On July 25, an obviously drunken passenger grabbed the steering wheel of a bus and jerked it so hard that the vehicle with 42 passengers aboard almost capsized on a highway in Fujian Province. Then he beat the driver’s head bloody, all because the driver refused to let him get off on the highway out of safety concerns.
The driver eventually parked the bus safely and subdued the attacker with the help of other passengers.
On July 29, a middle-aged woman with an upset stomach boarded a bus in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, and was forced to relieve herself in the back of the bus because the driver refused to let her off, despite her pleas that she was suffering from diarrhea.
While most people blame the drunken man for endangering the safety of the passengers, they can’t really blame the woman. Indeed, most passengers on the same bus were sympathetic, according to news reports, and didn’t complain of the foul oder.
Both cases are about driver-passenger conflicts, but they illustrate two diametrically different Chinas.
The first case reflects a China where there are quite a few people like the drunken man who explode in rage and have no concern for others. We see these cases ourselves and read about them almost every day. People might easily come to believe that China is simmering with resentments and is a hotbed for violence.
Resigned to reality
The second case portrays a China with quite a few people like the woman with stomach upset and her fellow passengers who are resigned to reality, accepting the pain and inconvenience caused by others.
I see or read about these cases every day, but strangely, news media both inside China and out seldom praise the nonviolent character of many people who face harsh reality.
In March, six drunken foreigners forced a bus on an elevated roadway in Shanghai to stop, just to let them get off and answer a call of nature. As a Chinese reader, I was sympathetic to them and reluctant to call them “violent,” as did many people. Nor would I ask: “What’s wrong with foreigners?”
But readers of China’s news portals and newspaper are overwhelmed by scathing comments about a China that’s becoming “more and more violent.”
There are cases of violence, certainly, some linked with frustration, some associated with corruption, some reflecting perpetrators’ lack of a moral compass.
While we should not cover up these stories of violence, we will not be able to get a fair and balanced picture of China if we overlook the stories of everyday people who simply go about their daily lives, as well as the inspiring stories of good samaritans and wise people who are with us every day, every hour, every minute.
It’s irresponsible to cover up violent cases, especially those triggered by a citizen’s exasperation at corruption. It’s equally irresponsible to label China as a land increasingly besieged by belligerent characters.
I remember a letter a few years ago from an American reader about his first experience with Shanghai’s subway congestion.
He was amazed at how calm and cooperative most passengers were, despite being packed like sardines in the subway carriage.
He said he wasn’t sure if Americans would be as cool and tolerant if subways in New York were as packed as they are in Shanghai.