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Natural Awakenings

Universal Truths: Chinese Seek Happiness and Justice

Nov 30, 2011 11:33AM

When the Chinese Internet portal NetEase recently offered Open University-style lectures in English with seminars like Web 2.0 Marketing Communications and Introduction to Robotics, managers were surprised that the most popular choices turned out to be two more contemplative courses; one on happiness and the other on justice. “We never imagined that the most successful topics would be those to do with people’s hearts and minds,” says NetEase spokesman Yang Jing.

More than 3 million people have already watched the course on the concept of justice, led by Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel, author of Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? Sandel believes that the demand reflects an awakening of ethical reflection and debate in China. “The generation that came of age during China’s economic miracle now wants to engage with big questions about moral responsibility, justice and injustice; about the meaning of the good life,” he observes. Although China is proud of its economic advances, “There is also recognition that rising affluence has brought growing inequality, that GDP (Gross Domestic Prod- uct) alone does not bring happiness, and that markets can’t by themselves create a just society.”

Psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar, author of Being Happy, states that his positive psychology course acknowledges that, “The need for happiness, for meaning and pleasure, is universal, common to all people. However, what people find meaningful or pleasurable often differs across different cultures.”

Source: Time magazine

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