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Q: Are Chinese people the living proof that the saying "materialism cannot provide happiness" is true?

Materialism has been the ruling dogma within the Chinese society for the last 60 years or so. Spiritualism and Religions have been outlawed under Mao only to come back recently under the watchful eye of the CCP.

 

Today more Chinese have access to material wealth, a number of them can afford status items (cars, smartphones, good clothing, ...) yet the people don't seem happy in China, even the wealthy and powerful rarely smile unless they are mocking someone else, they seem very unsatisfied with their life.

 

I am not religious but spiritual, an optimistic and cheerful person by nature. A number of Chinese acquaintances asked me through the years what's my secret to be so happy, I told them that (although I make good money) my life doesn't revolve solely around material wealth, that I have hobbies, interests, other than earning and spending money.

 

I have changed a small number of Chinese people, my other half is one of them, and some close friends, now they seem more happy than when we first met, they have also become much more interesting people to spend time and chat with.

 

Do you think that Chinese are what they are (grumpy, frustrated, unsatisfied) because their entire life is about running after material wealth?

2 years 25 weeks ago in  General  - China

 
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Yes, I do. A lot of them are bored with trying to get rich and a lot of them are bored with BEING rich lol. I am seeing a lot of Chinese start to take more cues from the West on how to spend recreational time.

 

Some rich Chinese people are now questioning the point of having so much money and doing with Western people do. Get back in touch with nature and out door stuff. I see more Chinese doing hikes, mountain climbing and camping now than ever.

 

Eight years ago... camping didn't even exist. More mountain bikes, more roller bladers, more parents getting their kids into things other than training schools, piano lessons and swimming classes.

 

So they are learning that wealth do not equal happiness. Wealth can equal freedom but if you waste that freedom... then obviously still won't be happy right?

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2 years 25 weeks ago
 
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I'm the same as you. I'm not in the least bit religious, but at the age of 21 I started reading Rousseau and Tolstoy. Prior to this I was massively indifferent to learning and knowledge, having grown up in New Zealand. Kiwis are pretty bad when it comes to money, at my family reunions it's all about who bought which house for how much and how the level of car imports into the country has dropped since certain new policies were released by the ministry of transport, but the Chinese still blow them well and truly out of the water.

 

Anyhow, I developed an interest in the history of western and Indian philosophy from the two writers I mentioned above and have since found that the greatest satisfactions I get in my life have come from an encounter with a profound idea.

 

I spent a lot of time since that time reading everything I could get my hands on to get a sense of what it means to be cultured and cultivated.

 

I heard a piece of wisdom from the most unlikely source of all possible (and this is likely to irk my good friend scotsalan). Michael Savage had a call from a rabbi and this rabbi stated that according to his interpretation of the Pentateuch life is given to us by god as an opportunity to cultivate our souls and that it's our only chance. If we fail to cultivate ourselves, we're doomed to live out eternity as the empty shell we were when we died.

 

I think of this as a nice allegory because when I combine the satisfaction I get from an achievement or an encounter with the sublime or something of intense profundity it makes me feel like I'm genuinely wealthy.

 

If I had to give up my experiences for a rolls royce or a golden trinket of some sort, I'd most certainly decline the opportunity. My grandmother's sister was born in the mid-twenties, she grew up during the depression and nearly died from tuberculosis in her mid-teens. She lost a lung and a kidney. She later became a chartered accountant, never married and accumulated a fortune. She only ever visited Singapore in her lifetime and was taken to England where she saw Stonehenge and her comment was that the one in Masterton in the Wairarapa was better.

 

Life is a gift and we should soak up its wonder. Donald Trump is a billionaire. That clearly means it's got nothing to do with intellect or virtue. You can't take the toys with you when you cark it.

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2 years 25 weeks ago
 
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Yes, I do. A lot of them are bored with trying to get rich and a lot of them are bored with BEING rich lol. I am seeing a lot of Chinese start to take more cues from the West on how to spend recreational time.

 

Some rich Chinese people are now questioning the point of having so much money and doing with Western people do. Get back in touch with nature and out door stuff. I see more Chinese doing hikes, mountain climbing and camping now than ever.

 

Eight years ago... camping didn't even exist. More mountain bikes, more roller bladers, more parents getting their kids into things other than training schools, piano lessons and swimming classes.

 

So they are learning that wealth do not equal happiness. Wealth can equal freedom but if you waste that freedom... then obviously still won't be happy right?

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2 years 25 weeks ago
 
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Hey, I remember I said something here. Admin if you could explain why would you delete comments without notice? Vicky is a clear example of Chinese approach towards life. Delete that again you......! Is Vicky a user here ? No.

 

Is it the way you want to remind me that I am in China?

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2 years 25 weeks ago
 
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My parents always taught me that being rich doesn't guarantee happiness but being broke will almost certainly make you miserable and stressed.

 

I think I saw that for the US at least income and happiness trend up together until about $70K/yr. So theres a level of income/material success that's objectively "good enough". You don't have to drive a brand new mercedes to be happy, but if you need to drive and can't afford a reliable car you're going to be stressed all the time about the cost of repairing your 1994 Ford Taurus with 300K miles and a bad everything. 

 

Same as housing...you don't need a huge beautiful house to be happy, but if you're packing 6 or 7 people into a tiny box you'll have all this extra stress.

 

I TOTALLY get why the chinese obsess about money, because the way most people have no choice but to live in here is disgraceful. People in their 20s piling 8 deep into old tiny apartments. Living out in the countryside in filthy conditions getting bullied by shithead provincial bumpkins. It sucks. Wealthy here doesn't just mean excellent, it means not completely shitty and stressful.

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2 years 25 weeks ago
 
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too big gap between poor and rich.

The poor think the rich live happy but also not true.

 

Since I am in china i changed also quite a bit regarding money. I earn alot but i am not able to buy something, so i save a lot. I have a lot of money now but still refuse to buy expensive food.

A beer for 40 kuai? nope - at home a beer for 4 euro? sure i only live once.

In Germany I earned not even half but were happier and willing to spend more money - whats wrong here

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2 years 25 weeks ago
 
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It is interesting that you posted this. I just spent the past week talking to my classes about the difference between "wealthy" and "rich". It was amazing to see the light bulbs pop on above their heads. Kids now days may seem to aspire to be wealthy. But, they do have a keen understanding that happiness is very important.

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2 years 25 weeks ago
 
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I guess people should first learn to be happy with themselves. Material wealth in itself won't make people automatically happy. if you depend on material wealth for your happiness you won't ever be satisfied.

 

"oh, my life would be complete, and I'd be happy if only I had an apartment!" you'd be happy with the apartment for some months before it'd switch to "oh, my life would be complete, and I'd be happy if only I had a house!" and so on. 

 

As for the question if Chinese people are grumpy because they chase material wealth, I'd say yes and no.

 

First, material wealth is a legitimate goal for some people, Chinese and otherwise. But at the same time, I think that in China today wealth is the "proper" goal. Meaning that's what society thinks is good. And we all know that the majority in China are afraid to stand out, so due to societal pressures  they pursue wealth instead of what they *really* want from their life and it is this which leads to frustration.

 

Second, money in it self isn't what people want, it's what you can do with money. I think a lot of wealthy Chinese (from my own experience) don't really have any idea on how to spend money. So instead of buying the stuff or experiences they want, or have dreamt of, they just go through the motion so to speak. "Oh, rich people have Rolex watches, and drive Porsches, so I bought a Rolex and a Porsche".

 

Third, from 'back West, most of the entrepreneurs and businesspeople I know are either in love with the industry they work in (one person I know is passionate about car tires, and became very rich through a tire chain), or are in love with the entrepreneurial process, creating something, building it up, and that's what drives them (later often through VC investing). And I generally don't see this as much in China.

 

Of course, there are wealthy people here who are passionate for what they do, and there are people who are boring and square back home. But the numbers, in my own experience, seem to be skewed in China towards the latter. If you don't have a passion for what you do, or if you don't have any "reason" to become rich, then I can understand how that would lead rich people to be miserable. 

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2 years 25 weeks ago
 
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Chinese largely exemplify why people who lack any kind of introspection, self-awareness and individuality can't find true happiness. When a person's life is completely devoted to fulfilling superficial goals such as the pursuit of material goods and social status, that person loses connection with his own psyche - think Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. On the outside he has everything but he is actually just a robot with nothing inside. I feel a lot of Chinese are similar (without being serial killers like in the movie). Once people realize that after buying an expensive house and a car they still don't feel any fulfillment and society has destroyed any capacity for independent thinking, they turn to hedonistic pleasures like KTV girls and excessive drinking. Or they just keep trying to 1 up each other by buying nicer things and scratching that itch that will never go away with an insatiable desire for more just like a drug addict. 

 

Last week I sat for two hours in a little known but gorgeous park that contains two museums and hundreds of outdoor sculptures. It is typically empty because Chinese don't want to pay for the ticket to get in. I sat on a bench listening to Pachelbel's Canon in D and got lost in my own head wrestling with big questions about my life and basically coming to peace with myself a little more than I was before. Have I found true happiness? Of course not, but I have the capacity to think in a way that I think I could be truly happy with myself some day if I make the right life choices. Most Chinese couldn't think past "why did I pay 30 rmb to go to this park when another park is free" or "my computer only costs 4,000 yuan but his computer costs 10,000 yuan so I want a new one". Yea, not going to be really happy thinking that way. 

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2 years 25 weeks ago
 
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For a while, their life goals have been:

1) Get filthy rich

2) 

 

 

 

 

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2 years 25 weeks ago
 
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totally agree with the OP's sentiment. just to chime in, i'd call attention to the fact that people will always have matertial needs and material wants. the reason wealth chasing has beena massive addiction in this society, is because of all the restrictions and oppression. profit chasing, workaholism and other forms of financial enrichment can become socially acceptable, monotonous addictions. people will seek whatever escapism available to them: drugs, online scamming, gaming, even childbearing can be an escape. it's a sign of a disfunctional society that so many people resort to escapism.

China's dark past still looms large, but some are feeling more freedom, and diversifying their pastimes.

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2 years 25 weeks ago
 
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