Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Election and Baby formula

The presidential election has attracted many eyeballs, including many from China. To many Chinese, it's a political show, not unlike Chinese contest of Supergirl. To be a good onlooker, basic terminology is a must. So many learn Republicans are conservative and "right", Democrats are liberal and "left". But, they may not realize, by Chinese standard, both parties are conservative.

People on the GOP side may charge the liberals with cynicism; conversely, people on the left may charge conservatives of hypocrisy. And their policies and view about the role of government may differ. But Americans are united by American value that is largely based on Cristian value. However people on the left detest "religious right", or the first African American, Barrack Obama, my be elected TPOUS, the simple fact is no non-religious (i.e. Christian) person can be expected to win the presidency.

To many Americans, it is unthinkable to place the greatest power of the country in the hands of non-believers. The prospects of evil with power are simply too frightening. All the check and balances of a modern nation can potentially fail, the belief, and character of the man will become the last and ultimate defense against the prospect of horror. (Not that Bush has registered a high score, but that's another matter.) Therefore, American presidential contest inevitably will have elements of characters contest, with "just-like-me" mixed in. Some on the left don't understand what makes people vote Republican? As this excellent essay explains, it is the moral simplicity that people prefer.

If China were to install an American style presidential election, I imagine China would split right along the Beijing latitude line, with coastal provinces to the east being the "red state", preferring a freer economic policy, and inland provinces to the west being the "blue state", preferring more government welfare to neoclassical policy - quite different from the American demography. Social moral issues like stem cell research and abortion would never enter the main debate.

I'm about to enter the main point of this blog post. Before I do that, I'd like to point to an online poll I just encountered when perusing SINA. The poll asks, "how do you consider the various naked/nudity incidents?" - nudity, as a way to catch attention, has been encroaching from the online world to Chinese daily lives. To my slight surprise, the top choice is "It's nothing but a result of an open society", followed by "getting naked is the freedom of who possesses the body". "It's morally wrong and need to be curbed" is in the last place. Moral judgment aside - morality itself has no right or wong, it shows China has become more socially liberal than the U.S. This also reminds me I usually detest Chinese websites, even big internet gateways. A lot of content would be crammed into tight page space, with suggestive pictures and popups to the taste of no-eighteen-and-under spreaded here and there. It seems eye-catching, and the money behind it, is the only criteria of those websites.

If getting naked is a harmless moral issue, then the tinted baby formula issue is life or death issue.

I was telling my friend of the tinted baby formula story. She had a hard time to believe social functionaries would all break down to prevent much a thing from happening. It was harder for her to imagine melamine pollution was originated from someone trying to enhance the protein reading in food, all for some extra money, or someone would try to hush the story. Her eyes almost welled up. She can tolerate the corruption of money grabbing, but not this. But that's what happens when social conscientious being replaced by a money-first value system. Someone would have slipped melamine into glutton protein, and with a money-weaken monitoring system it eventually found its way to the baby formula. The ultimate deterrence should comes from sever legal punishment of an established legal system, or the moral belief of the economic agent. Unfortunately, China hasn't perfected the former, but the latter seemed to be already shattered.

There are many debates about China's economic future. But my biggest concern isn't what they teach in economics classes, it's whether and how China can regain her core social values. The failure would pose the biggest risk toward China's economic future. My friend, like myself, is no Christian, but she can now better understand why nonbeliever would find a hard time into the White House, given the historical role of Christian religion in providing the core American social values.

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