Moral Ambivalence in Modern China

From The Lancet, an article by Charles Stafford on Deep China: the Moral Life of the Person, a new book by Arthur Kleinman, Yunxiang Yan, Jing Jun, Sing Lee, Everett Zhang, Pan tianshu, Wu Fei, and Guo Jinhau (University of California Press, 2012):

Of course, mixed feelings are at the heart of ethical discourse and moral practice in all human societies. If life were simple, we wouldn’t have to think about morality very much—but life isn’t simple. What is striking in the case of China is that this “ordinary” moral ambivalence has played itself out against the backdrop of massive social experimentation. What if we try to wipe out our traditional cultural values and practices more or less overnight (as happened during the Cultural Revolution)? What if we restrict families to having one child (as happened with the family planning policy)? What if we take our rural youth and move them, en masse, to the cities (as is happening with the current wave of rural-to-urban migration)?

As anthropologists and others have shown, these experiments have generated an abundance of unintended consequences. Continue Reading →