Streetlife in China
The Republic of China has undergone many dramatic changes within a relatively short period of time. After centuries operating in the relative stability of Confucian ideals and tradition, Chinese society has been bombarded by the inflow of western ideals and commercialism. In his book Streetlife China, Michael Dutton makes observations concerning contemporary Chinese society and discusses the problems and advantages rapid economic development has brought upon China. Dutton's view on contemporary China is that of a society whose historical ideology contradicts the product of a capitalistic society. Dutton believes that Chinese society is conflicted between traditional ideals and modern desires. The mind-set and life goals of Chinese individuals are changing with modernization, and Chinese society as a whole has been overwhelmed and unable to handle the rapid transition it is undergoing. Dutton uses many vivid observations of everyday life in modern day China, to support his views.
Dutton begins his writing by discussing the idea of human rights. He states, "It is true that, traditionally, the concept of human rights did not exist in China." (Dutton, 23). He explains that this was not to say that human rights were ignored. This is not the result of years of repression that has made it impossible to practice human rights, but quite the contrary, the spirit of traditional Chinese society makes the idea of guaranteed human rights unnecessary. "I think that the humanitarian and harmonious spirit that human rights embodies was not only present in traditional Chinese society, but that it was quite bountiful. If anything was lacking, it was the spirit of a rule of law," (Dutton 24). Chinese culture traditionally stressed kindness and selflessness. It was considered moral and commendable to have other's best interest at heart. In order to gain respect within the community and the family, one in traditional Chinese society would strive to maintain harmony in interpersonal relationships. .
Traditional Chinese society stressed great importance to relations within the family and community. Every body had a role within the community and family. It was considered the duty of every individual to fulfill their role in order to benefit others. "Every person's character was defined by their social relations, moreover the individual belonged to and served the collective," (Dutton, 29). An example of such relations is given in the case of the Chinese work units. The work unit serves as a family in the workplace. In many ways it is as restrictive as a family in that you have little choice in which work unit you join and you cannot switch work units or move up within one. However people find solace in them because it is like a family and one feels a sense of belonging which is necessary in a society that functions through people's desires to help others. For Chinese, the work unit is their very own big round table. ...