Social & Cultural Factors

Updated 27 January, 2014

Everyone is influenced by one’s past. So it is with nations. China has been conquered by foreign invaders. But unlike India, the conquerors adopted Chinese language, practices and culture. As a result, China has remained largely self-contained, despite sending its best and brightest abroad for further education since late 19th century.

This page covers China’s self-containment

The next will cover India’s British influence.

The pages after that will cover:


China has remained large self-contained

Despite sending its best and brightest abroad for further education since the beginning of the 20th Century – Sun Yatsen, Chou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping and many other leaders all went abroad as post-graduates – Chinese education is home grown. That is not to say it has not learnt from foreign methods and systems. For example, in Imperial times, civil service exams were mainly proving that one had learnt Confucius analects. Since then modern and different criteria apply.

Nevertheless, China has always and continues to believe in education and primary school is compulsory:

·         It has achieved relatively high literacy – 91%, especially amongst women – 87%.

·         It produces over 600,000 new engineering graduates and 530,000 science graduates each   year. However, of these c300,000 engineers per year are of the requisite standard – see Duke University report, esp slides 6 & 7.


Chinese institutions are mainly home-grown, though through quasi-colonial influence and, later, Soviet influence, some western practices have been adopted. But there are huge gaps and differences with western and global standards & practices such as in legal matters, rule of law, business institutions and practices such as treatment of copyright and other intellectual property rights and so forth; in particular, there is no clear separation between the legislative, judiciary and executive branches of government. This last difference, of course, is more to do with being a single-party dictatorship rather than not recognizing and adopting best practice elsewhere.

One reads about copyright infringements, counterfeit and fake products in China. The story that takes top prize is the publication (this time in Taiwan rather than China) of a Chinese translation of a book entitled Steve Jobs’ 11 Pieces of Advice for Young People by John Cage. It contains 11 pearls of wisdom. But nowhere can one locate the original English language version nor can John Cage be traced. This must surely be the fake amongst fakes which mimics no original apart from the concept!


China has developed economically above all expectations over the last 30 years. As some economists noted, never in human history has a nation lifted itself out of dire poverty in a single generation:

  • 45% live in towns, and there are 70 cities > 1m population.
  • It has developed a middle class (variously defined as either earning >$10k pa or between $6k and $30k pa!) of 200m growing to 500m by 2020, who save $150bn per year (over 15% of income) but they are now also spending!
  • In 2009 Beijing had an estimated vacancy for 500,000 household maids of which there was a 100,000 shortfall. This isn’t due to lack of applicants, but due to their lack of knowledge of big-city customs and manners.
  • It has developed home ownership from 0 to 70% in 20 years. Britain has a similar percentage.
  • It has over 1 million $ millionaires and 250 $ billionaires with conspicuous consumption according to Huran, a Shanghai publication. Outside of US and Germany, China is no 3 for Rolls Royce, Mercedes and BMW. Over 1/3 of bidders at auctions of Chinese antiques held by Sotheby’s and Christie’s are Chinese and rising.
  • It offers cheap labour, but wages are increasing – retail inflation c8% in 2009. But for the recent recession, China would have been short of young workers. There have been cases of teenagers from remote villages being kidnapped and sold to work in illicit factories.
  • The ultra poor (<$1.00 per day) comprises 10% of population. For decades it tries to practice a policy of “No peasant left behind”.
  • Mao was quoted as saying: “women hold up half the sky” to emphasise the fact that women should be treated equally under communism. According to the Sunday Times Magazine, 22 May, 2010, a third of Chinese millionaires are women (and not by inheritance, yet); 8 out of 10 Chinese companies have senior women execs, and 60% of business school graduates are women. This is not surprising, as 82% of Chinese women have mothers who work (or worked) for a living.
  • It has eliminated many slums but many more remain which are gradually being replaced by affordable high-rise apartments. In 2006 there were more slum dwellers in China than India. But the situation has reversed.
  • In 2007, Premier Wen Jiabao said at the World Economic Forum in Dalian, north eastern China that despite the large national GDP, China was still a poor, developing country. He said: if you divide a large number (national GDP) by another very large number (the population) you get a small number. He was referring to the per capita GDP.
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