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Credibility crisis poisons national morale
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15:42, August 20, 2009

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By Li Hongmei People's Daily Online

Nothing would be more startling than the result aggregated from an online survey of more than 3,376 people, which had been conducted by the authoritative Insight China magazine weeks before. The online study was intended to get a sweeping picture of China's credibility status by inviting netizens to compare and assess different industries and groups and point out the most and least trustworthy industries or groups.

It was revealed that, embarrassingly, sex workers were considered to be more trustworthy than politicians, teachers and scientists, placed third immediately behind farmers and religious workers; while real estate businessmen and entertainers were labeled as the least trustworthy, as they tend to bear the hallmarks of ‘money-driven devils'.

Scientific or not, the result at least delivers the first glimmerings of China's ethical status quo in the latest decade, marking a time for seeking short-term successes and quick profits and reflecting a social context contrary to reason. People all would like to complain the social morality and credibility have fallen into steep decline, but no one would offer to stand out assuming or sharing responsibilities. This will descend into a vicious circle in a long run, as anybody could fall to victim to fraud, inaction or even dereliction of duties. Once evils threaten to overwhelm the social mood, the social order as a whole would be on the verge of collapse. It is of no exaggeration.

What astonishes us most is that the used-to-be respectable and reliable groups like scientists and teachers are also facing credibility crisis. Who to believe has seemingly become the first information gap to be bridged before venturing out to pursue business big or small. No wonder some scholars with conscience could not help but raise their doubt over where, if the credibility decline persists, the Chinese society will be headed.

Perhaps, there might be some progress mirrored through the survey result that worship of personalities is now gone, as people enjoying a good reputation and a higher position up the social ladder are listed as ‘less trustworthy' and their credibility is even lower than prostitutes, despised almost all time in the Chinese history and among the lowest classes. What an incredible reversal!

For sure, credibility is by no means the patent belonging exclusively to the rich or the so-called social elites. Anyone, if he is trustworthy, honest and keeps promises, can be graded a high mark in credibility. On the contrary, notable figures will be downgraded as untrustworthy if they are found involved in misconduct like cheating, lying, hypocrisy or falsification.

Bangladesh's Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus has elevated credibility to a level as high as basic human rights, and deemed anyone, rich or poor, is equally entitled to the right of being trusted by others.

In recent years, China has already paid a high price for the prevailing credibility crisis. The annual losses caused by bad debts have reportedly amounted to about 180 billion yuan, and the direct economic losses induced by contract fraud each year is also up to 5.5 billion yuan. Besides, shoddy and fake products contribute to another great loss involving at least 200 billion yuan. Generally, credibility crisis would cost China as much as 600 billion yuan every year.

The shortage of credibility is not only seen in the market transactions, but in the officialdom as well. Corruption in any form is about to erode the faith of the general populace in authorities and officials at different levels.

Perhaps, the survey result can just give a restricted description on China's credibility status, or people can take it with a grain of salt. But it did portray a picture of the spiritual outlook of today's Chinese society, with money as the overriding motive. It is this that especially deserves attention.

China is going global and growing increasingly assertive on the world stage. In the international communications, credibility is invariably the pass word to win friendship and cooperation. Back at home, China is bent on building a harmonious society, in which the interpersonal credibility will serve as the corner stone. Without it, the entire society would fall into a state of anarchy, and the ancient civilization would be on the point of falling down.

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