18th Karlsruhe Dialogues – Speakers

Between Morals and Markets: Changing Landscapes in China’s Society

Prof. Dr. Yunxiang Yan 


Prof. Dr. Yunxiang Yan

Prof. Dr. Yunxiang Yan is professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California in Los Angeles. Earlier positions include those of lecturer of anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and lecturer of folklore at the Peking University. Yan holds an MA from Peking University and a PhD in social anthropology from Harvard University. His research interests are social change and development, family and kinship, cultural globalisation, morality and individualisation. His publications include: “The Drive for Success and the Ethics of the Striving Individual”, in: Charles Stafford (ed.): Ordinary Ethics in China Today (2013), pp. 263-291; The Individualization of Chinese Society (2009); and Private Life under Socialism: Love, Intimacy, and Family Change in a Chinese Village (2003).





1. Does the world market society promote or prevent the achievement of global humanitarian living conditions?

In general, it does more good than harm in terms of both generating material prosperity and spiritual diversity, while objectifying and commercialising the world at the same time. However, the actual result or the specific combination of benefit and harm in each special case may vary greatly across different geographic, social, and political boundaries.


2. Does the world market society lead to new forms of human trafficking or is it possible that it can become an opportunity for the enforcement of international standards for decent working conditions?

Both are not only possibilities but also social facts, actually happening in the world as we speak. However, the second and positive role of the world market society is something novel and encouraging that only happened in recent decades. Part of the reason is the rise of political consumerism in which citizen consumers use their purchasing power to force the key players of the world market to take humanitarian issues into consideration and to be socially responsible.