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On the Reasons for the “Showoff” Culture in China

chinadaily 2013-10-31

Third, due to underdeveloped modern culture, the low moral standards of some Chinese people and the powerful influence of consumerism, the culture of “showoff” becomes even more rampant. It has become a tradition deeply rooted in the national character. In many cases, people would find it strange if you don’t “show off” when you are able to. Some even think low-profiled people must lack the strength and background which could otherwise be shown off. In this cultural tradition, “showoff” becomes a regular practice. Once an official is promoted, he will move to a bigger office, use more luxurious cars and his inspections will become more grand and ceremonious. He forgets that he is a public servant. After the founding of the PRC, especially after the reform and opening up, the mainstream ideology of Marxism changed things for the better. While the bad part of the traditional culture still lingers, Western consumerism has already penetrated into people’s thinking, behavior and life. Some people indulge in demonstrating their value through external, material things. They show off whatever they have, often through extravagant consumption, to show that they’re better than others. Frequent cases of showing off one’s wealth and excessive consumption of luxury goods are caused by the above two negative cultural influences. Officials’ “showoff” is more harmful than the showoff by rich people or ordinary people. One shows off only to others. What one has is the props for his performance. Those with high positions or great wealth “show off” a lot, but ordinary people also do it. In ancient China, people like Shi Chong and Wang Kai fought against each other in showing off their enormous wealth. Today, ordinary people are attracted by luxury goods. In ancient China, people with high positions lived in unbelievable luxury and extravagance. Today, ordinary people are willing to spend as much as they can on wedding ceremonies or funerals. All these are examples of “showoff”.

It’s certainly not good for anyone to show off. But for ordinary people, it’s no big deal, because it doesn’t harm anyone, certainly not the public interest. “Showoff” is already a culture in China. In the circle of officials, “showoff” is a means with which cadres and leaders in power waste public resources to meet their own vanity. Its harms and bad influences must be rebuked. The media frequently expose luxurious government office buildings. Some leading cadres hold extravagant banquets and ceremonies on weddings and funerals. This is far more harmful than the “showoff” behaviors of rich or ordinary people. We may reasonably assume that in officials’ “show-off” behaviors, there may be corruption and misuse of power. This can also bring down the image of the CPC among the people. It can be dangerously harmful for the development of our society and our country. Therefore, we must strengthen CPC discipline, modern civil consciousness and the education of serving the people whole-heartedly. More importantly, we must tackle the problem by institutional means. We should improve power supervision and check, and strengthen the prevention, supervision and inspection mechanisms to prevent the misuse of power and jeopardize the public interest. The negative influence of the “showoff” culture can also be reduced.

(Qing Lianbin ,sociology professor at the Central Party School; Yan Rong,PhD candidate at the Central Party School) (From Xinhua Monthly, May 2011) (Translated by Hu Hong)


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