Beginning with the earliest foundations of Chinese society, Collectivist thought has a long tradition based on Confucianism, where being a 'community man' or someone with a 'social personality' is valued.
Later, Individualist thinking in China was advanced by Lao Zi and Taoism. Lao Zi taught that individual happiness is the basis of a good society and saw the state, with its "laws and regulations more numerous than the hairs of an ox," as the persistent oppressor of the individual.
Chinese social relations today are more typified by a Reciprocal network. That is, unlike many other societies, the Chinese tend to see social relations in terms of interweaving networks rather than discrete categories ("boxes"). Hence, people are perceived as being "near" or "far" rather than "in" or "out". Another prevalent conceptualization relates to belonging: "self-person" or "one of us" (ziji ren) as opposed to "outsider" or "not one of us" (wairen)--or, as foreigners more typically encounter it on the street: "Lao Wai!"
For more on various aspects of Chinese society, refer to the following topics: