Challenges to establish National Identity

Challenges to establish National Identity

China today can be argued to be a complex entity that is made of very diverse socio-cultural historical elements. This coupled with the effects of modernization since 1978, this diversity is now becoming more complicated with the creation of social classes, something that China previously does not have. Although there are certain aspects of life which the Chinese government try to implement to forge better unity such as Mandarin being the official language, institutions like schools and so on, there are still some challenges faced by the Chinese government to forge a national identity such as economic disparity, linguistic diversity and ethnic and religious relations


  • Ethnic and Religious tensions

Ethnic and religious tensions are one of the challenges faced by the Chinese government in forging a common national identity. Religion in areas such as Tibet and Xinjiang has been a galvanizing force for social dissent and calls for secession from the mainland threatens the common pan-Chinese national identity that the CCP had been advocating. Despite calls for independence and their own separate state by autonomous states such as Tibet and Xinjiang, it has been repeatedly denied by the CCP and instead imposed tighter rules on them. In 2014, Xinjiang government departments banned Muslim civil servants from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Thus, these restrictions inevitably led to greater resistance by these citizens living in autonomous regions, further dividing the people as a result. Furthermore, these actions by autonomous regions to fight for their differing regional identities may influence other provinces to do the same as well. Therefore, this poses as a crucial challenge that has to be resolved to prevent further segregation amongst the people.


  • Economic Disparity

Secondly, economic disparity also poses as a challenge to the formation of national identity. This is because of the persistence of a widening income disparity between the very rich and poor regions. Due to Deng’s economic reforms and their prioritization of growing China’s economy, the introduction of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in coastal areas such as Guangzhou have gotten extremely wealthy at the expense of inland regions in the west. Similarly, as of 2015, coastal provinces and cities such as Shanghai’s GDP per capita is 209% whereas inland such as Gansu’s GDP per capita is only a minor 53%. Thus, showing how uneven China’s economic growth and distribution is and this in turn, would only further divide its people. Without adequate financial resources, rural areas are unable to develop its facilities and infrastructure in order to improve the standard of living. In addition, without quality of life, there would be differing identities formed as these citizens from rural areas would not be able to benefit from China’s economic growth. Thus, unable to relate with the Chinese identity which portrays its citizens to be benefiting from China’s economic growth in coastal and urban areas.


  • Linguistic Diversity

Linguistic diversity is also another challenge to the formation of national identity by the Chinese government. This is because regional dialects, suggestive of strong regional identities as opposed to a national identity continues to persist. Out of the total 57 languages being spoken in China, Mandarin was chosen as the official national spoken language. This poses as an issue whereby it has led to a lack of communication between different groups of people, thus reinforcing negative regional stereotypes. For instance, many mainland Chinese refuse to hire Uyghur Muslims from Xinjiang as majority only know how to converse in Turkish and not Mandarin and are often associated with ruthless terrorists. Therefore, showing how regional dialects have become a significant obstacle in the creation of national unity given that China has recognized ethnic groups that speaks different languages.


To what extent has China’s modernization improved the position of women in Chinese society today?

To what extent has China’s modernization improved the position of women in Chinese society today?

After 3 decades of communism followed by 3 decades of liberalism, Chinese society remains, in many ways very attached to its social and family traditions. In recent years, however, modernization has indeed brought about many changes in the role of the position of women. As compared to the olden days where women were not regarded as important as men, today, the role of women has quite radically changed in China due to modernization.


  • Increased educational opportunities

Firstly, modernization has helped Chinese women reach an elevated position in society as it has provided them with increased educational opportunities. The rapidly increasing number of better educated professionally trained and self-employed women is testimony to their elevated status in modern China economy today. A survey of rural areas carried out in the 1930s found out that only 2% of the female population aged 7 and above had ever attended school and that only 1% could read a common Chinese letter, whereas 45% of males attended school and 30% were able to identity commonly used letters. This was mainly so given the preference of males as compared to females due to Confucius beliefs. In 2004, the enrollment of boys and girls was 98.97 percent and 98.93 percent, respectively. Furthermore, from 1995 to 2004, 13.4 million illiterate Chinese women had been educated. Thus, women in China enjoy increased opportunities for higher education as a result of modernization, which has in turn significantly raised their status in society.


  • Increased employment opportunities

As a result of modernization, more employment opportunities have been created for women in China today. Currently, there are now women in all trades and professions, with women making up 49% of China’s population and 46% of its labour force, a higher proportion than in many western countries. Today, women can be seen working side by side with men on a seemingly equal footing. Furthermore, more Chinese women have been moving away from the countryside and piling into the electronics factories in the booming coastal belts, earning more than their parents have ever dreamt of. As of 2011, China already has a higher proportion of women in the top layers of management as compared to many western countries. Hence, as a result of modernization and the increased employment opportunities that women have today, the position of women in today’s society can be argued to have improved to a large extend.




  • Increased freedom in marriage

Modernization has benefited women in China by facilitating the liberalization of the institution of marriage. In the past, many couples were forced to stay in their “dead marriages” just to keep their privacy and avoid social stigma. In addition, marriages were often arranged, with a woman’s responsibility to remain married, no matter how undesirable the match. With modernization, in 2003, a revised marriage law simplified procedures allowing people to get divorced more easily. Over the years, Chinese divorce rates has been increasing and as of 2015, China has seen the largest divorce rate of 3.8million in many years. Thus, modernization has indeed brought betterment to women’s lives as they are no longer required to be trapped in unhappy marriages and can freely divorce if necessary, without the accompanying social stigma.


  • Inability to participate in politics (Glass Ceiling)

While modernization has empowered women in some areas, they are not able to infiltrate the traditionally male-dominated political sector. As much as Chinese women are gradually gaining political rights, they are playing only peripheral roles, whereas men continue to dominate the top levels of leadership in the Chinese government. The Politburo Standing Committee, the highest body of the CCP, has not had a female member since its establishment. Scholars have found that women’s participation in rural governance remains seriously limited. Sexist attitudes that “women are of lower quality” are still prevalent in the Chinese countryside. Furthermore, representation of women in local government bodies remains low, and women villagers’ political aspirations and sense of empowerment are similarly limited whereby those who make their way into government bodies or villager’s committees are often assigned marginal portfolios. Out of the 25 members of the 18th Politburo Party of 2012, only 2 are females. Thus, the lack of opportunity and participate and excel in all sectors of society, especially in the political sector, despite the increased freedom that they enjoy due to modernization shows that their position has not really improved over the years.


  • Gender Discrimination (Glass Ceiling)

Despite the betterment of women’s lives in some areas, gender discrimination still persists in China today given the deep underlying cultural beliefs about gender roles remain powerful in China. These beliefs, voiced today by most frequently in the countryside, influence the pace of change for women. One belief is that women are inferior to men. The other stems from traditional Confucian notions of filial piety whereby it centers the preference for male babies over female and the associated filial duties of males in the family life. In a 2010 survey conducted by the All-China Women’s Federation (ACFW) and the National Bureau of  Statistics of China revealed that more than 72% of women were not hired or promoted due to gender discrimination and over 75% believed they were “being dismissed” due to marriage or childbirth. Furthermore in 2015, despite a women named Ma Hu applying for a position in China Post to be a courier, she was only called back for an interview for a clerical position instead, with China Post has stating that women are physically unsuitable for the job, having explained that some amount of heavy lifting is required. Thus showing that gender discrimination still persists in China despite modernization

In conclusion, although Chinese women have clearly gained in autonomy since the 1950s, their equality with men is still far from secure, given that they still suffer from growing insecurity in the field of employment, coupled with the growing inequalities between men and women’s salaries. Thus, on a whole, the status of Chinese women often remains inferior to that of men, particularly in public life, and roles within the family and society remain firmly gendered.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Modernization

Advantages of Modernization

  • Promoted Economic Development

Modernization has brought about the advantage of attracting foreign investors, which promoted economic development in China. This has resulted in China’s economic dominance in the world today. The earliest, and one of the most fundamental, of the reforms was the implementation of the Responsibility System or Household Responsibility System in agriculture in 1979. This allowed for the returning of lands to individual families, essentially privatizing Chinese agriculture and thereby ending 20 years of the People’s Communes, the distinctive Chinese form that collectivized agriculture taken in 1958 during the Great Leap Forward. Following that, Special Economic Zones (SEZ) were set up in 1980 due to Deng Xiaoping’s belief that in order to modernize China’s industry and boost its economy, it needed to welcome Foreign Direct Investment. It was then that Chinese economic policy shifted to encouraging and supporting foreign trade and investment. SEZs were then  established in Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shantou in Guangdong Province and Xiamen in Fujian Province and the entire province of Hainan and these areas were able to enjoy special privileges such as lower tax rates which aims to promote direct foreign investments, boosting its economy. With the success that these economic zones were having, it lead to China opening up even more economic zones that eventually had the same successes that the first SEZ had, improving the economic growth of China. Therefore, foreign participation in the Chinese economy was encouraged leading to the eventual success of the whole Chinese economy today due to the process of modernization


  • People more aware of their rights

Modernization has allowed for easier information flow, which has resulted in people getting more aware of their rights. This has demanded and helped the CCP address the human rights issues more directly and easily, with the people recognizing their due rights. The question of human rights, or more precisely the lack of human rights in China did not become an issue of serious international concern until the late 1980s when China became more open and accessible to foreign visitors including academics, journalists and the employees of international NGOs. For instance, the military suppression of the Democracy Movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989 concentrated Western attention on the more brutal aspects of the Chinese government. As a result, with the international community acting as a watchdog for China’s actions, the Chinese population has become more aware of their human rights. With such an awareness raised, the CCP have been compelled to solve issues efficiently in order to maintain societal order. Due to international pressure, China has formally pledged to improve its human rights issue as an National Human Rights Action Plan of China was launched in 2016. Therefore, modernization has allowed for easier information flow resulted in raised awareness amongst the Chinese in terms of their human rights, which has compelled the CCP to solve human rights issues well in order to maintain stability in China.


Disadvantages of Modernization

  • Rising Income Disparity

Modernization was disadvantageous with the introduction of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), it has inevitably led to the rise of income disparity. These SEZs were mainly coastal regions and with China’s emphasis on prioritizing its economic growth, this resulted in the increased investment and tax breaks made to these areas as compared to rural inland locations. In less than 2 decades, China has become the largest recipient of FDI among developing countries from a virtually closed economy in the late 1970s. As a result, the coastal regions experienced much more rapid growth, widening the coastal-inland gap in the reform period since the 1970s. Since China’s economic growth success is not equally shared among its huge population, it has inevitably led to the rising income disparity and coupled with China’s tremendous economic growth over the years, this income gap only ends up getting wider. As such, it has led to a situation whereby the rise in food and China’s property prices has made life very difficult for China’s poor and in turn, has resulted in increased social tension and protests against the government whereby up to 300-500 protests are occurring in China each day as of 2014.


  • Distortion of Chinese Society’s National Identity

Modernization has been disadvantageous because it introduced Western influence to the Chinese society, distorting China’s national identity in the process. While the reforms have the appearance of an admirable and progressive approach to the economy, the Chinese identity has on the other hand, suffered repercussions due to the external influences modernization has brought. Ever since China opened itself up to the West for the sake of the economy in 1979, the Chinese cultural identity has experienced radical changes as ideals of Western materialism and capitalism entered China. For instance, the influence of American movies, pop culture and even western modes of beauties has increased in its presence in the Chinese society. In addition, traditional Chinese identity has been adversely affected as most Chinese today go to hospitals which practice western medicine, instead of orthodox Chinese medicine. As a result, traditional Chinese culture is nowadays seen as “old” or “obsolete”, while Western culture is seen as modern and cool. Therefore, modernization has brought about Western influences, which continue to distort China’s traditional national identity as Western ideals such as democracy and human rights become widespread in the country.

How far does modernization shape Chinese Society today?

How far does modernization shape Chinese Society today?

In recent years, many countries throughout the world have taken modernization as a goal and are working unceasingly to raise their level. The founding of the New China in 1949 opened wide the opportunity for China to realize Socialist modernization. In the last 40 years by constant effort the Chinese people have made great progress in founding an independent industrial and national economic system with its multiple dimensions. As such, it is not a surprise that with the introduction of modernization, the family structure and lifestyle of the Chinese society have altered tremendously.


  • Role of Women

Modernization has caused a large change in terms of people’s mindsets and thus gradually changing the role of women in modern China. From the Han Dynasty until the modern period, scholars and rulers developed a male dominated patriarchal society in China. Confucianism was at the root of the development of the patriarchal society in China and emphasized the distinctions between the sexes and the roles they have within the society. However, when modernization in China starts after the opening of the economy in 1979, the system of free-market capitalism has reversed many of the rights and freedoms that Chinese women fought for during the Mao era. In 1992, the role of women had gone further for greater change when a law on Protection of Women’s Rights was set to protect the rights of women at home and in the family. As such, modernization has changed women’s rights and altered the traditional gender hierarchy in China, in aspects of domestic life such as marriage, as well as in the workplace. Hence, these changes altered the quality of life and the availability of opportunities to women at different junctures throughout the modern globalization process.


  • Erosion of Filial Piety

Modernization has resulted in the erosion of filial piety. In terms of the Chinese tradition of being filial to one’s parents, it is widely believed that filial piety, as expressed by instrumental support and for effective bonding with parents, have decreased in western countries, and that if societal and economic modernization has been the cause, the same trend will soon be evident in China. It can be argued that in China the availability of better paid employment in cities led to many to work and live far away from their parents, thereby reducing opportunities to practice filial piety. One supposed influence on its level of modernization, as manifested in urbanization and new types of housing that disperse extended families across scattered small households — a process that some adduce as a primary mechanism eroding filial piety. Therefore, with the changing structure of modern housing, modernization can bring about a change in family relations and thus eroding the tradition of filial piety in Chinese society.


  • Preservation of Chinese Traditions

Modernization does not always equate to the destruction of the Chinese traditions as it can also encourage people to preserve historical sites while promoting tourism. Many Chinese historical sites cannot be preserved without maintenance and adaptation. Adaptation is transforming the old into a practical modern solution. For instance in the old city of the Li Jiang tourism district, many of the houses were changed into shops, restaurants and hostels, allowing visitors from all over the world to learn China’s heritage. Although some argued that the entire zone has become commercialized and consequently lost its uniqueness, but on the contrary, the keen search for heritage by tourists has forced the houses to maintain their historical significance, while income generated from tourism kept this maintenance sustainable. This form of heritage renovation is currently taking place all over China, but much of it would have been impossible without destroying some aspects of the old. As such, without the benefits of gaining profits from tourism, many of the historical sites may not have been protected as they are today. Hence, in this case, modernization has created an incentive for the Chinese to preserve these sites and thus preserving the Chinese traditions.


  • Influence of the Internet

However, with modernization, the use of internet has proliferated and as such, made the erosion of Chines tradition an unavoidable result of modernization. In the late 20th Century, the internet was virtually unknown in China, however, in the past 10 years the use of internet and the influence of US companies such as Google and Yahoo has surged in China. Thus, bringing searchable information including western cultures, pop music cultures and foreign concepts and influences, into Chinese culture. As a result, the Chinese especially the younger generation, have become more westernized in their taste and preferences. Therefore, with modernization, the rise of the internet has resulted in the Chinese tradition to erode to some extent.

Thus, modernization has caused detrimental effects on the Chinese education and health care system, proving to be disadvantageous, given that a large majority cannot afford these basic needs.

How far do religion and philosophy shape Chinese society today?

How far do religion and philosophy shape Chinese society today?

Before the modernist transformations of the 20th century, China had one of the richest and most diverse religious cultures in the world. Despite the Cultural Revolution by Mao during his rule which halted any forms of progress, religion can be argued to shape Chinese society to a large extent through the formation of new communities and social welfare programs. However, the role of religion is restricted by the dominance of the philosophy of Chinese communism that is promoted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Therefore, religion and philosophy does indeed shape the Chinese society today to a large extend.


  • Formation of new communities

In the post-Mao era, religion has been shaping Chinese society to a great extent through the formation of new communities based on religious belief in the post-Mao era. In the post Mao era, ethnographers have documented the rise of new communities based on religious belief through the construction of many churches and temples, and the regular performances of rituals to honor ancestors, seek out good fortune, ward off evil, celebrate festivals, and accumulate merit for a good afterlife. Through these activities, the Chinese have on their own without official support from the government, created new institutions based on old religions such as Daoism, Buddhism, Confucianism and even Christianity. In addition, these Chinese have also given these old religions new centralized hierarchies and congregational boundaries that separate religious practices from daily life. With the de-collectivization of agriculture and the dismantling of the commune system, in order for families and local communities to take care of themselves and to establish newly mutually supportive relationships, engagement in new communities formed based on religious beliefs serves to take up this role. This is evident with Christian congregations in particular have skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao’s death in 1976 and that the number of Christians in Communist China is growing so steadily that it by 2030 it could have more churchgoers than the USA. Therefore, these new communities based on religious belief are shaping Chinese society independently of the influence of the CCP and government.


  • Role of philanthropy and disaster relief

Religious organizations are officially encouraged to play a role in philanthropy and disaster relief, including healthcare and poverty alleviation. The Chinese government under its past president, Hu Jintao introduced the idea of China as a “Harmonious Society” and this has encouraged religious organizations to provide social welfare services. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, while the Chinese state is increasingly disengaged itself from the village level, providing few resources to cash-strapped village governments, religious organizations have frequently emerged as an alternative centers of resource collection and allocation, to which villagers willingly contribute funds, which in many cases are spent on local infrastructure such as the construction and repair of roads, bridges, schools and even basketball courts. In 2015, a Buddhist temple in Hubei province had a charity week raising 124.1 Million Yuan to support local construction for new villages. They also raised 1 Million Yuan for families affected by the Tianjin explosion. This shows that religious organizations are actively involved in charity works, helping to alleviate poverty and provide social support. Therefore, religion can be argued to play large role in Chinese society today given that it helps in alleviating poverty and providing social support for the people.


  • Promotion of Culture rather than spirituality

In order to secure approval from the atheistic Chinese authorities, many religious organizations modify their programs such that they appear to be promoting culture rather than spirituality. In this case, religion therefore shapes the Chinese society today through artistic and literacy pursuits. In terms of popular culture, “Confucius fever” is likewise going strong. A professor at Beijing Normal University, Yu Dan, gave a very popular series of lectures on the Analects of Confucius. She then published them into a book called Lun Yu Xin De, or Reflections on the Analects. This book published in 2006, became a huge best seller in China, a real publishing phenomenon, with over 3 million copies sold in its first 4 months in print. In 2009, it was even translated into English as Confucius of the heart. Even the PRC government has gotten into the act. In 2014, not only did Xi Jinping and other high government officials attended the celebration of Confucius’s birthday, but Xi JinPing also acknowledged him proudly as a great contributor to Chinese traditions — exactly opposite if the harsh anti-Confucian rhetoric by Mao during the Cultural Revolution. Furthermore, the CCP has been sponsoring the establishment of “Confucius Institutes” all over the world in the name of educating the world on Chinese traditions. However, it is known that one of the reasons which the CCP actively promotes Confucianism is that it emphasizes on loyalty to the party and the nation. This shows that religion and philosophical thoughts are important tools for the CCP to govern the country. Hence it plays a vital role in China today.


  • Secular mindset of the CCP

On the other hand, religious and philosophical thoughts play a small role due to the strong existence of secular mind-set by the communist regime. With the CCP remaining staunchly committed to the promotion of the atheistic philosophy of communism, it has warned that should any of its members harbor any form of religious beliefs or take part in religious activities, they would be dealt with severely and expelled from the party itself. Furthermore, this secular mind-set has in turn, shaped the educational system to be atheistic, grooming Chinese citizens to be more atheistic and less religious. In 2015, Mainland universities have been told to step up propaganda and teachings of Marxism and Chinese socialism by the CCP in order to promote China’s political integrity and to shun textbooks that promote western values. In addition, in 2016, an all-time high of over 1 million university students are getting special education in Marxism through the “Young Marxist” Program, where students can learn all about the Party’s guiding ideology. Therefore, the continued efforts by the CCP to protect its beliefs shows that communism continues to be an important philosophy shaping Chinese society today.


  • CCP’s tight supervision and control

Officially, all religious organizations and activities fall under the close control and supervision of the CCP. Using the 1982 CCP decree “The Basic Viewpoint and Policy on the Religious Question during Our Country’s Socialist Period”, commonly known as Document Number 19, religion has come under combined administrative supervision by state approved associations and close monitoring by the State Administration and Religious Affairs. Such regulations are used against religions which the authorities deem to threaten China’s social and political order. For instance, in 2015, the Chinese authorities have issued regulations severely limiting Muslims in their religious practices such as the restriction of fasting by the Ugyhur Muslims during the month of Ramadan in Xinjiang. Hence, the CCP continues to play a dominant role in the shaping of the Chinese society today.


In conclusion, although religion plays an important role in the shaping of the Chinese society today, it has to adapt its programs to suit political realities such as the continued dominance of the official communist philosophy promoted by the CCP.