Is Chinese Society Materialistic? Are Chinese People?

God of Materialism by Chen Wenling.

Are Chinese people materialistic?

If they are, are they more so than non-Chinese?

If so, more so than what nationalities?

What exactly makes them more materialistic than so and so?

Is it too much of something or is it not enough of another thing?

Is it because some members of Chinese society go to great lengths for material wealth? But aren’t there people like that in every country, with plenty of well-known examples?

Is it the absence of religion and spirituality, the “opiate of the masses” commonly attributed to Marx? So simply not having those things automatically makes a people materialistic, and more so than those who do have such things?

Really, what is it exactly?

God of Materialism by Chen Wenling.

I’m not saying that materialism as a bonafide concept isn’t arguably observed in modern Chinese society. I’m just not sure its a meaningful or unique observation. Frankly, anything with statistically significant pervasiveness that could be attributed to materialism in Chinese society I can see with similar statistically significant pervasiveness in many other societies.

Gold-digging women? Check.

Lying, cheating, and defrauding. Check.

Pursuit of and showing off of material possessions? Check.

Discrimination against those of a lower socio-economic strata? Check.

And so on.

Sure, its just an observation. Just because it is arguably just as applicable to other countries and people doesn’t mean we can’t criticize China and Chinese people with or for it. Hell, Chinese people themselves routinely bemoan the materialism of their own modern society and times as well.1

But, what do you do with it? I mean, what society doesn’t treat the acquisition and possession of “things” as both symbols and proxies for happiness and success?

We can argue that at least in other countries, for example, money is less emphasized when it comes to dating, relationships, and marriage. With that, we can say, “see, that’s what makes Chinese people materialistic!” But can we really?

Or is that us failing to take into account the context of the Chinese existence, of the history and persistent realities of life in China where poverty is neither that distant in the past nor that distant of a modern possibility? It’s easy to be preoccupied with money and material wealth in this backdrop. Who doesn’t want financial security? Who doesn’t seek a better life? Who doesn’t want shortcuts to either?  There are few — if any — attitudes commonly associated with being materialistic amongst Chinese people that I don’t see in poor people (and nouveau riche) elsewhere.

What is Chinese materialism? What exactly defines Chinese society as a materialistic society?


  1. Note: The grotesque piggy thing surrounded by little piggies you see here was a piece of artwork by Chinese artist Chen Wenling. More information about both can be found here. []



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  1. -++3

    If – and it is a very big if in my mind – Chinese people are slightly more materialistic then the route might be found in relatively recent history of many people in China being poor.
    It is human nature that we want to provide our family with security… in today’s world security equals money in many peoples eyes.
    However, I think we as people of the world have far more in common with each other than differences.

  2. King Tubby

    -+

    Crikey, the artwork attached sort of answers the question. Put that stuff in your lounge, and you would
    want to run away from home and join a hippie commune

  3. hm

    -++2

    Who says one country’s more materialistic than another?

    Can’t we say that the US is most materialistic because isn’t that what the “American Dream” is all about? Having your own home, your own car, your own business, etc.

    Or can we say that S. Korea is more materialistic because of how many Koreans get plastic surgery?

    What about countries selling their kids into marriages just for money?

    Is that solely a Chinese characteristic?

    And I think every relationship or marriage is materialistic. If you’re well off, you have a lot of expensive crap that is going to improve your lifestyle; if you’re stingy, no body will like you because you don’t give gifts but sincere words that don’t mean anything to someone who thinks that sincerity < the effort of using $$ to buy them a gift.

    • Jones

      -++6

      If you think that China doesn’t have the “Chinese Dream”, then you’re kidding yourself. The focus on having to buy a house, a car, and a wife and then have a kid…yeah, that’s the Chinese Dream. It’s more depressing, though, because the way I hear it talked about it’s almost like a very rigid, unforgiving equation that everyone must follow.

      The difference is the force backing the materialism. Is it actual wealth? Is it some “hoarder” disorder? Is it mass marketing and brain washing? Is it some sort of urge to make “face” by having these tangible indications of your own wealth? They’re all materialistic things, but some are a bit more “fucked up”, if you will, than others. I guess that’s up for discussion, though.

      Or, let me ask: Do people get wealthy and then think “oh, wow, I can buy all this stuff now!” so they go out and buy a bunch of useless shit? Or do they think “oh, wow, I want to be able to buy all this stuff” so they go out and try to get wealthy? Sounds the same, but there’s a big difference there.

  4. -++1

    Following hm, IMHO, you are asking a defective question. The issue is not “if” but more like “how-much-more”? The question is not “how much is acquired”, as all Zen practitioners would readily point out, but “how attached”. Illustration, a villager with a prized pot may be more materialistic than a billionaire who may be relatively unattached to his wealth. Meta-knowledge, like all knowledge, may be dangerous in small amounts without the experience to filter and digest. Seeing other cultures practice what we do everyday but in a different way accentuates the differences for the uninitiated, as if minute dissimilarities are enhanced by a cultural microscope as the looming similarities are either dismissed or downgraded. Notwithstanding the foregoing, China, boomeranging out of the Cultural Revolution, indeed invites such questions. (And, please leave Western-styled religion at home, relative to materialism. OMG, were you jesting?)

  5. -++1

    The pictures, they scare me a lot..

    I do believe that the situation has become so bad, people marry people they do not love, people stay single because HE has no cars, those with no houses even dare not have relations.
    However, to chase a better life, to become decent and rich, isn’t it a part of human nature?
    We really don’t have to emphasise Chinese-characteristics..
    It’s just that, people need money to live like others. And Chinese itched to live like westerners.

  6. -+

    Just got back from a nostalgic last pizza at Gongti Kro’s Nest. I’m full to bursting, and the first thing I see is that truly disgusting piggy thing.

    Kai Pan, you are formally On Notice.

    Oh yeah, and I don’t think Chinese people are any more or less materialistic than anyone else. Everyone knows that the most materialistic people on earth are from Los Angeles.

    • Terry

      -+

      Poor Stan….

      thanks for the chuckle…

      and yeah LA for sure!!

      • B-real

        -+

        I sort of vouch for that. One thing people from LA don’t do is try to keep up with “Jones” like they do in the mid-west.

        Los Angeles is a force driven by well driven people. People with goals of being well off enough to be able to buy that bad ass car that will get you to work and look good doing it. Goals of getting that hot ass wife or dangling dingling husband to cling on to. Most of those Goal oriented people of today are striving in a pipe dream of false goals if they don’t get out of Los Angeles. I miss my LA. I miss my Korea town, I miss my first home and only love.

  7. Jones

    -+

    Le sigh…the ol “but it happens just like this everywhere else…right?” thing. Let’s not kid ourselves about what this is going to be about and cut to the chase: “USA”

    Discuss.

  8. -+

    chinese materialism in my opinion is the idea od having face and be able to be kia su about it.

  9. lolz

    -+

    I can’t speak for all Chinese people but I know I am materialistic. I do not see materialism as being necessarily a bad thing though. It motivates me to do work harder. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that cultures which are stereotyped to be materialistic (jews being the most famous example) typically are better educated, more creative, and more diligent.

    That said, Chinese can be obnoxious when SHOWING OFF their wealth, which is a different concept than being simply materialistic. That is a bad thing because it only leads to social instability when the income gaps are too high.

    • King Tubby

      -+

      Look where you work ethic and materialism has got you, LOLZ. An opportunity to buy the boss some lap dances and a large but crappy apartment with north side sinking foundations. Your post also implies that you are better educated, creative and diligent…in your dreams. Everytime I read personal biography in your posts across sites, I detect a person unhappy in work and marriage.

      • lolz

        -+

        Hey what’s wrong with buying boss lap dances? It’s like buying friends beer at the bar.

        I am inherently lazy and if not for my materialistic instincts I would spend even more time reading internet forums and engaging in other types of anti-social activities.

    • friendo

      -+-1

      Poorer people are more materialistic. That said, China’s traditional culture is far, far from materialist.

      In the West even the churches are decadent and smeared in garish colors, overuse of precious metals, etc.

      Traditional Northern China frowned upon the merchant class.

      • -+

        That’s funny, friendo. Have you ever been in a traditional Chinese temple (Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist, take your pick)? I’m certainly not defending Western churches, but most that I ever visited were a lot more muted (in colors) and humble (in furnishing)–granted, I never made a habit of visiting mega-churches or, say, St. Peter’s Basilica.

        You are right to note that traditionally the merchant class was frowned upon, and indeed many were exiled to what is now Guangdong. Gee, I guess the joke is on the northerners now, eh? But what does tradition have to do with the discussion? Weren’t we talking about how Chinese people act now? How many young Chinese do you know that would spend their Qingming festival sweeping tombs rather than playing with expensive new toys?

        To my mind, the widely successful former efforts by the government to extinguish traditional culture, values, and spirituality are indeed what fuel the stereotypical image of an overt and overly materialistic modern Chinese society. When we discuss the effects of religion, it is not to say whether Chinese or Western religion offers a better path away from materialism (ascetic traditions can be found in both cultural geographies), but to say that effectively Chinese culture and tradition was nearly wiped out, and Deng Xiaoping’s slogan “to get rich is glorious” filled the resulting void.

        • friendo

          -+

          Because we’re talking about Chinese culture, not your idea of what China is or “modern culture” which is a disease spread by the West- be it Communism or Corporatism.

      • Jones

        -+

        Well, “traditional China” died a long, long time ago. We’re talking about current China here.

      • -+

        my old buddy Kongzi, from Shangdong,

        believes that the merchant class was at the lowest of the social strata. Next the artisans, or in communist language the “工人“

        Tell me Psycho,

        where are the 五毛党 on the scale?

        “Tra­di­tional North­ern China frowned upon the mer­chant class.” -friendo,

        damn right, 个么R!

        because we ride horses, not sell shit,

        五毛党万岁

      • -++1

        poorer people are more matierialistic?! So they who pinch their pennies to get by and support their family view material possessions as the path to happiness than the super rich of the world who have pushed through neoliberal monitary policies to entrench their social position?
        Sure those who cannot afford may attribute more ‘meaning’ in their longing of what they dont have. Sure the luxury industry holds HUGE loyalty with the underclasses. But it is not the rich who sacrifice access to these things (on mass).

        and on the other point Kong Zi described society being composed of 4 classes and the matercintile class was judged as the lowest.

        • friendo

          -+

          Yes, they are. Because they need to be. That is to say, desiring the basics necessary to survive is still materialism regardless.

  10. Sam

    -+

    Are Chi­nese peo­ple materialistic?
    Yes, in the sense of non-spiritual.

    If they are, are they more so than non-Chinese?
    If so, more so than what nationalities?

    IMHO yes, at least more so than people I meet in northern America, western Europe, and India. I believe in China “godless” is a positive adjective.

    What exactly makes them more mate­ri­al­is­tic than so and so?
    Practicality, education, culture and tradition. I’d like to point specifically to the historical and cultural absence of the religious monopoly by a single monotheism, which I think attribute a lot to the success for China’s de-religionization in less than 3 generations.

    Is it too much of some­thing or is it not enough of another thing?
    Don’t know.

    Is it the absence of reli­gion and spir­i­tu­al­ity, the “opi­ate of the masses” com­monly attrib­uted to Marx? So sim­ply not hav­ing those things auto­mat­i­cally makes a peo­ple mate­ri­al­is­tic, and more so than those who do have such things?
    Nope. More Mao than Marx, more China than other places.

    On the other hand, I don’t think being a deeply religious guy is mutual exclusive from gold digging, lying, cheat­ing, defraud­ing, and any of the things you mentioned. Read a Latin America history book you’ll get the idea.

  11. Josh

    -++2

    Following Jones’s lead, and what someone else said previously, obviously America is built on materialism with the idea of the American Dream. Additionally, obviously America has its own fair share of looking down upon the poor. I believe the difference between China and America in this case, however, lies in how widely accepted it is in China to look down upon those of the lower social income bracket. Case in point is widespread disdain of villagers and migrant workers on the part of urbanites. Or, the Shanghainese widespread disdain of… well, everyone else.

    Additionally, things such as gold digging women are certainly there in the US, but I believe that in the US, women at least try to hide it a little bit. Or perhaps the proportion of gold digging women in the US is simply not as high as that in China, which would make sense, considering that America is a more developed nation.

    I know it’s anecdotal, but here’s a brief example. My wife was telling me yesterday that she had just read on a BBS forum about how there was a “rich guy bachelor fair” going on where a bunch of rich, single men would be hanging out for a while. Women would be bussed in for them to talk to, but before they could gain admittance, they had to all go through an interview where they would confirm things such as intelligence (the women were all graduate students), beauty, height, family background, etc.

    This, of course, shows materialism as being important both to the men and the women. For the men, it’s finding a trophy wife. For the women, well, obviously those guys are rich. Something like this is the type of thing where, if it happened in the US, I can imagine would garner national news coverage, protests and decries from the feminist movement, etc.

    • friendo

      -+-4

      lies in how widely accepted it is in China to look down upon those of the lower social income bracket.

      in america you just develop regional/racial slurs to pave over with. redneck, dirty mexican, etc

      • Josh

        -+-1

        That’s your comeback? If you’re going to come at me, at least put some effort in. Just stop posting cause you, me, and everyone else here knows you’re a fucking idiot.

    • Zuo Ai

      -+

      I think the standard that is commonly used (whether rightly so or not) is the general absence of norms (or institutions which propagate/ protect said norms) compared with other nations considered by many as transcending materialistic desires.

      For instance, you could say that the US is just as materialistic, but at the same time in general, Americans are seen as having more favorable opinions on things like human rights. For whatever reasons, that makes it seem like as long as a Chinese person has a job and a material path to prosperity is laid out for him./her (or the opportunity for him to create one is present), that said Chinese person is less inclined to give a crap about the normative consequences on society, his/her neighbor, whatever.

      I used “normative” just to appease your highfalutin moonspeak, Kai.

      Also, didn’t read the other comments as I’m in a bit of a rush, so, this may have been said before.

    • Sam

      -++2

      - An average American middle class suburban has far little chance to look down on a low income guy than her Chinese counterpart. It would have to take her an hour’s drive, multiple missed highway exits and mis-turns to hit a low-income neighborhood. Except for that, even her plumber charges $70 an hour, not quite a solid base for looking down on. Her Chinese counterpart, however, has to run into swarms of low income guys as soon as she walks 10 meters away from her apartment door, sometimes even without.

      - When the low income guys are apparently visible in America, e.g., standing in front of the 7-11 picking up ten dollar per hour jobs or buying run down houses in their neighborhoods then parking more than 2 cars in front, you immediately hear the loud crying.

      - Are you saying the well-known (and well-laughed at) Shanghai snobs a sign of widespread acceptance of their behaviors?

      - Protest here.

      • Josh

        -+

        1) Where area are you talking about, exactly? Beverly Hills? Las Vegas? My parents live in Delaware and it certainly doesn’t take more than 20 minutes to go from superbly wealthy Greenville to rundown Newport, or even to stinky old Chester. I went to college in Philadelphia, where it certainly doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to go from the beautiful Northeast to the absolute hellhole that is North Philly. I’d advise you not to paint with broad strokes because they’re usually horribly inaccurate.

        2) Not really worth responding to.

        3) It’s ironic that you’d mention this behavior being well-known and well-laughed at, considering how common it is everywhere else. I wouldn’t even bother arguing this if I were you. I remember one time my Chinese tutor who was from Beijing was walking with me and she kept running for shady spots on the street, saying she didn’t want to become dark and look like she came from a village. My experience in China reflected this anecdote closely, though not in such specific terms. Personally, though, I like villagers the most since they’re more 纯朴.

        4) lawl

        • Sam

          -+

          - I think my strokes are pretty accurate. If a Greenville resident _intentionally wants_ to submerge herself in the rundown Newport residential street scene she certainly can do so in 20 minutes. But when was the last time that ever happened? I think it’s fair to say the US city landscape has evolved into such that the typical suburban neighborhoods are pretty well isolated in their individual bubbles. Your family, friends, and classmates, your favorite restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls and grocery stores are all within that one bubble and you seldom need to go out of it if you don’t want to.

          - Those things you don’t think worth arguing mostly happen in the border areas between the bubbles. These areas will sooner or later be absorbed into one bubble or the other but along the way those are where many of the contentions are boiling and many of the “looking-down-upon” are happening. Higher income guys frequently cry fouls about the home association by-laws, petty crimes, immigration law, etc etc, and try hard to price out the lower income guys. If failed, they’d just surrender, sell the house and move out.

          - I don’t think avoiding sun tan is uniquely Chinese. Most eastern Asian countries and India have this preference. If you have to pitch this as a sign of materialism, I may have to do the same. According to lookingfit.com, “the U.S. indoor tanning industry is providing golden tans to approximately 30 million Americans each year”, _despite_ the skin cancer concerns. That’s about one in five 18+ white Americans. So what is this all about, looking more like a 纯朴 country pumpkin or less like a wage earning 9-to-5 city rat who can’t afford or be pathetic enough that doesn’t have time for a beach vacation? And please don’t pull that 纯朴 stereotype on my fellow Chinese villagers. Given the proper conditions, they’d be as 纯朴 as any city dwellers.

    • lolz

      -++2

      I am not sure if the American Dream itself is materialistic. Wanting to have a house so that your kids can grow up in a more stable environment, wanting a car so that you can get from places within minutes rather than hours, that’s not exactly materialistic. Materialistic simply means to place more priority in acquiring money and materialistic goods over say, intellectual pursuits or religious enlightenment, though many people place priority on all of these items.

      Being materialistic does not necessarily have anything to do with looking down at others, that has more to do with income disparity and self insecurity. I am materialistic but I don’t buy BMWs just to mock those driving Hondas, or homes in Shanghai just to laugh at the migrants on the streets. On the other hand I don’t see much differences between self-professed intellectuals berating those who cannot obtain higher education and rich looking down at the poor.

      At the end of the day its human nature to be competitive. Some people try to be “smart” by obtaining one college degree after another, while others try to get rich. Materialism provides another yardstick to measure one’s social standings and achievements.

      Finally, as a Shanghaiese I would say that I see far more people bashing Shanghai than the other way around both by domestic Chinese and expats. Odd.

    • -++1

      Josh,

      I believe the dif­fer­ence between China and Amer­ica in this case, how­ever, lies in how widely accepted it is in China to look down upon those of the lower social income bracket. Case in point is wide­spread dis­dain of vil­lagers and migrant work­ers on the part of urban­ites. Or, the Shang­hainese wide­spread dis­dain of… well, every­one else.

      I think you’re mixing up two different forms of discrimination here actually. One is income/wealth and the other is regionalism or the city/rural divide. While city folk are often better off than rural folk, it’s not absolute of course.

      As I say to Zuo Ai below, this is something I bring up in my second to last paragraph. The reason this difference isn’t as pronounced in America versus China is because America has developed to the point where there’s not such a huge divide between urbanites (suburbanites) and countryfolk. When there was, such discriminatory attitudes were as pervasive as they are in China. While there are increasingly more Chinese urbanites living like American urbanites, there are few Americans living like the Chinese in impoverished rural environments.

  12. Tom

    -+

    In a country that has seen such upheavals in the past century or two, I think most believe you would be stupid to not make as much $$$ as you can, while you can.

    Of course, traditional Chinese practicality and focus on family (providing security for them) have something to do with it too.

    You might say, what does that have to do with the obsession for name brands and showing off wealth?

    Those things are an (unhealthy) by-product of people tying their self-worth to demonstrable forms of wealth.

  13. Tom

    -+

    Let’s not kid ourselves though.. present-day mainland China (especially southern China) is one of – if not the – most materialistic places on Earth. Where is it worse ? Russia ? The Emirates ? Is LA really worse ?

    Though Chinese communities in places like Malaysia, the Carribean, even North America are far more laid-back.

  14. -+

    I KNOW YOU ARE BUT WHAT AM I?

    A perfectly acceptable rhetorical tactic for a four year old but this is a little disappointing, even for you Kai.

    • -+

      Like I said before,

      you are a paper tiger!

      that quote is from Pee Wee Herman

      五毛党万岁

    • -+

      Pusan Playa,

      What the hell are you talking about?

      • King Tubby

        -+

        Playa. Have you just imploded. Hemorrhagic fever is rife on blog sites these days. I suggest that you visit your general practitioner before the brainpan turns into a mess of unhealthy ectoplasm. Serious medical condition. Ask your black brothers in Equatorial Africa.

  15. -+

    Kai, little problem with your definitional use of materialism.
    Claiming that materialism is more pronounced in China than in America because there is more disdain for the underclasses in China points to materialism as an acceptable tool to judge others’ worth does not mean that there is more materialism in China, but identifies the place it has in social epistemology.
    Perhaps this is a difference between collectivist versus individualist cultural structures. In China materialism is a tool for judging social position and happiness, esteem or disdain thereby. In America as the person acceptance that material gain will bring happiness (and as a way to understand your social position against others… but this in a way of personal fulfillment or lack there of).
    But come on ANY nation that consumerism reigns successful and can be the main engine of the national economy is materialistic

    • -+

      Bai ren,

      Wait, how am I “claiming that materialism is more pro­nounced in China than in Amer­ica because there is more dis­dain for the under­classes in China points to mate­ri­al­ism as an accept­able tool to judge oth­ers’ worth does not mean that there is more mate­ri­al­ism in China, but iden­ti­fies the place it has in social epis­te­mol­ogy”? Please clarify.

      • bai ren

        -+

        Kai,
        A post when I was caught up with what was happening in the rest of the posts.
        Projecting a little too much on a single point
        “Discrimination against those of a lower socio-economic strata? Check.”
        my bad

        Keep up the work, enjoy a public intellectual working up civil society.

  16. DeusEx

    -+

    I honestly don’t think that the Chinese are more materialistic than any other nationality. There is an emphasis placed on achieving financial stability, but if you spent your childhood picking scraps of food from trash during the Cultural revolution, it’s pretty understandable to want to avoid regressing back to poverty in your adult life. I don’t think that’s an inherent ‘Chinese’ trait.

    • Goodness

      -++1

      Let’s be clear. Nobody gobbles up conspicuous consumption items (fancy cars, designer threads, etc) and flaunt them over others in the name of ‘achiev­ing finan­cial sta­bil­ity’.

      They are just showing off.

      If anything, this kind of behavior actually works against finan­cial sta­bil­ity if it goes unchecked.

      Is Chinese society materialistic? Little emperor syndrome anyone?

      Or is that us fail­ing to take into account the con­text of the Chi­nese exis­tence, of the his­tory and per­sis­tent real­i­ties of life in China where poverty is nei­ther that dis­tant in the past nor that dis­tant of a mod­ern pos­si­bil­ity?

      This I don’t understand. Prior circumstance may be used to explain WHY a society is materialistic, but in no way does it change the fact that it is.

      • -+

        Goodness,

        Little Emperor Syndrome is about single children being spoiled or excessively coddled, not necessarily “materialistic”.

        Prior circumstance is not only relevant for “why” but also for context. Given one context, we may lean towards labeling a society as “materialistic” but given another one, we may not. The suggestion here, as other commenters above have noted, is that certain behaviors that may arguably be denounced as materialistic in a society that has long been developed, stable, and materially wealthy may not be so in a society that is still developing, has recently and consistently experiences significant societal change, and is largely poor. Context provides perspective and can change or temper the undertones of the labels we prescribe.

        • Goodness

          -+

          So are you saying that there are some little emperors out there who are exces­sively cod­dled but are not spoiled with material possessions?

          I can see Lit­tle emperor syn­drome as being a symptom of a materialistic society. But can you provide a logical example of the Lit­tle emperor syn­drome ever developing in a non materialistic society?

          Prior cir­cum­stance is not only rel­e­vant for “why” but also for con­text. Given one con­text, we may lean towards label­ing a soci­ety as “mate­ri­al­is­tic” but given another one, we may not. The sug­ges­tion here, as other com­menters above have noted, is that cer­tain behav­iors that may arguably be denounced as mate­ri­al­is­tic in a soci­ety that has long been devel­oped, sta­ble, and mate­ri­ally wealthy may not be so in a soci­ety that is still devel­op­ing, has recently and con­sis­tently expe­ri­ences sig­nif­i­cant soci­etal change, and is largely poor.

          The implication in the above remark is that if modern Chinese society is labeled as materialistic that it should be given a waiver or at least be graded on a curve due to its past circumstances.

          Think of it this way. If one is labeled an alcoholic, one can use past trauma to rationalize or excuse his descent into alcoholism, but you can’t use past trauma to negotiate the definition of the label itself.

          • Jones

            -+

            I always considered the “Little Emperor Syndrome” to being more about the kid just getting whatever he wants, and getting away with being a brat. There were some broke-ass kids in the broke-ass school that I volunteered in (well, paid in soup at lunch) once a week that were fitting right in with the Little Emperor bit. They just weren’t as pudgy and definitely not getting the coolest toys. Just empty plastic bottles and stuff.

            It could be that one kid has the Little Emperor Syndrome, but instead of the coolest toys and KFC every meal, he’s all about demanding parents clean up the trash in the local rivers and lakes to help better the environment. Or maybe he’s really lazy and big on just being carried everywhere. If they don’t, he throws a royal fit right there in front of everyone. So, they do it, because he’s their only retirement plan (son). I know this is completely hypothetical and not realistic at all, but you get the idea behind it, yeah?

          • -+

            Goodness,

            So are you say­ing that there are some lit­tle emper­ors out there who are exces­sively cod­dled but are not spoiled with mate­r­ial possessions?

            Yeah.

            I can see Lit­tle emperor syn­drome as being a symp­tom of a mate­ri­al­is­tic soci­ety. But can you pro­vide a log­i­cal exam­ple of the Lit­tle emperor syn­drome ever devel­op­ing in a non mate­ri­al­is­tic society?

            Little Emperor Syndrome was coined to describe the amount of attention, hope, and coddling given to single children in Chinese families subject to the One Child Policy. It’s more a criticism of the reproductive policy than of materialism.

            The impli­ca­tion in the above remark is that if mod­ern Chi­nese soci­ety is labeled as mate­ri­al­is­tic that it should be given a waiver or at least be graded on a curve due to its past circumstances.

            The implication I intended was that we should re-evaluate both the denotations and connotations of being “materialistic”. For example, if you see a poor kid constantly admiring his brand new watch, taking good care of it, is he materialistic? By some denotations of being “materialistic”, yes. By some connotations of being “materialistic”, no. I think others have noted this above as well.

            Think of it this way. If one is labeled an alco­holic, one can use past trauma to ratio­nal­ize or excuse his descent into alco­holism, but you can’t use past trauma to nego­ti­ate the def­i­n­i­tion of the label itself.

            Depends on the complexity of the connotations associated with the label.

          • -+

            Jones, remember this one?

            The little punk.

          • Jones

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            Exactly! That kid is exactly the one I was thinking of. It’s more like Little Tea-Partier Syndrome, what with that obnoxious fit and all.

  17. Goodness

    -+

    Sure I guess. I have never met one of these famous Little Emperors. I only know of them through a book I read and some internet stuff. So I’ll defer to either you or Kai on that one.

    Not to change the subject Jones. But is your gravitar driving a tank or racing in the kentucky derby while you are texting? I just can’t tell.

    • Jones

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      Oh, don’t get me wrong, most of the Little Emperors fit into the materialist category. I’m just saying by definition, someone COULD happen to be a pampered little brat who doesn’t know how to do anything for himself, but also be really spartan.

      I was kicking down thatch doors in a Vietnamese village full of women and children when this picture was taken.