Bystander Apathy–An Enquiry into the Expression of Humanity and Empathy in China (2013-2014)

10 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2017

Date Written: May 24, 2014


Aim: To explore the apparent lack of personal concern for the welfare of others in China? To develop concepts to understand this social phenomena in natural settings using ethnographic and participatory research.

Research Question: How can the knowledge derived from qualitative research be used to improve the welfare of the poor in Shanghai?

Ethics: The study was carried out within the guidelines of the declaration of Helsinki. The study was characterised by anonymity, beneficence, non-maleficence, and the maintenance of the dignity of participants Method Collection of data. The principle data source was “observation” spot observation”(Baksh 1990)”, participant observation”(Hammersley and Atkinson 1983) vignettes (Finch 1987, Sani Bin Gabi 1990), oral history (narrative).

Conclusion: The study was conducted ethically. It was a worthwhile study attempted to deal with current problems.

The publication of this paper can be used to stimulate further enquiry into the problem of those in need of social welfare in Shanghai and China, in the hope it will improve services where they are needed. Suggested solutions In a country where intergenerational family ties are so strong and “guanxi” exists it is paradoxical there is little empathy for others. Confuscian values, changed family beliefs, and education at school and university may assist in increasing empathy. Learnt conditioning, to ignore or dissociate, from another human being in need of help, can be slowly overcome by implementing universal and improved changes in societal living conditions. This can be achieved by improving social welfare programs, spearheaded by a compassionate government. There is a view that it is an egregious and transparent fiction, to promulgate and publicly promote, the philosophies and policies of communism, yet allow these curable social ills to remain. ”Rex ipsa Loquiter”. The healthy should help the sick, the rich should help the poor and the employed should help the unemployed, proportionately, in accordance with what they have they should give. The promotion of a “forward thinking, humane, listening and open society, rather than a closed, narrow, opaque, inward looking “weltanschaung” would assist societal reform. We “bystanders”, we must all try to imagine we are in the place of those in need, and feel as they do, in their situation. We must follow the advice of Mencius (372-289BC) and develop and use “empathy” As Mencius said, ”a developed human heart is the basis of a moral life”.

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Timothy, Bystander Apathy–An Enquiry into the Expression of Humanity and Empathy in China (2013-2014) (May 24, 2014). 1st International Conference on Education, Psychology and Social Science (ICEPSS) 2014, Available at SSRN: or

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics