Quake Could Signal a Social Change in China

Alan Wheatley of Reuters reports, via the International Herald Tribune:

It may seem callous when nearly 70,000 people lie dead to wonder whether anything good economically could emerge from the rubble of the earthquake in Sichuan Province last month.

But as well as a short-term effect on economic output as reconstruction begins, there is a chance that the outpouring of civic spirit in response to the disaster may not only reshape Chinese politics but also strengthen its economic foundations.

The idea of social capital as a long-term driver of economic growth is well known to academics. In a 1995 book “Trust,” the political economist Francis Fukuyama identified social cohesion as one reason Japan and Germany recovered so quickly after World War II.

Chinese people, wary of working together for common purposes in groups beyond the family, appeared on Fukuyama‘s list of “low-trust societies.”

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