Chen Weihua

Get rich quick is not the right message

Updated: 2011-04-13 07:55

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

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The public outcry over the remarks by Beijing Normal University professor Dong Fan is the latest reflection of how people are saddened and maddened by the increasing money worship permeating our society.

Dong, a professor of real estate, told his graduate students in his micro blog on April 4 that they should not "visit him or mention him as their mentor if they cannot amass a fortune of 40 million yuan ($6.1 million) by the age of 40.

"For highly educated people, poverty means disgrace and failure," Dong said.

His words drew widespread criticism.

Related readings:
Get rich quick is not the right message You are what you earn?
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Get rich quick is not the right message 'Money talks' comment gets people talking
Get rich quick is not the right message Professor's teasing inspires debate on money worship

But his comments also reveal a crisis that has been ignored for far too long and a crisis that is posing no less a threat to the nation than the many economic and environmental challenges it faces.

Money worship, which was abhorred in the country just 30 years ago, has become deeply ingrained in our society today.

A larger percentage of the nation than most other countries see money as the only sign of success, according to an Ipsos survey last year of 23 countries. The phrase "money talks" now seems particularly apt in China since the survey shows Chinese people adore money more than Americans.

For years, the news media darlings have been successful businesspeople who made a quick fortune, despite the fact that some probably made their money by polluting the environment, exploiting workers or even allegedly bribing officials.

The controversial but massively popular TV dating programs last year, on one of which a young woman stated that she would rather cry in a BMW than smile on a bike, is a reminder that for many of our youngsters material wealth easily eclipses love as the most important thing in their lives.

Everything it seems - including love - is now for sale and comes with a price tag.

What is more troubling is that those making their money illegally no longer shy away from having a high profile. It is Xiao pin bu xiao chang, or despising poverty but not prostitution, that has angered many in our society.

It is not so long ago that moral education was a key part of our education system. Such education is now deemed archaic in a society where money worship has become so prevalent and success means abandoning the moral high ground.

On the majority of college campuses, most students no longer venerate scientists, as my generation did. Instead, business tycoons are the heroes for most students. Not business tycoons such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, whose money is now used to help the less fortunate around the world, but rather those who greedily hang on to their vast fortunes and keep it in the family.

Nowadays, it seems, many professors, whom we used to laud as the "engineers of human souls", are so busy trying to become rich themselves they have no time or inclination to educate their students with lofty ideals that might benefit both the student and society.

We are closing the gap with the rest of the world after spending the last three decades boosting GDP and raising living standards, but we face a widening gap in morals and ethics.

So the public outcry over Dong's confusing and even poisonous message should perhaps be seen as a sign of hope.

The author is deputy editor of China Daily US edition. E-mail:

(China Daily 04/13/2011 page8)


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