China

News and developments in China are never far from my mind, and the recent tragedy of a little girl who died after being run over in Guangdong was mind-numbing. The way how the two-year-old died is horrible, being run over twice, but just as revolting was that 18 passers-by saw and ignored the girl lying on the street. While I know about how people are reluctant to help victims in the street due to the possibility of being blamed (read about the Nanjing case) and made financially responsible, this is a little girl we’re talking about, plus why isn’t it too hard to call the police or ambulance? Eventually a woman took the girl to the hospital where she died after a few days. Not surprisingly, a lot of Chinese were outraged, and this tragedy seems to have served as kind of wake-up call for people in China about the need to be more considerate of others. The authorities may enact a “Good Samaritan” law which imposes an obligation on people to help those in trouble. This news also spread worldwide, generating more outrage against China and its people, which I do think is a little excessive. It’s one thing for Chinese people to be extremely critical of this incident and their countrymen, but it’s another for outsiders to blast China and its people, as if kids are being run over every day in China. Speaking of criticism, Nanjing-born author and journalist Zhang Lijia wrote a strong piece about this tragedy for The Guardian. Meanwhile James Fallows of The Atlantic Monthly has some interesting responses from readers who described a contrary experience in China or similar incidents in other places like India and Taiwan. To be honest, there is a strong level of callousness and lack of trust or concern for others in China. This is a result of several factors such as a “moral vacuum” arising from the shock of the Cultural Revolution and other traumatic events in the last 50 years, as well as the desperate competition to get ahead in a large and poor society. However, strong reactions from angry Chinese netizens and commentators like Zhang show that there are also many people who know about this problem and feel strongly about it, so there is hope. Anyways, as angry or saddened as we might feel, let’s try to keep things in perspective as this commenter “bugbear” on Zhang’s Guardian piece excellently puts it, “why is it that the 18 people who walked past a dying child are somehow taken as more representative of Chinese culture than the millions who have expressed their outrage about it?”

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