cultural Revolution aimed to "break an old order and establish a new order" (it failed to introduce any other advanced culture) while the European Renaissance brought with it the rise of Europe ...

7.    Coexistence and exclusion of culture: amazingly, a variety of apparently conflicting cultures often coexist in one place! For example, a strong anti-corruption campaign vs. pervasive corruption. In many cases, this is essentially a reflection of cultural survival mode.

8.   Simplicity and complexity of culture:

 

III. Culture and related thinking

 

1.          Culture and order: .......

In truth, only good culture can make order, true democracy and law can only be built on order.

2.          Culture and education: Current education in China is characterized by made in China: low-input, high yield but poor efficiency. The end educational products are not necessarily stupid, but it can not be classified as smart overall. In fact, many educational indicators rank among the last 10 in the world, even worse than African countries such as Uganda.......

In fact, I can never believe that a teacher with 60 or 70 students is able to provide personalized education, therefore, most of the end products are merely production line products at best.

3. Culture and history: a government, if it is often in the need of concealing or changing the history, is fooling the masses, but often ended up being fooled itself in the process. But often, it is one willing to fool, the other willing to endure, everybody is happy and nobody can do anything about it.

However, a culture that can only see an obscured history is often deprived or partly deprived of future social and cultural development.

4. Culture and economy (national culture and national economy, local culture and local economy): advanced national culture or local culture is bound to promote economic development. However, a large number of amazing facts demonstrates that backward culture sometimes can also promote local economic development to a certain extent. For example, the early smuggling activities in Guangdong was beneficial but the smuggling activities in Shantoutoo were overdone. There is no need for me to elaborate on that here.

5. Culture and political power: a regime, any regime in fact, always want to do anything and everything possible to control and manipulate the culture in order to maintain its rule. Chairman Mao said, "People''s eyes are sharp." However, it is precisely the vast majority of those in power who understand that "the masses are the easiest group to fool."

6. Multiculturalism and single culture: a country or society with a core culture complimented by multi-cultures is much better than a society with a single culture. The United States, Canada and other Western countries, for example, are multicultural societies with a core democratic culture of the West. It can fully realize the harmonious development of the society and is conducive to the stability of the country. If a nation or society resists or excludes other cultures (most likely advanced cultures), they often pose a serious impediment on the development of the society, even provoke the fall of the regime of an entire country or society. The Boxers of the Chinese Qing dynasty, the Cultural Revolution of China and the just overthrown Taliban in Afghanistan are just a few of such examples.

 

V. Use of cultural characteristics in fighting corruption

   ......

Corruption has been a feature of the Chinese culture for thousands of years, including the Ming dynasty, the Qing dynasty, the KMT at the end of its rule on the mainland, etc.. Essentially, corruption is an extension and sublimation of the Chinese culture of Hongbao (the red envelope), it is an inevitable result due to the intricate interweaving of greed of the privileged hierarchical members with the Red Envelope Culture and a variety of other cultures.

Here, I just want to demonstrate how the cultural theory point of view of the above can be of guiding significance in place to curb the corruption? When will it be resolved? How to fix it?......

1Corruption is impossible to eradicate, but can be curbed.......

2Corruption and economy: a large number of facts have proved that corruption can promote economic development (because of the primitive accumulation of capital). However, when corruption is ripe at a certain period of time or reaches a certain depth, the entire country or society have to endure terrible punishment as a consequence.......

3Corruption and the red envelope culture: the red envelope culture is essentially a phenomenon of the Confucian culture in accession into the society. When the red envelope culture (a neutral culture) and the greed of those in power or the interest of an individual (or class) is mixed up, corruption is born (Tendency of culture).This is essentially a survival mode created by some people in a certain historical period.

4Cultural stability demonstrates why it is relatively easy to fight corruption in Western countries.......the ancestral grandfather of the Western culture is the Greek civilization, our ancestral grandfather is the totalitarian civilization of thousands of years.......

5Learning ability and adaptability, exemplary or groups imitation: the corruption of some of the central or provincial leaders (even though at the same time they are also imitating others) will guide others to imitate them. If the corrupted is not punished, imitators will continue to mass.......

6......

7......

8.   Simplicity and complexity of culture show that everyone may think that anti-corruption, as a truth, should be extremely simple. But how to fight corruption, by what means and how? It involves a melting pot of cultures built over thousands of years, also the current democratic system and the legal system, therefore, fighting corruption is an extremely complex issue.

9.   Corruption, democracy and the law: any meaningful policy for fighting corruption must be built on top of a democratic system and the legal system. Only anti-corruption policy formulated this way can be recognized by all sectors of the masses.

10.  Corruption and mine disasters: the above point of view is not meant to say that fighting corruption should be in a turtles crawl pace. In fact, extreme measures (such as the unduly harsh death penalty) cannot be widely applied (cultural mutation).Our approach is to aim at a particular person, a particular place or a particular event (such as a coal mine accident) with a decisive, well-established and high-profile anti-corruption action. This is to make full use of the exemplary characteristics and for the mass to mimic in order to spread it out from a single point. The occurrence of coal mine accidents are closely linked with the local culture and the local economy. It also relates to the whole culture, the country''s political system and the national democratic system. It is actually an inevitable result of the impact of the large environment on the small environmental (Of course contingency cannot be completely ruled out). With such an exemplary action, we can take the opportunity to reform our national political system and the national democratic institution.

11.  Anti-corruption and mine accident (continued 1): Mine accidents, of course, are consequences of corruption. The mine accidents can actually be turned into a good thing. In fact, the problem of corruption and food safety issue are even more serious. The corruption is so widely spread that it may be difficult to fully and effectively curbed; a complete overhaul of food safety may make everybody feel insecure (Is there anything safe to eat? - Phoenix TV). Therefore, putting the mine accident as an explanatory sample should drive the anti-corruption complain for democratic reform and legal system revamp.

12. Anti-corruption and mine accident (continued 2 - Corruption and the "free lunch" culture): A large number of facts proves that money is made in China by mainly seizing the opportunity and the policy. Coal prices are so high now and there may not be a next village if you miss this one, so why not seize the opportunity of having a "free lunch" why you can, as much as you can.

 

The Chinese people have become accustomed to the culture of having the "golden pie from the sky" such as pyramid schemes, gambling and corruption.

......

VI. Postscript

 

I.                   My article on culture is just some outline framework ...

II.                Cultural theory to become a real science subject: Just as Marx had put it: "A scientific theory can only reach the degree of perfection after being successfully put into practice"......

III.             Comparison of cultural theory with the rest of cultures: The theory of Thick & Black is particularly suitable to describe the internal friction of the Chinese people; Art of War is for the battlefield and business world; Confucianism, the Bible and the Koran are for particular ethnics, nationals or groups. And my cultural theory, however, can be applies to as less as ten people, at any time, any place or any nation.

 

October 2005

South China Normal University, Guangzhou,

   Henggeng Wang 

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