Exchange of the Singaporean Chinese and the Anxi Village

Money inevitably has become a focal point in our lives as it represents our ability to attain and exchange for goods and services. It serves as a symbol of status and power in most societies. (Chingalingg, 2012) In the readings “The World Market” and “The Dobe Ju/’hoansi” by Weatherford and Lee respectively, money serves as a social tool in maintaining relationships in the way exchanges are made and its purpose. Monetary exchange in terms of goods done within the Ju/’hoansi in the form of Hxaro exchange creates a constant sense of indebtedness among the ju/’hoansi people which serves to foster a social relationship within the society.(Lee, 2012) On the other hand, money serves as a form of interaction among people in an attempt to trade goods and services in order to create and accumulate wealth. (Weatherford, 1997)
In the examples discussed above, money and relationships work hand in hand to reinforce each other in the sharing and distribution of wealth, the maintaining of social relations and creation of social security. However, this is not always the case in all societies especially in the increasingly globalised world of today where the income equality within societies is one of the main concerns of modern society.(Kohut and Wike, 2008)
In the book “Rebuilding the Ancestral Village, Singaporeans in China”, Khun speaks on the relationship the Singaporean Chinese have with their respective ancestral villages. It focusses on how social relations are used as a form of obtaining wealth from the Singaporean Chinese and the trends of how the idea of sending remittances and goods to their relatives in the villages have been declining over the years. In short, this book explains the idea of the moral economy where China uses the moral aspects of the overseas Chinese who have migrated to other countries to help improve the conditions in the villages and to stimulate its economy especially in this case, the Anxi village. In this book, it focusses on how social relation specifically kinship serves as a form of obtaining monetary gifts from their Singaporean relatives, with money being the focal point of the relationship.
Due to the extreme poverty of many of the Anxi relatives in China, monetary gifts from Singapore relatives are extremely valuable to them, therefore, the maintaining of such relationships through letters and calls drawing on emotions based on sympathy and family values are extremely important. However, in present day, the idea of money and wealth has indirectly resulted in the damaging of such relations. Many of these relationships are becoming a nuisance to many of the Singaporean Chinese as the constant provision of monetary gifts are not beneficial to them in any way except maintaining relations with their ancestral villages; second and third generation Singaporean Chinese are becoming less attached to their distant relatives which explains the declining willingness to send gifts to their relatives in China. On the other hand, the villagers in Anxi, over the years, have developed expectations that their Singaporean relatives will send them monetary gifts on a regular basis and visit them regularly. Inevitably, these expectations of monetary benefits have caused the breaking of such social relations being a necessity as it is undesirable to them. However, as highlighted in the book, there are some that have been quite fruitful and rewarding to both parties.
Ultimately this goes to show that the idea of gift exchange can serve as a form of fostering social relations, at the same time, having the power to destroy them.

Andrew Kohut and Richard Wike, 2008. Assessing Globalisation: Benefits and drawbacks of trade and integration.
Jack Weatherford, 1997. The History of Money: The World Market, pg.1-12.
Khun Eng Juah-Pearce, 2011. Rebuilding the Ancestral Village, Singaporeans in China(2nd Edition)
Richard B. Lee, 2012. The Dobe Ju/’hoansi(4th Edition): Chapter 8 “Conflict, Politics and Exchange”, pg.130-135.

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