Today, we’ll begin with a meaningful story from an ancient Chinese series called the “Twenty Four Filial Piety cases.”

Long ago, there was Meng Zong, a filial son who lived in the Three Kingdoms. He lost his father when he was young and his elderly mother was critically ill. Her illness is getting worse day by day and she couldn’t eat anything.

Meng Zong was worried. He said, 

“Mother, if you don’t eat something, your body will not hold up, mother wants to eat and drink something?” 

“My mouth is so bland, I don’t want to eat anything, but I want to try the soup of young bamboo shoots.” Then she passed out.

Meng Zong ran into the forest. But how to get the shoots in winter? He was so anxious that he hugged the bamboo trees and cried out. His filial piety unexpectedly moved the divine.

A little later, the ground suddenly opened and several new shoots sprang up. Meng Zong brought them home and made the soup for his mother. After the meal, she was completely cured of her serious illness.

If you were Meng Zong,  you would also do your best for your parents when they need you, right? 

This meaningful story represents a part of beautiful ancient Chinese culture that you might have not heard. 

The beauty of ancient Chinese traditions and culture

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Harmony , humanity , righteousness , courtesy , wisdom , integrity , loyalty , and filial piety are traditional cultural values that influence the Chinese people’s psyche. These values belong to Confucianism, one of the “three pillars” of ancient Chinese society that influenced government, science, the arts, and social structure as philosophies and religions. 

The teachings provided guidance on all levels of ancient Chinese life, from interpersonal interactions and public discourse to educational standards and state governance. It emphasized humanism, including treating others as you would like to be treated. If everyone carried out their roles and responsibilities with respect and kindness towards others, the state would be stronger.

Caring and compassion can be considered as traits of benevolence, representing kindness and goodwill.

Many folktales around the world carry these messages.

For example, in the U.S., we have a series called “Chicken Soup for the Soul”, which contains great daily life stories with moral values such as caring, compassion, and forbearance. In China, the book titled “The Twenty-Four Filial Piety Stories” features merely the same values.

However, it seems different in modern society in China.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that health and food safety reflect China’s lack of moral values, raising concerns about moral decay in the aftermath of the communist materialism. Critics question whether the country has lost its way after abandoning spiritualism and Confucianism during the Cultural Revolution and embracing pragmatic principles at the expense of ethics.

In this video, we’ll see two opposite living standards between Chinese officials and locals under current economic settings.

Differences in living standards and wealth between local Chinese and officials

Political parties worldwide have long used slogans, and China’s Communist Party is no exception. Before 1949, under Mao’s administration, their political slogan was “Serve the people”. 

Meanwhile, the latest propaganda slogan is based on “the two establishments,” referring to the consolidation of Xi Jinping’s leadership status and the spreading of his political doctrine.

Many are eager to know if officials in China are really serving the people as they say. 

It is widely known there are living standards and income inequalities in China. 

We’ll discuss some facts about them, especially the wealth gap between Chinese officials and ordinary people, to get a clearer picture of the whole issue.

Chinese officials’ “high-class” living standard

Corruption in the Chinese government system is nothing new to outsiders. However, their living standards under previous and ongoing national challenges are worth discussing. 

Eight years ago, Chinese state-backed media People’s Daily Online cited a report from Xinhua Net.

As the reporter conducted research in Beijing, he found the following information. Some preferences are given to officials, including five-star hotel accommodation and first-class flight cabins. Some leading cadres improperly spent on on-the-job consumption.

Jia Kang, director of the Finance Department of the Ministry of Finance, said that some prefecture-level deputies spend more than 400,000 yuan per year. In comparison, some economically developed prefectures and cities need more than 1 million yuan.

“In some economically developed areas, a million yuan a year in office consumption is just a basic expense.

Deputy leaders at the local and municipal levels are generally equipped with at least three cars, off-road cars, sedans, and business cars.

If you add the private use of public vehicles and so on, then the waste of leadership cars is very alarming.”

Many people have reported  the leading cadres position. Some had private treats and family gatherings, and also took invoices to the unit for reimbursement.

Today, the amount of corruption has become far greater. Chinese language media outlet Da Ji Yuan revealed some cases. Among them, Li Jianping’s case is considered “the largest case in the history of Inner Mongolia’s anti-corruption struggle so far”.

For example, Zhang Zhongsheng, the former deputy mayor of Luliang city in Shanxi province, polluted 1.17 billion yuan (164 million dollars). Huarong Group’s former chairman, Lai Xiaomiin, has tainted 1.788 billion yuan (250 million dollars). The record set by Lai Xiaoming was quickly broken by Inner Mongolia bureau-level official Li Jiangping’s 3 billion yuan (420 million dollars).

The Inner Mongolia Ke-Right Central Banner Procuratorate released an indictment for bribery on July 6, revealing 577.8 million yuan (81 million dollars).

“According to Li Jianping’s confession, in addition to some of the money used for gambling,

The rest was mostly used to buy and collect famous paintings and calligraphy; antique jade; gold and jewelry; expensive watches; and a large number of famous Chinese and foreign wines.

The collection of various types of famous wines in his wine cellar amounted to tens of thousands of bottles.”

Part of the statement from Li Datong, a former editor who was fired for refusing to toe the line of the propaganda department is surprising. He told the Guardian that most corrupt officials came from poor families. 

Meanwhile, local Chinese, especially youngsters, are living in much different conditions. 

Local Chinese frugal lifestyle

About a month ago, we published a video about nearly 11 million Chinese graduates being unable to find jobs.

Some felt that their future was smashed by a crusher while others had to postpone their studies. 

The comment above is from Liu Qian, a student among the 15 million Chinese aged 16 to 24 out of work. Despite having a master’s degree, she has trouble finding a job. Companies are no longer hiring employees as vacancies are being cut. She expected an acceptable salary of 8,000 yuan ($1,200) for her, but they couldn’t afford it.

In another video,  some people saw students selling credit cards to survive.

“Today, in our small store, there are no less than ten groups of credit card salesmen and pos machines for college students.

0:05- 0:16 It’s two o’clock in the afternoon, and the temperature outside is almost 40 °C (104 °F), so it’s especially baking when you go out. But just sent away another group of college students who came to sell credit cards.

In fact, it’s not just today that there are so many of them. Recently, it seems that since June, there are at least four to five sets of credit card salesmen every day. Basically, when you look at their faces, most of them are college students.

Like this time last year, there are also credit card salesmen, but not as many as this year.” 

Not only graduates, but young Chinese are also suffering from a scarcity of jobs. They have to live a frugal life and not dare spend money.

Chinese media outlet Xiwang Zhisheng cited Reuters. Many young Chinese were looking forward to a prosperous future, a new car, a new house, gourmet food or a holiday before the pandemic outbreak.

However, their attitude towards money has changed under the ongoing economic challenges.

The 39-year-old Doris Fu used to have such expectations. However, she told Reuters that she had been struggling with unemployment and semi-employment like many other Chinese and had stayed frugal for 2 years.

Doris said that she had not been to the beauty salon for a long time and had started to use Chinese cosmetic brands.

Some people are even tightening their budget for basic facilities such as accommodation, food, clothing and tranportations.

With the mentality of “saving if you can save,” Chen Lingling and a friend rented a renovated basement room for less than 20 square meters, 2,800 yuan (392 dollars) per month, and placed two beds side by side.

For other demands, she even counts pennies and collects vouchers for saving. 

Some young Chinese also posted videos, sharing tips on saving.

A woman in her 20s in Hangzhou has attracted hundreds of thousands of followers after posting over 100 videos on how to make a 10 yuan (US$1.45) dinner on lifestyle app Xiaohongshu and streaming site Bilibili.

In her one-minute video that has nearly 400,000 views, she uses a pink cutting board and a pink rice cooker to stir-fry 4 yuan pangasius filets, 5 yuan frozen shrimp, and 2 yuan vegetables.

People are looking for saving money tips not only in the videos but also in the comment section. For example, a post titled “How to live in Shanghai on 1,600 yuan ($224) a month” is a very challenging one on social media.

Chen Liu used to be a “playing shoe family”. Chen Liu hasn’t got paid for 6 months. Therefore, he had to find night shift part-time jobs. 

He collapsed from exhaustion and lay in the hospital for more than half a month under the pressure of non-rest work and part-time jobs in March. When he was in college, he could buy 8 pairs of sneakers a week and was able to afford Apple’s product.

For now, he can only afford 10 yuan (1.45 dollars) meals and 30 yuan (4 dollars) clothes.

The stories of the Chinese officials and locals above show two different standards of living in China. We would like to know your experience in dealing with financial issues and your feelings for these young Chinese living in such circumstances.

 Moreover, serving the people is a morally beautiful message based on ancient Chinese teachings. If the motto of officials in China is “serving the people” as propagated, what measures or policies should they adopt to help their residents?

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