Original Sin of Chinese Capitalism

Thousands of years of hereditary Chinese imperialism,

with all its emperor-subject, master-servant, male-female and senior-junior

class discrimination trappings, have endowed the Chinese race with an innate

iniquitous mentality. Lu Xun (魯迅),

the liberal thinker and writer, once quoted an ancient saying (“左傳”昭公七年) in one of his articles to illustrate

this lasting social phenomenon, “There are ten suns in the sky, as there are

ten classes in human society.” (“天有十日,

人有十等”).That is why, he said, it was natural for

the royalty to discriminate against the plebeian (貴賤),

the big to bully the small (大小), the upper class to tread on the lower (上下).

Everyone was born into a certain class and had to submit to his/her fate with

no room for resistance. The more powerful had the natural right to treat the

less powerful like dirt, one class trampling on another, in descending order,

ending with women and children as the lowest. He even likened the so-called

Chinese civilization to a big feast of human flesh arranged for the exclusive

enjoyment of the powerful and wealthy. Each serf, numbed by his own suffering,

was callous to the pain of others. As well, being sustained by the hope of

eventually having the chance to enslave and devour another in a lower class for

self-benefit, he was prone to forget his own miserable destiny of servitude and

being devoured.

Lu said in the

article that he would feel heartily thankful if a foreigner visiting China would

grimace in disgust of what was happening in the country rather than heap empty

praises about the Chinese culture, as then he could be certain that the

foreigner was at least not interested in eating Chinese human flesh.

Emperors in

ancient times, starting with demagogue Liu Bang in the Han dynasty, were astute

to utilize partial teachings of Confucius – the concepts of loyalty and filial

piety in the officialdom and family hierarchy – to restrict social behavior so

that the common people could be rendered submissive and incapable of

independent critical thinking, while using cruel penalties to repress or threaten

dissidents. Thus, Confucianism was distorted purposely by emperors (with the

part about benevolent governance and people as the prior concern of rulers

entirely wiped out) to suit authoritarian rule and further entrench class

discrimination and servitude in the social code. It’s no coincidence that the

current authoritarian regime is so eager to promote Confucianism as a means to

controlling the thoughts of the nation, but I digress.

With servile

attitude towards the strong and powerful being a given, along with the vengeful

desire to bully the weaker to placate the bruised ego, many Chinese, especially

Mainland Chinese who have not been sufficiently exposed to Western education,

may instinctively find the universal values of equality, liberty and fraternity

rather unnatural and even alien. Against such a background, Western Capitalism,

which condones selfishness and wanton greed in the individual with no

restraint, when coupled with the nation’s pervasive depravity and innate class-discriminating

and serf mentality, can therefore easily be transformed into brutal, corrupt

and predatory Cannibalism when practiced on Chinese soil, where, since the

Cultural Revolution, money and power trumps human dignity, morality and


Even in

relatively Western-educated Hong Kong society, capitalism with Chinese

characteristics has been at play to create a cannibalistic property oligarchy

to the detriment of the whole society. The recent labor-capital dispute at the

container terminals yet provides a fresh sample.

Lu Xun made a

lacerating remark in his article: that the Chinese people had never, even up to

his times, attained the qualities of a human being, at best only those of a

serf, and the vicious cycle of serfs begetting more serfs couldn’t seem to


But our Hong Kong container terminal laborers are obviously on the way to

breaking this vicious cycle by daring to demand to be accorded a little bit of

human dignity.