Well, it should be a good image, I was standing right there when it happened lol.
China's government accentuates business, money, and the making thereof, to the exclusion of most everything else. This is because it wants to bee seen as a world leader, but this -of course- makes other world leaders question it and in the end it harms their reputation. That focus has predictably begun to erode much of China's older culture and history. Though Mao's "Cultural Revolution" didn't help this either. Oddly, old-guard communists are uniting with some social conservatives and young democrats to try to change this. After that poor two-year-old girl died after being hit by two separate vans, and left for dead, there were massive protests. Really, these problems are something most people are aware of and they cannot be covered up for much longer. http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/20/world/asi ... dler-dead/
This is one of the reasons that China will on occasion ratchet up its hateful rhetoric of Japan or other countries. It distracts from domestic problems, and drives a wedge between social conservatives and their sometimes-allies on the democratic left.
I met a number of Australian Business Lawyers when I first arrived in China at Shanghai. They felt much the same way as your Italian friend, or even more so considering how laid-back the Aussies are by nature. Since China basically has 100% employment for most people (though the handicapped are still often forgotten. . . communism indeed.) it is easy to make a basic living, and it is really difficult to fire people. Everyone wants money, but few have any passion for what they do, because large portions of the people go through the capitalism motions in a supposedly communist society. I don't really blame them for being confused.