Opinion: Has a fast-developing China lost sight of its traditional values?
Updated 21:02, 23-Nov-2018
CGTN’s Michael Harrold, Wang Haidi
For a country with a history and culture going back 5,000 years, a period of four decades would normally be viewed as a fleeting moment. However, the dramatic changes brought about by China's reform and opening up, have had a profound impact in a remarkably short period of time – and not only in the economic field. There has also been a change in how Chinese people view and observe their traditional values. But how deep does this change go, and is it positive?
At the heart of the Chinese value system is Confucianism, and the guiding principle of becoming a cultured individual who champions harmony, benevolence and loyalty throughout his or her life. Yet these values seem at odds with those of a modern consumer society, where individuals appear to have little interest in pursuing anything other than money.
So, has Chinese society today, after 40 years of unprecedented development and exposure to the outside world, lost sight of its traditional values?
Cheng Xindong, a leading art expert, believes that there is a need for careful reflection on Chinese culture, as there is much in it that is worth preserving; however, what he terms “Westernism” also has its merits that may be worth adopting. 
His view is supported by David Bartosch, of Beijing Foreign Studies University. Bartosch points out that Confucianism, while spreading its values overseas, has also been open to outside influences. While reviving its “cultural confidence,” he argues, China today can build its “intercultural fitness.”
Only time will tell, how much impact 40 years of reform and opening up has had on people's observance of their traditional values within China. As Bartosch points out, “elements of Chinese wisdom have to be reintroduced to balance out some of the disadvantages of Western thought.”
Traditions, just as they have always done, are evolving. But what is different today is that, as a result of the reform and opening up, the outside world is more exposed to the influence of Chinese traditional values, than at any other time in history.     
"40 years with Laurence Brahm: A marathon of experiences and ideas” is a special CGTN program on China's reform and opening up. The 10-episode series explores many sides to reform and opening up over the years and offers a unique perspective on the seismic shifts that have rippled through China's economy, policies, and social fabric. The program is livestreamed at cgtn.com every day from November 15 to 25.
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