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Mainland China has undergone profound changes dating back to the nineteenth century, including a contemporary period of rapid modernization that began in the 1980s.The result has been dramatic social, cultural, and economic shifts impacting the daily lives of Chinese people.
We argue that rapid sociocultural change has implications for cultural psychology—given the mutual constitution of culture and mind (Markus and Kitayama, 1991; Shweder, 1991), profound cultural change ought to have deep psychological consequences.
We then briefly consider the definitions of modernization, followed by a review of studies converging on the theme of rising individuality in China.
In terms of the sheer number of people affected, these upheavals may well be unprecedented in human history.
There is every indication that the blistering pace of change continues to this day, deeply affecting the everyday lives of over one billion people.
We argue that the adverse effects of rapid changes are widespread, with a disproportionate impact on rural populations.
At the same time, we note that rapid sociocultural change has also brought changes in how symptoms of mental illness are presented.Yet, rapid sociocultural change is an essential part of how people in China understand their own recent history, stretching back for at least two centuries.From the opening of the treaty ports (1842) and the anti-foreign Boxer Rebellion (1900), to more recent social movements such as the Great Leap Forward (1958–1960) and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), the Chinese people are no strangers to social change, or to sudden reversals of fortune.In the latter, the self is empowered and motivated to achieve a better future, and indeed is enjoined to do so.Between Chairman Mao’s call for collectivism in the 1930s and the insistence of individualism in the early 21st century, China underwent tremendous social, economical, and political change.14–15) states that, “China’s ongoing social transformation since the late twentieth century is no less consequential for the long-term course of world history than events commonly considered as historical watersheds, such as the Renaissance that began in fourteenth-century Italy, the Protestant Reformation in sixteenth-century Germany, or the Industrial Revolution in eighteenth-century Britain.” In support of this bold claim, he provides three evidence-based examples.First, he notes that per-capita gross domestic product (GDP), net of inflation, increased at a rate of 6.7% per year between 19—contrasted with the ‘golden age’ of American industrialization, 1.5% per year between 18.We conclude by reflecting on the implications of sociocultural change for cultural and cultural-clinical psychology, followed by a brief discussion of potential future directions for researching the psychological consequences of sociocultural change.A 30-year period represents but a tiny fraction of China’s 5,000-year civilization.The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.