Sun Liping (孙立平): The Biggest Threat to China is not Social Turmoil but Social Decay (Part I)

Sun Liping (孙立平) is a professor of the Sociology Department of Tsinghua University. He was also the PhD surperviser of Xi Jinping, the current vice-president of the People’s Republic of China. Professor Sun’s main research area is modernization and transitional sociology. He wrote the following post on his sociology blog on Feb. 28. It is being widely read in the Chinese blogosphere, and has appeared in major news websites such as Netease and the Southern Net. The entire post has been translated by CDT’s Linjun Fan. Here is the first section: This is a post for discussion. My main thesis is that the largest threat to China is not social turmoil, but social decay. This idea is very preliminary, so this post is a work in progress. I welcome interested friends to participate in a constructive discussion. 本贴则完全是一个讨论贴。本贴的核心观点是认为,对中国最大的威胁可能不是社会动荡,而是社会溃败。这个想法是很初步的,因此本贴是在不断修改中。也欢迎有兴趣的朋友参与建设性的讨论。 1. Are we worried about the wrong issues? Many people are now concerned about social conflicts, confrontations, mass incidents, etc. The reason why there is such a concern is fear of major social turmoil. However, I think the biggest threat to Chinese society may not be social turmoil, but social decay. 1、我们是不是焦虑错了问题?现在人们都在关心社会矛盾、社会冲突、群体性事件等问题。之所以有这样的关心,是担心发生大的社会动荡。但事实上,对中国社会最大的威胁可能不是社会动荡,而是社会溃败。 2. Social turmoil means serious social conflicts that threaten the basic framework of the political system, whereas social decay refers to the necrosis of the cells that compose the body of a society. To illustrate the point with a medical metaphor, turmoil is to a society what an injury is to a healthy body, whereas social decay is like the failure (or death) of the cells and living issue of the body. Perhaps the concept of “social erosion” by Mr. Fei Xiaotong and “political decline” by Samuel Huntington could help us understand the phenomenon better, although they are somewhat different from the “social decay” concept I talk about here. “Political ...
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11 Responses to Sun Liping (孙立平): The Biggest Threat to China is not Social Turmoil but Social Decay (Part I)

  1. Ma Bole says:

    I believe that much, if not all, of Prof. Sun’s essay was available in English translation last week on Xujun Eberlein’s blog Inside-Out China. A bit slow on the uptake CDT.

  2. Xiao Qiang says:

    Thanks for pointing out this. CDT is a bit slow this time :-)

  3. Neddy says:

    That’s all very well, and credit to Xujun, but I find the CDT’s side-by-side bilingual approach very handy, and useful to readers. So I hope you don’t give up on this, and present the second part of the essay soon.

    Thanks.

  4. Phil says:

    Sun Liping (孙立平) nailed it. This is deeply woven into the fabric of Chinese society. The facade of honorable dealings is for face. “Under the table” dealings are the real locomotive of this society.

  5. […] entire post has been translated by CDT’s Linjun Fan. Please click here to read Part I. Here is the second […]

  6. Tony See says:

    Dear Professor Sun,

    I read with great interest your analysis of “social decay” in China. I hope I can establish academic contact and exchange with you. I am a professor of Social and Political Philosophy in Monash University and am interested in getting in touch with you. Do write me an email. Thanks.

    Regards

  7. Sophie Beach says:

    Dear Tony,

    Mr. Sun’s contact information can likely be found through his own blog: http://blog.sociology.org.cn/thslping
    CDT just translated his article.
    cheers-

  8. Kevin says:

    Social decay is the cause and social turmoil is the result. And social decay in China today is primarily caused by the non-democratic system, which lacks check and balance. They are inseparably linked. Compared to other countries, China arguably has the harshest punishment for corruption. But corrupted officials are growing like leeks in spring. The reason is that the regime has never done anything about the soil that nurtures that corruption.

  9. […] at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, triggered a Web sensation in 2009 with a paper arguing that China faced less danger from social unrest than from social breakdown as a result of […]

  10. […] at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, triggered a Web sensation in 2009 with a paper arguing that China faced less danger from social unrest than from social breakdown as a result of […]

  11. […] “social unrest” happening in China every year (some 180,000 in 2010 alone, according to Tsinghua University Professor of Sociology Sun Liping). Without access to that knowledge, you can see why people would look at images like the following […]