Over at Unsafe Harbour, Skarphedin brings up the great topic of charity—or rather the lack thereof—in Eastern societies. He concludes that
while Hinduism and Buddhism both have extensive ‘charity’ extended towards holy men and the monastic community . . . it seems that in the East there was never such a focus on the lowliest of the low as in Christianity.
He looks at the very big (historical and philosophical) picture, but this jibes well with my own experience of China and the Chinese in particular. Of course the Chinese are moral in their own way—for instance, they have a very strong sense of their familial obligations. But they tend to lack a sense of obligation to strangers. The Christian (and now generally Western) notion that all human beings are equally deserving of moral regard is foreign.
As such, there is a ton of corruption in China, and people are relatively more willing to cheat each other in daily life. Even in the West, Asian students are notorious cheaters, and are doing real damage to the university system. I have also known otherwise very decent Chinese people to whom the notion of doing volunteer work is literally unintelligible—it has no positive value, and only detracts from the contributions you can make to the family.
This is also changing to some extent. These days many Chinese complain about what they perceive as the immorality of their own society. Christianity is growing fast in China, and many Chinese Christians attempt to live out the gospel message with characteristically Chinese conscientiousness. In the West, too, many young Asians are Christians, and the consequent changes in moral outlook are a major element of intergenerational divide in Asian communities.