Continuity and Change in Popular Values on the Pacific Rim

Friday, August 29, 1997


I begin with a few geographic facts that are meant as a metaphor for the analysis I will presently offer and the conclusions I reach on the basis of that analysis.

In the heart of the Brazil's jungle, near the city of Manaus, two great streams come together in a distinctive, perhaps unique, way. One branch, the Amazon, arrives a muddy, sand-colored, churning river. The other branch, flowing equally strongly, is more nearly brown, close to the color of tobacco, noticeably clear and even translucent.1 At the point where the two rivers come together, they do not immediately blend but rather run side by side within common banks for several miles, so sharply delineated at their common margin that one could easily imagine there was a great glass wall separating the two. But gradually the swirling and eddying effect of the river becomes manifest. The two streams begin to run together at the edges and then gradually blend into a new, more-uniform consistency. A few miles farther on the Amazon becomes one uniform stream, once again a predominantly muddy sand color. Perhaps a scientific test of the waters could identify the separate elements that had been carried into the mixture of the two great tributaries. But to most observers the new river would seem to reflect the original Amazon more than the stream that had so recently joined it.

Just so in Asia, and especially on the Pacific Rim, we see the confluence of two great streams of culture operating under the vast and powerful stimulus of industrialization, urbanization, modernization, and globalization. As in my geographic account, these two streams--Asian and Western--manage for a period to run side by side, preserving remarkably intact their distinctive identities. But as time elapses, and as they become increasingly entangled with each other, a vast blending ensues. Both great sources contribute in significant ways to the new melded stream. But, I believe, the nature of the forces at work ensures that one of the streams will predominate and that the emergent new river will reflect the long-standing properties of the one more than the other.

The river metaphor, and the model it suggests of modernization as a dominant force in the contemporary world, certainly has imperfections and surely can operate only within certain parameters. Although acknowledging these limitations, I believe that the metaphor and the model capture the essence of the great transformation many societies and cultures on the Pacific Rim are currently experiencing.

Conceptual Issues

If we are making a case for change, we need to agree on the character of the entities whose change we purport to document and on some common standards that will enable us to judge whether or not change has occurred.

One great strand in the web of change girdling the Pacific Rim may be broadly characterized as organizational or structural. One example might be the development of a modern system of law and its supporting institutions and professions--courts, barristers and solicitors, wardens and prisons--under British rule in Hong Kong. At the same level of importance is the development of the political structure on Taiwan, with its system of legislative bodies, effective administrative apparatus, and ultimately free-standing and competitive political parties. Along similar lines, varying by place and time, a whole panoply of institutional change and innovation in social structure, especially in the economic and political spheres, has spread over the Pacific Rim. Profound changes have been introduced in education, in the occupational structure, in urbanization, and in transportation and communication. These changes may be thought of as the main force producing the shifts in attitude and behavior that I have taken as the focus of my investigation. (I here note in passing how aware I am of this process of structural transformation and commit myself, as I come to my conclusions, to return to those structures and their influence.)

Apart from structural change, there are at least two great realms of human response that may be seen as the proper foci of our attention. Those realms may be thought of as broadly divided into the cognitive and the behavioral. As manifestations of the cognitive I have particularly in mind attitudes and values, images of the good life, personal aspirations, and ideas about interpersonal relations both formal and intimate. Such mental sets and ways of thinking about the world are properly separated from, and understood to stand in a problematic relationship to, actual behavior. Thus, people may affirm the virtue of charity but give little to private welfare organizations; they may stress the moral obligation for filial piety without necessarily providing for the suitable maintenance of their aged parents.

A Methodological Excursus

As we get closer to our subject matter, a number of challenges, or perhaps cautions, confront us, stemming in part from differences in style of various investigators but also arising from experience, sometimes bitter experience, in pursuit of the issue at hand.

If we take seriously the idea that we are looking for evidence of continuity and change in attitude, value, and behavior, we must acknowledge that the form in which most data will be available to us does not provide a compelling basis for judging the relative stability over time of popular sentiments in the Pacific Rim countries. Unfortunately, a large number of the most interesting questions have been asked only once. We are thus usually left with an absolute datum taken at a single point in time, rather than having the preferable relative fact for several points in time. To get around this limitation, we must evaluate the single observation we have for the current situation against the condition we assume existed at an earlier time. That assumption, in turn, is based on historical and cultural analyses.

Consider, for example, what happens if current research finds some 75 percent of young women in an Asian population saying that they expect to select their own mate rather than have their parents make the selection. If our historical and cultural analyses of that population suggest that in earlier times it was standard for parents to select spouses for their children, then we may assume that our current information reflects a substantial change in norms and probably in behavior. But we cannot know for certain that there was such a change because our reading of the historical and cultural record, and the assumptions based on it, may simply have been in error.

Given the risk of being misled by such assumptions, we should wherever possible seek to build our case on measures applied at more than one point in time.2 Even having data for two points in time can put us at risk of premature closure; for example, we may be tempted to make a good deal of a shift of 10 percentage points in the popularity of a given attitude, neglecting the fact that, with the kind of sample used in the study, we must assume a margin of error of at least 6 percent.

Lack of measures over time will surely tempt us to substitute what is often assumed to be reasonably equivalent, namely, the analysis of age groups within the same sample. A steady progression of attitude change as one moves across the age range within a national sample may certainly indicate real cohort or generational change, but, alas, it may also merely reflect the influence of aging. This kind of evidence should, therefore, always be closely scrutinized to ascertain to what extent we can assume that the observed shifts across age groups are unlikely to be an artifact of the mere process of aging.3 Much less ambiguity attends this issue when, as in the studies by Martin Whyte, different generations with the same families constitute the sample.4

Ideally, therefore, we should have measures for the same or broadly comparable populations over two or more points in time. As I have noted, some studies meet this demanding criterion, and insofar as they confirm the impressions from other sources, they greatly strengthen our confidence in the conclusions. In general, however, we must accept a lesser standard of rigor in the quality of the data we have available. That, in turn, requires us to acknowledge the tentativeness of our conclusions, at least as concerns any single trend or tendency.

The General versus the Specific

There is a great, and at times seemingly unresolvable, tension between those who stress the distinctiveness, indeed even the uniqueness, of the change process in a particular setting and culture and those who believe in and seek to find comparatively general processes across nations and cultures. I cannot resolve this tension, and candor requires that I acknowledge that I have a disposition to search for the general. Fairness of course obliges me to be ready, as I think I have been, to acknowledge the many instances that my locally rooted colleagues have offered showing how, in their particular microcosm, the presumably general forces I deal with have operated differently from the way they operated elsewhere, thus challenging the validity of some too sweeping generalization. Although gladly accepting this caution, I hold that it is, nevertheless, intellectually appropriate to search for the more general and to insist, as well, that exceptions, within certain limits, do not invalidate generalizations so long as those are stated in less than absolute or universal terms. Generalizations, however basically sound, cannot in themselves deny the validity of seeming exceptions, but neither should exceptions, even if well documented, be assumed to disprove the validity of generalizations that have been properly stated with clear limits.

A comparable tension, encouraging a similar type of challenge and caution, involves generalizing across the elements within a single, broadly defined realm of human activity such as the system of kinship and marriage. Evidence that a considerable number of the elements of such a system have changed, indeed changed profoundly, does not constitute proof that all elements of the given realm have changed in equal degree or even have changed at all. As we shall see, there are communities in which the virtually universal selection by parents of their children's mates has been almost totally replaced by individual choice, yet in those same communities commitment to the support of aged parents remains undiminished. Global images of change sweeping across each and every aspect of some complex system of human relations may easily fail to differentiate and discriminate among those elements of a system that change and those that persist in the face of seemingly general change. There is a parallel here with the analysis of cultures. Change in most aspects of a social subsystem, such as that regulating marriage and family life, cannot be taken as proof of change in all aspects of that subsystem. But it is equally true that well-documented exceptions to a general pattern of change across some broad range of elements of a sociocultural system, however notable, do not in themselves prove that a generalization, properly circumscribed, is in error. They only prove that it has limits, limits we are happy to acknowledge. Indeed, in locating the limits of our generalizations, and in seeking to explain the exceptions, we find some of the most interesting and challenging tasks for the student of social change.

The Evidence for Continuity and Change

I present evidence to illustrate four processes, which I designate as the

  • Strengthening of tradition
  • Persistence of tradition
  • Adaptation of tradition
  • Abandonment of tradition and substitution of new attitudes and values

I cannot at this point claim to have done an exhaustive survey or, indeed, one that is rigorously systematic in its search for evidence. Rather, I have searched for studies that meet high standards with regard to sampling, design, and data analysis. One consequence of this selection procedure has been to limit the number of nations represented in my survey. As of this writing I have found the kind of data I consider relevant to my purpose only for Hong Kong, Taiwan, mainland China, and Japan, with some modest representation of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and India as well. Adequate representation of the Pacific Rim as a whole requires that I find comparable data for nations including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. At the same time, in deciding which issues to discuss, I have cast my net rather wide since evidence on many issues of theoretical and practical importance is not abundant. Taken together, however, there is a considerable weight of available evidence, which, as I read it, is notable in its consistency across populations and study topics. It satisfies me that the peoples of the Pacific Rim have been and are undergoing a remarkable reorientation and transformation of values and lifestyles that, in its depth, scope, speed, and intensity, closely matches the extraordinary economic development that over the last decades has been enjoyed by those same populations.

Strengthening Tradition

In a world in which various kinds of religious fundamentalism are burgeoning on every hand as a response to the perceived threats of modernization and Westernization, it seems appropriate to inquire whether the nations on the Pacific Rim may be experiencing some of the same tendencies. Indeed, Lau and Kuan envisioned the possibility of an "erosion of modern elements by traditional concerns" and "a reinvigoration of traditional forms."5 I see little evidence that the Pacific Rim is anywhere generating the kind of intense reassertion of tradition that is evident in many parts of the Muslim world, but there are indications that some Asian populations are in some ways reinvigorating traditions that had been slipping away under the impact of forces for change. In some cases, the pattern seems to be one in which an externally forced process of change, such as that imposed by the cultural revolution in China, has been lifted, permitting the expression of value commitments that had never fully died out. At least this is the interpretation I put on the data from Baoding, where the now adult offspring are more likely than their elderly parents, who lived through the Maoist era, to disagree with the modern idea that obligations to children or careers should come ahead of obligations to parents.6

Ancestor worship is a widespread and deep-seated element of many Asian cultures. Yet it is also something one might expect has been eroded by the acids of the modernizing experience. It is, therefore, notable that in Taiwan there seems to have been a resurgence of commitment to this ancient tradition. Between 1963 and 1991, the proportion of Taiwanese who claimed to have attended an ancestor worship ceremony increased from 39 percent to 75 percent.7 Something similar, although less dramatic, may have occurred in Shanghai.8 These developments can perhaps be explained as exemplifying a principle I first enunciated in my research on individual modernity in six developing countries: Contrary to popular expectation, the more modern individuals claimed to be fulfilling the practice requirements of their religion more often than the nominally more "traditional" individuals in our samples. I reasoned about this outcome as follows: To fulfill the practice obligations of one's religion requires that one be reasonably integrated and functioning effectively in one's environment. In addition, such practices often require the outlay of some monies. Both these conditions were more likely to be met by individuals who had fully joined the modern economy. Following this logic, we might argue that, on the Pacific Rim as well, the more individuals increased their incomes and sought the outward signs of social respectability, the more they might be expected to participate in selected religious practices and rituals that earlier they felt they had neither the energy nor the discretionary income to expend on.9

Professor Hayashi and his colleagues are longtime students of Japan's national character. Every five years, beginning in 1953, they have measured the strength of Japan's cultural traditions by taking a sampling from the citizenry. They identified giri-ninjo as a key element of Japanese culture, and to measure it they asked a nationwide sample to choose two values out of a set of four. One of the set was "filial piety."10 Contrary to expectations, the preference for filial piety rose year by year. In 1963, the first year this question was asked, filial piety was selected by 61 percent of the respondents, but by 1983 it had risen in popularity to 73 percent; it held its rank as the number-one value in subsequent surveys through 1993.

Clearly, there is some evidence that, on the Pacific Rim, much as in other parts of the world, the response to the forces of modernization may be an actual recommitment to, and strengthening of, some traditional values and behaviors. At the same time it must be acknowledged that in this region of the world such reaffirmations seem modest in number.

The Persistence of Tradition

If we expected traditions to be reaffirmed and strengthened beyond the historical norm, we may have set too high a requirement. Perhaps it should be enough if traditions persist at roughly the level of commitment they experienced before the countries of the Pacific Rim were washed over by the tides of industrialization and modernization. To assess this, I especially searched for evidence over time. I found that, despite changes in the economy and the opening of society to Western influences, many traditions managed to hold steady in their support from the populations on the Rim.

I begin with an item about which I believe those who know the Pacific Rim are least likely to take exception. Most are aware of the reputation of those of Chinese origin for hard work, steadfastness of effort, and readiness to sacrifice and save. These characteristics are shared by many of the peoples on the Pacific Rim. One can easily imagine, however, that some forty years of Chinese socialism may have deeply eroded these tendencies in a population long organized in communal enterprises and encouraged to become totally dependent on their danwei (local production unit), at close hand, and on the communist state, at greater remove. But this seems not to have happened. In 1990 the population in Shanghai around was asked to rate some eighteen basic values. The score for each value was given as the percent affirming a value minus those opposed to it. At the top of the list stood the values diligence and frugality with a score of +86, indicating that virtually everyone was for this value and that few denied its relevance. Further supporting the claim that in the population of China the old value of hard work persisted despite forty years of communism, the same survey showed that 72 percent of the people of Shanghai considered that failure in life was a result of not working hard enough, even though the question offered them the alternative of blaming such an outcome on "fate."11

Filial Piety

I turn next to a topic already introduced, namely, filial piety, but I excuse the repetition because this sentiment is so often cited as distinctive to many of the cultures of Asia. My evidence, which comes from Baoding on the mainland, has the advantage that both the elders and their adult children in the same family were asked the same question. If there were a movement across generations this would surely be the ideal design for identifying a value shift. Instead, across the generations, the value of filial piety was affirmed with a remarkable consistency, with approximately 95 percent of both the elders and their adult children stressing their absolute commitment to this value.

Supporting evidence comes from a survey of the people of Hong Kong. In this case I have neither a generational nor a survey over time to assess stability, but since a striking 88 percent of the respondents agreed with the idea that "government should punish the unfilial," it seems reasonable to interpret the result as evidence of the persistence of a traditional value. There seems every reason to accept Martin Whyte's conclusion that "filial obligations are robustly intact, with little sign that parents and children are separated by a 'generation gap' when it comes to these attitudes."12

Dominant Opinion in Japan

Turning to Japan, I assess the persistence of traditional views by examining the stability over time of a set of so-called dominant opinions. In the Japanese national character research, a view of the world was defined as a "dominant opinion" if 75 percent or more of the population held that view. Because they win such high consensus, these orientations might be broadly interpreted as defining the essential elements of the national culture, ethos, or belief system.

In the forty-year period from 1953, when the first survey was done, to 1993, the last year reported, some opinions readily recognized as characteristically Japanese held steady as dominant opinions despite the many forces for change that might have been expected to erode their support. I cite here, to illustrate the pattern, four such persistent attitudes:13

  • Giving a job to the person who scored higher on a test rather than to a qualified relative who scored lower14
  • Preferring a boss who will sometimes demand extra work from you, despite rules to the contrary, but who looks after you personally in matters not connected with the work over a boss who sticks to the rules and makes no unreasonable demands but never does things for you in matters not connected to the work15
  • Preferring to work in a firm with a family-like atmosphere, even if it means accepting lower wages16
  • Preferring a picture of an attractive Japanese-style garden over an attractive English-style garden17

Data to test for such persistence in other settings on the Pacific Rim are not readily available because it is rare that studies are done over time using the same standard questions. When a traditional value readily identifiable as characteristic of Asian belief systems wins virtually unanimous support from a population as thoroughly modernized and as totally open to Western influence as is the population of Hong Kong, however, it seems reasonable to interpret the result as evidence of the persistence of values. This is how I interpret the fact that, in Hong Kong in 1987, some 91 percent of the people supported the principle that "officials should set a moral example."

Continuity in Chinese Thought Patterns.

A different kind of evidence for the persistence of cultural patterns in the face of extensive economic, social, and political change is offered by Thomas Metzger. His reading of a wide range of recent and contemporary philosophical, political, and sociological Chinese writing leads him to assert that there exists a major Chinese cultural strand, made up of a broad range of intellectual writing, whether the writer is a Communist or a member of the Kuomindang, on the left or the right, a conservator or a modernizer. Across these otherwise critical divisions, he argues, there is a shared style of intellectual discourse, which he characterizes as "an optimistic, transformative, Napoleonic belief that intellectuals can grasp the ultimate nature of reality and control history." Further elaborating on the common features of this type of discourse, which, he argues, can be traced far back in the history of Chinese thought, Metzger delineates four characteristic elements:

Utopianism as a way of defining the goal of human life

Epistemological optimism "holding that a total, objective, systematic understanding of human life can be obtained to guide action"

History as a teleological process moving inexorably toward the ultimate goals of humankind

Agency of a socially visible group, usually seen as the intellectuals, who can grasp the right theoretical system (t'i-hsi) and use it to influence the course of development of China and perhaps the whole world18

The Adaptation of Tradition

Some traditions truly persist. Others, however, may only seem to persist, maintaining their external form or their obedience to the religious or ritual calendar but nevertheless in actual content transformed into something quite different. It is a moot point whether such phenomena should be counted as additional evidence of how persistent tradition can be or, on the contrary, weighed as evidence of how economic and social change engender change in a culture. I take no stand on the issue but feel it incumbent to note that my survey of continuity and change in Asian values identified a number of instances of the seeming persistence of traditions that on closer examination proved to have been profoundly adapted so that they were quite different from the tradition they presumably continued. The phenomenon warrants further and fuller exploration, but I can only pause in my exposition for a single illustration.

My example again involves the phenomenon of ancestor worship, with the evidence coming from the population of Shanghai, where 44 percent of the people surveyed in 1990 felt that it was a moral obligation to visit and sweep tombs. Given the long history of communist opposition to this idea and the associated practice, it might be argued that having so relatively high a proportion of Shanghai citizens still affirm the importance of tomb sweeping is evidence of the persistence of tradition. But Chu and Ju note the anomaly that tomb sweeping is stressed in the face of the fact that in Shanghai today there are few tombs one could visit and sweep. Moreover, according to Chu and Ju, what people are here talking about and doing has little to do with ancestor worship in the sense in which it was practiced in earlier times. Rather, the practice has been transformed into a kind of social occasion and a way of expressing solidarity with living relatives. Instead of being true ancestor worship, the event has now become the occasion for a family gathering, "usually meaning having a small family dinner with relatives on the birthday of a deceased parent."19

The Abandonment of Tradition

We come now to the main part of the story. Although one can find some evidence of the strengthening, the persistence, and the adaptation of tradition, the frequency with which one can document such occurrences is modest compared with the mountain of evidence that, in numerous Pacific Rim nations, traditions are being massively abandoned in one realm of life after another. The Pacific Rim is being inundated by a flood of forces exposing it to industrialization, modernization, and globalization. Occupational systems are being transformed, mass communication of all kinds is washing over every shore and reaching every distant corner, transportation and associated human movement are being extended, deepened, and greatly speeded up, knowledge is being redefined and revalued. In the process, many fundamental values are being challenged and reformulated, basic human relationships are redefined and reordered, and numerous traditional ways of thinking and behaving are undergoing a great transformation.

To fully document this massive abandonment of tradition is beyond the scope of this short paper. A modest selection of the evidence across a series of realms, however, may serve to suggest the depth, the scope, and the force of the argument.

Family, Marriage, and Kinship

Few aspects of human relations can claim to be more fundamental than those grouped under the rubric family, marriage, and kinship. Yet few realms exceed this in the degree of change in tradition that they manifest.

Continuing the Lineage

Continuity of the family name in Japan has for centuries had the status of an almost sacred responsibility. When the head of a family produced no male heir, it was essential that an appropriate male be adopted to carry forward the family name. In the years immediately after World War II, despite the great upheaval Japan was experiencing, a striking 73 percent of a national sample affirmed the idea that it was necessary to adopt a child to continue the family line "even if there was no blood connection." In every subsequent five-year period, however, fewer and fewer people supported this idea. After twenty years, in the 1973 survey, the proportion taking this position (36 percent) had been cut in half, and at the latest report, from the 1993 survey, it had sunk to 22 percent, considerably less than one-third its original strength.20

Surveys taken on Taiwan indicate that there too the population was responding in a manner similar to the way people were responding in Japan. In this case we do not have numerous periodic reports but do have information for two relatively widely separated points in time. In 1963, 70 percent of the Taiwanese considered it "very important" that one have a male heir "to transmit the lineage"; by 1991 the percentage was down to 32 percent.21

Choosing a Marriage Partner

Perhaps no decision in life is more important than determining whom one will marry and all the more so in societies in which divorce is infrequent and difficult to obtain. From Chengdu, on mainland China, comes evidence of a virtually total transformation in the practice of finding a mate.

Martin Whyte divided his sample from Chengdu according to the year individuals were married. For each event he knew from his informants whether it had followed the tradition of arranged marriages or whether the individuals had found their mates in some other way. The oldest cohort consisted of people who had married between 1933 and 1948. Thereafter they were grouped in five-year intervals, with the last cohort including all those whose marriages had occurred between 1977 and 1987.

It is hard to imagine a more profound shift in fundamental human values and behavior than that reflected in the reports of the residents of Chengdu. In the cohorts married before the communist victory, 68 percent reported that their marriages had been "arranged," but, in the cohort married most recently, the proportion of arranged marriages had dwindled to a mere 2 percent! Almost equally dramatic was a shift in the proportion affirming the importance of being in love as a condition for marrying. In the oldest cohort love had been a factor in 17 percent of the cases, but by the 1977–1987 cohort it was an important consideration in 67 percent of the marriages. Given both Chinese cultural mores and the puritanism of the communist regime, it is also notable that having sex with one's affianced before the wedding rose from 4 percent in the marriages occurring in the earliest period to 18 percent of those entered into the 1980s.22

The striking pattern Whyte reported for Chengdu was also manifested in Taiwan, although the data there covered a somewhat shorter span of time, with the sample made up of six cohorts starting with those married in 1955 and ending with those married between 1980 and 1984. As on the mainland, in Taiwan marriages in which the parents decided on the marriage partner fell over time from 53 to 11 percent of the cases; marrying without dating fell from 51 percent to a mere 4 percent; and having sex before the actual marriage rose from 13 percent in the cohorts married early to 37 percent among those marrying after 1980. In short, the patterns of change in Taiwan were, broadly speaking, identical with those observed in Chengdu.23

This evidence from Taiwan makes it clear that the shift reported for Chengdu was not merely an artifact of communist control of every aspect of life. Rather, we are led to conclude that broad forces of social change--occupational, educational, and spiritual--were at work in both places and that they had the same effect despite the differences in the socioeconomic and political systems governing these two settings.

Basic Values and Life-Guiding Principles

In perhaps no other realm is the evidence for a fundamental shift in values more extreme or more visible than in the basic values for living, in the goals and aspirations one holds out for oneself and one's children, and in the perception of the good and bad in human relations. In place of the dominance of the clan, the community, and the family, the individual and the self come increasingly to be the key points of reference for both the society and the person. In place of subordination of the self to common interests, and the enthronement of some collective goals and collective good, we increasingly find a concern with self-fulfillment, with personal gratification, and with the assertion of individual rights.

The Shanghai Story

I begin my exploration of the evidence with data from Shanghai. Unfortunately, measures over time are not available, and we must content ourselves with differences among age groups as a proxy. For a number of the topics covered, however, a true shift across the generations is a more likely explanation of the observed differences than is one based on the presumed effects of aging alone.

Chu and Ju asked their Shanghai sample to make a series of choices about their basic hopes, aspirations, and fundamental goals in life. The proportion choosing the modern idea of seeking "true love" as a life goal rose from 11 percent among those over fifty years old to 49 percent among those under twenty-nine. This difference might be interpreted as merely reflecting a characteristic of the aged, who may be assumed to feel that the search for true love is past for them. I, however, see these statistics more as an expression of new values. To support my interpretation, I note certain other results from the same survey that cannot so easily be explained by the mechanisms of aging yet that also suggest the rising general importance of personal satisfaction--as against community harmony--as a central goal in life. For example, the proportion who chose "living happily" as the key to meaning in life rose from a mere 7 percent among those over fifty to 35 percent among those under the age of twenty-nine.24

Perhaps the most important evidence from Shanghai, however, comes from a different phase of the study. To interpret it, I use as a standard the general acceptance that some value is presumed to have enjoyed earlier and compare that with the level of support for that value expressed by a contemporary sample. The values tested by Chu and Ju were selected on expert advice as those the Chinese people had "cherished for thousands of years" and had "nearly universally accepted in the past." On that basis, a list of some eighteen values were presented to the sample in Shanghai, preceded by the question "Of these elements of traditional Chinese culture . . . which ones do you feel proud of, which ones should be discarded, and which ones are you not sure of?"

Initially, for the total sample, the scoring system used an index based on the percentage who were proud of a value minus the percentage who said it should be discarded. By this method "diligence and frugality" earned a top score of +86 percent. The lowest score was 64 percent, indicating that the great majority voted to discard the venerable value called "the three obediences and the four virtues."25 Other low scores, indicating a predominant opinion that the principle should be discarded, were earned by "the way of the golden mean," at 60 percent on the index; "differentiation between men and women," at 60 percent; and "discretion for self-preservation," at 56 percent.26The authors found such a high level of rejection of these values, which for centuries had been the core of Chinese culture, to be "nothing short of phenomenal," which must have played a major role in their entitling their book The Great Wall in Ruins.

This rejection of key traditional values by the Shanghai population certainly may reflect conscious and intense efforts by the communist regime to inculcate new values in the Chinese population. This study, however, was based on the people of a city generally recognized as the most international and cosmopolitan and the most subject to modernizing influences in all of China. Also note that the younger generation, which had been much less exposed to concentrated communist propaganda efforts directed against these values, showed half to two-thirds rejecting them, albeit not quite so strongly as the older generation.27

Life Goals in Japan

By turning to Japan for further evidence regarding changes in life goals, we escape the issue of systematic government pressure raised by the Shanghai data. But we find again the same pattern, namely, that self-centered values have come to outweigh the commitment to group morality and public service.

In the Japanese national character survey, respondents were given a list of six "attitudes toward life" and were asked to select the one that "comes closest to your feeling." The design of the question meant that no value was likely to command a majority because the total vote was divided across so many choices. Nonetheless, the pattern that emerged was fairly clear-cut, with the more self-centered, hedonistic values rising in strength over time and the more moralistic and public service goals losing support. Thus, the attitude "don't think about money or fame; just live a life that suits your own taste" more than doubled its support over the years, being endorsed by only 21 percent in 1953 but becoming the singlemost popular attitude by 1993, with 41 percent of the respondents casting their single vote for this way of life. By contrast, the value "resist all evils in the world and live a pure and just life" steadily lost ground over the same period, from being the most selected attitude in 1953, at 29 percent, to being one of the least favored in 1993, chosen by a mere 6 percent.

Taken together, the two community service and public morality items dominated the selection in 1953, jointly accounting for 39 percent of all the choices, but by 1993 they had progressively declined in popularity, accounting for only 10 percent of all first choices. By contrast, the two attitudes that suggested a self-centered and hedonistic approach to life more than doubled their support over time, together accounting for 39 percent of all choices in 1953. Their popularity increased steadily, however, and by 1993 they commanded 67 percent of all first choices.28

Leisure Activities and Popular Tastes

I conclude my survey of the abandonment of tradition with some evidence concerning the use of leisure time and personal preferences for different kinds of popular entertainment. It is by now commonplace to note the worldwide diffusion of certain movies and the music of some bands and singers. Madonna, for example, is recognized worldwide and has an audience in virtually every country. But some countries, among which Communist China is perhaps most notable, sought for decades to seal off their populations from such influences, considering them not only foreign but also "polluting." It is, therefore, particularly revealing to discover how massive the shifts in popular taste have been across the generations in the provincial city of Baoding on the Chinese mainland.

Martin Whyte asked his respondents to indicate their first and second choices in entertainment, providing them a list that included traditional opera and Hong Kong–Taiwan pop. As might be expected, the older generation gave 68 percent of their votes to Chinese opera, but their adult children, only 13 percent. By contrast, the older generation voted for pop music only 13 percent of the time, but their mature children gave 71 percent of their votes to this source of entertainment.29

Sources of Influence: Cause and Effect

All the countries of Asia are subject to a number of influences that have the potential for eroding tradition and fostering new attitudes, values, and behaviors. These different streams of influence sometimes act independently, but usually they combine in a great confluence, a whole sea of forces for change that washes over every one and every thing. Hong Kong perhaps exemplifies the most extreme case, where, according to Lau and Kwan, "economic growth and the ensuing rise in the standard of living . . . in turn fuel the inexorable process of Westernization and modernization, the pervasive effects of which are evident in almost all spheres of life . . . discernible even among people in the lower strata, thus testifying to their penetrative potency."30

It is, of course, a moot point whether the rise of industry and commerce should be considered Western in the same sense as certain films, music, and literature are more or less unambiguously identifiable as Western. Much is to be gained if we carefully disaggregate the different concrete forms of influence and study separately their differential impact on society, culture, and the individual. Moreover, we need to take into account the substantial cultural, economic, and political variety of the nations and peoples in the Pacific Rim countries.

Educational Effects

The spread of modern education may well be the most pervasive and profound source of influence on many of the attitudes and behaviors we have assessed. As Lau and Kuan noted for Hong Kong,

The more educated had a more "modernist" orientation toward society. . . . They had a stronger sense of personal efficacy, and believed much less in fatalism. They were more tolerant of social conflict, and more likely than the less educated to believe that conflict was a natural and integral part of social life. . . .They were less traditional in that they placed less emphasis on filial piety and kinship relations. They were more likely to give freedom of speech to others, less likely to ban newspapers that published false news, and less likely to prohibit meetings for an unorthodox cause. . . .The more educated believed in competition and individual effort, and they would oppose any organizational efforts to thwart the competitive process.31

Among the striking differences separating the more- from the less-educated in Hong Kong, I note the response to the idea that the kind of government you have is immaterial, a view to which an overwhelming 81 percent of the least educated agreed, whereas this idea was affirmed by only 22 percent of the most educated.32 The effects of education were manifest not only under conditions of relative freedom, as in Hong Kong, but also under the more controlled conditions of life in communist-dominated Shanghai. For example, the idea that one should plan to live with one's parents after marriage was favored by 57 percent of the less educated, but the proportion fell to about half, at 27 percent, among the more educated.33

The Role of Changing Occupational Structures

The transformation of Pacific Rim societies in the recent past began, in most cases, not with a political regime or social policy changes but rather with economic development.34 In particular they have experienced rapid industrialization, burgeoning trade and commerce, vast expansions of their transportation networks, and great declines in the proportion of the national income accounted for by agriculture. Vast numbers moved from the countryside and agricultural employment to take up city residence and nonagricultural work. These shifts in the composition of the labor force, and in the nature of the work performed, seem especially relevant to our concerns.

First, the shift of the place and type of work from traditional agriculture to industrial labor has substantial effects in inducing more-modern attitudes and values, including a greater sense of efficacy, a heightened openness to new experience, increased tolerance for departures from tradition, and a greater appreciation and respect for the nature and rights of socially less powerful groups such as children and women. In my research on individual modernity I demonstrated these effects in six developing countries, two of which were in Asia, and there is every reason to believe that similar processes have been at work in the developing countries of the Pacific Rim.35 These effects, furthermore, are not dependent on the fact that most industry is located in urban settings. The six-nation study of individual modernity, and more-recent work on factories in the countryside in mainland China,36 demonstrates conclusively that industrial work in modern factories has a significant impact in fostering modern attitudes independent of the contribution of urban living.

Perhaps equally as important as the general growth of industrial employment has been the massive movement of women out of the home and into the paid labor force. For example, in Taiwan, even after the first spurt of industrialization, only 16 percent of the respondents in the 1963 sample of men reported their wives to be in the paid labor force, the remainder working at home. But by 1991 the proportion having wives in paid employment had risen to 48 percent. Comparable and even more dramatic shifts in the extent of formal employment by women have been reported for other countries on the Pacific Rim. I believe the impact to have been profound, but my sources have paid less attention to the effects of female employment than they might have.37

Other Sources of Influence

Urban experience

The urban setting as such seems to exert an influence on attitudes, values, and behaviors independent of the modernizing impact of employment itself, especially on those who do not find work there. In the six-nation study of individual modernity, I showed that, in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and India, as in the other nations studied, the longer men of rural origin lived and worked in urban areas, the higher their scores on the attitudinal Overall Modernity (OM) scale. Moreover, this effect of urban living was clearly independent of the impact of factory experience in the Indian case and was independent of mass media exposure in both countries.38

In his study of Taiwan, Robert Marsh also took into account the extent of rural living and later urban contact his respondents had experienced. He found that a number of attitudes and values were influenced by the scores on his index of rural-urban exposure. For example, in response to the question of whether physical punishment is necessary in raising children, the urban index showed a modest but consistent effect, even with occupation held constant, those with more urban contact being less likely to believe in the necessity for physical punishment.39

Exposure to mass media and Western culture

In the six-nation study, exposure to the mass media was generally second only to education as a force moving people toward modern attitudes and behaviors. Even with occupation and education controlled, the Beta weight for mass media exposure in a regression on the OM score stood at .20 in both India and East Pakistan.40

Although the mass media have been bringing indigenous material to the populations of the Asian-Pacific nations, much of their material may reasonably be dubbed Western. It is of special interest, therefore, that several relevant studies have sought to disentangle the effect of mass media exposure in general from the specific influence of Western culture. In Shanghai, Chu and Ju found many instances in which the degree of contact with Western culture played a substantial role in shaping attitudes and behavior to a degree equal to, and sometimes greater than, the mere fact of exposure to the mass media. For example, the view that divorce is acceptable if the couple involved does not have children was affirmed by only 27 percent of those with low exposure to Western influence, whereas this view was manifested by 57 percent of those under high Western influence. Fifty-one percent of those with high exposure to the West said that if given the opportunity they would retire if they could live comfortably, whereas only 27 percent of those with little Western exposure said they would take that option, claiming that they would continue working instead.41

The Next Step

All the sources of influence we have examined are interrelated,42 and they often produce their effects in complex interactions. Regression analyses, which a number of the key investigators I cite have used extensively, can help identify the general realms and the particular issues that are more or less sensitive to one or another source of influence. To understand in any depth the complex response of cultures, communities, and individuals to the sources of influence to which they are exposed, however, would need a more fine-grained analysis with a battery of techniques to assess each important question separately. Such analysis is the next step required to move us beyond the stage to which this essay has brought us. I have shown conclusively, I believe, that a number of the nations on the Pacific Rim have in the last decades of the twentieth century experienced great, often profound, shifts in values, attitudes, and behavior in various realms of life. But even in the realms of greatest volatility, some attitudes change and some values shift but others do not. Attitudes may change but behavior may not, and the reverse pattern is also observed. Moreover, many traditions persist unchanged, and some seem to enjoy a resurgence of commitment and support. A comprehensive, coherent, and convincing account of the complex and important process of social change currently being experienced by perhaps as much as one-third of the human race awaits our discovery.

1This branch of the Amazon is called the Rio Negro.

2 Of the studies I have relied on most heavily, the goal of having data for at least two points in time was met in two instances. For Taiwan, a survey taken in 1963 could be compared with one completed in 1991, as reported in Robert M. Marsh, The Great Transformation: Social Change in Taipei, Taiwan since the 1960s (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1996). For Japan we have surveys using the same questions asked every five years from 1953 through 1993, as reported in Chikio Hayashi and Tatsuzo Suzuki, Beyond Japanese Social Values (Tokyo: Institute of Statistical Mathematics, 1990), pp. 63–118, supplemented by Research Committee on the Study of the Japanese National Character, A Study of the Japanese National Character: The Ninth Nationwide Survey (in Japanese), Research Report No. 75, General series (Tokyo: Institute of Statistical Mathematics, 1993).

3 In the sources I rely on heavily, differentiation by age is strongly emphasized in the report on Shanghai and that for Hong Kong. On Shanghai, see Goodwin C. Chu and Yanan Ju, The Great Wall in Ruins: Communication and Cultural Change in China (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993). On Hong Kong, see Siu-Kai Lau and Hsin-Chi Kuan, The Ethos of the Hong Kong Chinese (Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1988).

4 Whyte used this method of sampling for his study of marriage and family patterns in Chengdu as reported in Martin K. Whyte, "From Arranged Marriages to Love Marriages in Urban China," in Chin-Chin Yi, ed., Family Formation and Dissolution: Perspectives from East and West (Taipei: Academica Sinica, 1995). The same technique was used in collecting samples in Baoding as reported in Martin K. Whyte, "The Persistence of Family Obligations in Baoding," manuscript, George Washington University, 1996.

5 Lau and Kuan, Ethos of the Hong Kong Chinese, p. 3.

6 Whyte, "Persistence of Family Obligations in Baoding." The proportion of the adult offspring, as against the proportion of their elderly parents, disagreeing with the idea that obligations to their children should come ahead of obligations to parents was elders 50 percent, their adult children 65 percent. In judging whether obligations to one's career should come ahead of obligations to parents, the proportions disagreeing were elders 23 percent versus 49 percent among their adult children. That the elders would respond thus, seemingly contrary to their interest, can be explained by assuming they absorbed this ideology under communist influence, an influence much diluted for their adult children, who spent more of their formative years in the post-Mao atmosphere.

7 Marsh, Great Transformation, table 7-2.

8 Chu and Ju, Great Wall in Ruins.

9 A more cynical, although not necessarily contradictory, interpretation of the phenomenon is offered by Godkin, who is quoted by Marsh as seeing the increase of extended kin gathering for ancestor worship as "the deliberate, conscious, social construction of tradition" (Marsh, Great Transformation, p. 139). Marsh notes that religious behavior at temples and other manifestations of folk religion declined on Taiwan between the 1960s and the 1970s but has been reviving since the 1980s. He believes the cause, curiously enough, to be modernization. Precisely because social change has been so rapid, he suggests, the Taiwanese need some "return to their roots."

10Filial piety is considered an element of the highly valued quality of giri-ninjo. Another choice was ong neshi, meaning "repaying moral indebtedness." The values in the set not part of giri-ninjo were "respecting individual rights" and "respecting freedom."

11 Chu and Ju, Great Wall in Ruins, p. 260.

12Whyte, "Persistence of Family Obligations in Baoding," p. 8.

13 Details of question wording and descriptive statistics will be found in Hayashi and Suzuki, Beyond Japanese Social Values, and Research Committee, Study of the Japanese National Character. For a full-scale application of this approach to defining the basic ethos of the population of the United States, see Alex Inkeles, "National Character Revisited," Tocqueville Review, spring 1991.

14 Presumably this response is derived from the Confucian tradition, which placed heavy emphasis on test performance as a criterion for holding office. This question was first used in 1963, when 75 percent said they would hire the person with the higher score rather than the relative. Over time support for this view fell some, with only 67 percent taking the same position in 1993.

15 The more demanding boss who nevertheless looks out for you was selected by 85 percent in 1953 and forty years later, in 1993, by a similarly overwhelming majority of 82 percent.

16 The question was first asked in 1973, when 74 percent chose the firm with the family-like atmosphere. By 1993 the preference for this type of firm over one with higher wages had decreased somewhat, to 65 percent.

17 Chosen by 79 percent in 1953, the popularity of the Japanese garden increased until it accounted for 90 percent of all votes in 1973.

18 Thomas A. Metzger, "Hong Kong's Oswald Spengler: H.K.H. Woo (Hu Kuo-heng) and Chinese Resistance to Convergence with the West," American Journal of Chinese Studies, in press. Support for Metzger's assumption about the long-term continuity of this pattern of thought will be found in Leo Ou-fan Lee, "In Search of Modernity: Some Reflections on a New Mode of Consciousness in Twentieth Century Chinese History and Literature," in Paul A. Cohen and Merle Goldman, eds., Ideas across Cultures: Essays on Chinese Thought in Honor of Benjamin I. Schwartz (Cambridge, Mass.: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University Press, 1990).

19 Such adaptations are, of course, not peculiar to the nations of Asia. One may well ask how much of the original meaning of the Fourth of July remains for the millions of Americans who stream to beaches, or gather their families for backyard barbecues, without a mention or a thought of the significance of the date as a celebration of the founding of their nation. One may equally wonder how many of those who at Easter roll eggs and dress as bunnies have in mind the significance of the day as celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.

20 See Hayashi and Suzuki, Beyond Japanese Social Values, p. 104, and Research Committee, Study of the Japanese National Character, p. 56.

21 Marsh, Great Transformation, table 6-5.

22 Whyte, "From Arranged Marriages to Love Marriages in Urban China," table 2.

23 Ibid., table 3.

24 Chu and Ju, Great Wall in Ruins, chap. 8, especially table 8.10.

25 This value set the standard of behavior for women, including obedience to father before a woman got married and to husband after marriage, while among the virtues it stressed morality, proper language and manners, and diligent work.

26 "The way of the golden mean" is part of Confucian ethics. It counsels avoiding extremes and encourages moderation in all things. The principle of "differentiation between men and women" holds that because men and women are different they should be treated differently. The value called "discretion for self-preservation" urges avoiding the false and sinful but at the same time urges one to avoid getting in trouble. For a fuller account of the meaning of these values and others in the set of eighteen tested, see Chu and Ju, Great Wall in Ruins, pp. 222–44.

27 The proportion voting to "discard" the most rejected values, with the percent among the young followed by the percent among the old, was "way of the golden mean," 62%/68%; "three obediences and four virtues, 64%/87%; "discretion for self-preservation," 51%/76%. See Chu and Ju, Great Wall in Ruins, table 10.1.

28 Hayashi and Suzuki, Beyond Japanese Social Values, p. 101, and Research Committee, Study of the Japanese National Character, p. 39.

29 Whyte, Martin, "Persistence of Family Obligations in Baoding."

30 Lau and Kuan, Ethos of the Hong Kong Chinese, p. 1.

31 Ibid., pp. 161–62.

32 Ibid., table 5.1.

33 Chu and Ju, Great Wall in Ruins, table 9.3.

34 This was, of course, least true of the largest entity, namely, Communist China.

35 See Ales Inkeles and David Smith, Becoming Modern: Individual Change in Six Developing Countries (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974), and Alex Inkeles, Exploring Individual Modernity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983).

36 See Alex Inkeles, C. M. Broaded, and Z. Cao, "Causes and Consequences of Individual Modernity in China," China Journal, no. 37 (January 1997): 31–59.

37 For evidence that the qualities which define the modern individual are basically the same in women as in men and that the experiences which contribute to making women more modern are similar to those which produce modern attitudes and behavior in men, see C. Montgomery Broaded, Z. Cao, and A. Inkeles, "Women, Men, and Construction of Individual Modernity Scales in China, " Cross-Cultural Research 28, no. 3 (August 1994): 251–86, and Inkeles, Broaded, and Cao, "Causes and Consequences of Individual Modernity in China."

38 The zero order correlation of years of urban experience and the OM score for both East Pakistan and India was .23, significant at the .001 level. Taking into account years of factory experience brought the figure to a nonsignificant .07 for East Pakistan, but for India it remained at the highly significant level of .21. Controlling for mass media exposure brought the correlation down to .18 in East Pakistan but raised it to .29 in India; in both cases, still significant at .001. Inkeles and Smith, Becoming Modern, table 15.2.

39 This effect was more apparent in 1963, when the contrast between the countryside and the city was still sharp. In 1963 the regression weight for urban exposure was .17 and for occupational status .16, both statistically significant at better than .05. Although Marsh did not present a strictly comparable regression for 1991, the data he did report suggest that the effect of urban exposure, while still positive, had slipped below the level of statistical significance. See Marsh, Great Transformation, table 12.3.

40 Inkeles and Smith, Becoming Modern, table 19.2.

41 Chu and Ju, Great Wall in Ruins, tables 3.1 and 5.5. The interaction of exposure to the media--which in the case of the Shanghai sample meant the official communist sources--and exposure to Western influences is quite complex and warrants being looked at issue by issue before any general conclusions, can be reached.

42 On Taiwan, for example, occupational status was correlated with education at .58 and with household income at .48 in the 1963 sample; in the 1991 sample the respective coefficients were .55 and .37. See Marsh, Great Transformation, table 3.3.