02 August 2010

China: Amoklauf by Tractor

The People's Republic of China is dedicated to preventing "turmoil," which it defines as mass protests challenging government authority. The Communist Party regime tries to preempt turmoil by arresting or simply intimidating dissidents. Despite their efforts, 2010 has been a year of turmoil in China, and the turmoil is of a kind that defines preemption. It's personal and individual in character, and the most the government can try to do to stop the turmoil from spreading, it seems, is to limit news coverage of each outbreak lest one report embolden a copycat attacker. China is not a gun culture, but many of its people are in a killing mood, and they use the tools at hand. Mostly that's meant knives, but the latest episode is something out of the movies or some police-chase video compilation. A disgruntled tractor driver killed a customer at his job, then took his vehicle into town. Estimates of the body count range from the government report of eight dead to an unofficial claim of eleven. The tractor driver himself was taken alive.

While foreign observers suspect that the Chinese (or their government, at least) would rather not talk about the country's amoklauf spree, many Chinese feel compelled to find some sort of explanation for the lethal trend. The difference one notices instantly between Chinese and American analysis is the Chinese determination to discover a sociological explanation for the phenomena. There always seems to be a Chinese sociologist available to offer a hypothesis to a western reporter. They may not represent man-on-the-street opinion, but they should still be credited for avoiding the simplistic explanations favored in the U.S. In America, if one side seems to blame gun violence simply on the existence or availability of guns, another, refusing to "scapegoat" guns, just as simplistically and more vaguely blames each amoklauf on a general decline in morality. The Chinese, by comparison, seem more certain that their violence has its source in something that is happening to the country on the socio-economic level. Some Chinese authorities might like to blame it all on "spiritual pollution" or something else they can pin on dissidents or "evil cults," but we have ample evidence that educated Chinese won't buy such a story. Nor should we. If China is to represent the cutting edge of modernity in the 21st century, the entire world ought to view China's amoklauf wave with alarm.

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