The Death of Wang Yue, and the Irresistible Conclusions

Everyone seems to know who Wang Yue (王悦) is, or rather, was. The two-year old girl from Foshan, Guangdong Province, has become world-famous for having been run over by a van,  whose driver reportedly crushed her twice – according to other reports, two vans were involved. Closed circuit camera recordings showed some 18 people walking past Wang Yue without trying to save her.

Now there is “soul-searching” across China, according to media coverage – and there seems to be a “search for the Chinese soul” among the international media, too  – with the happy expectation that there won’t be much of a soul to be found in China, it seems. Even Eric Fish, a regular contributor to China’s official mouthpiece Global Times, and a “devout atheist”, wants the Chinese to come to Jesus. OK – that’s a misquote. This is what he writes:

I’m a devout atheist and tend to think dogmatic religion plays a largely negative role in society, but I can’t count the number of times in China I’ve shaken my head and wished more people believed in hell.

Contrary to Eric Fish’s blog, mine is powered by cold-war motivations, and I will therefore – probably – not be suspected to be a China apologist – I’m therefore confidently saying this:

There definitely is a “moral vacuum” in China. There are “moral vacuums” in other countries, too. In Germany, there have been several cases in recent years when people were abused or beaten up at underground stations. In one case, a twenty-three year-old who tried to escape ran into a car and died on the spot. Most of these cases happened and happen in public, here in central Europe. In most cases, few or no  people seemed to be prepared to even take note.

Many U.S. states and Canadian provinces have introduced Good Samaritan Laws to prevent

a rescuer who has voluntarily helped a victim in distress from being successfully sued for ‘wrongdoing’.

One may guess that some episodes, rather unflattering for individuals or society, preceded the enactments of these and similar laws.

Western reporting of Wang Yue’s accident and death is overblown, in my view. The Chinese public has good reasons to ask themselves questions, and legislation that would make aid compulsory might be a good first step – provided that people don’t need to fear lawsuits for “wrongdoing” while trying to help there, either. A law that punishes people who get involved, while police, bars, or judges continue to suspect a helper to actually have caused the accident (“why else would he try to help?”) would only make things worse. Before people who try to help can do so on a reasonably sound legal basis, you will never find out how much or little “moral” is actually there.

I seem to perceive an undertone in much of the international coverage – stuff that amounts to what MyLaowai has uttered with his usual candidness:

Is there anyone in the world who believes for a single second that this doesn’t happen every day in China? If so, you are a touch naive, my friend. This is how it works: Some baby / old geezer / idiot [delete as appropriate] wanders out into a street / highway / service lane. Truck / car / taxi runs them over. Said vehicle usually drives off, with the driver not being aware of the fact the the bump in the road was made of meat because he, too, is a fucking retard like all his shit-for-brains cuntrymen, but on the off-chance that the driver does know what happened, said vehicle will stop, reverse over the now-much-easier-to-hit target in order to make sure of the job, before then driving off. After all, a dead person is cheaper to pay out for than an injured one if you are ever caught, which you won’t be, because nobody actually gives a damn about anyone else. Home of civilisation my arse.

In my view, MyLaowai has it wrong on several counts this time, but especially when he believes that the global public were “unaware” of what happens in China on a daily basis, or acting as if they were unaware. Quite the contrary. It’s what everyone had “suspected”, anyway. The news story would have had much less “potential” if it had happened in Vietnam – but if even the godless Chinese public does some “soul-searching”, it confirms foreign prejudice most handily. The good news is that all the numb passers-by were Chinese.

When it comes to bigotry, it’s hard to tell who’s doing better – the Chinese or the foreign media.  I have heard way too many western business people showing off with their “guanxi” in China, with having had dinner with some big local or national cadres, and having eaten the brain out of the skull of a not-quite-dead monkey. One such case was actually documented by Der Spiegel, in 2007 – the man, a German investor, thought of himself as a man who knew China, until his technology was ripped off. At that moment, Chinese behavior was deemed “immoral”. (Monkeys don’t count.)

China probably has a tradition which isn’t helpful. It has a political system which is deeply immoral. But that topic won’t make it into our newspapers. Our own relationship with China’s despots are too intimate to identify it as an issue.

Rather than addressing China’s moral issues, we should address our own, first of all – in our cozy relations with totalitarian governments, and issues within our own societies.



» A Fly-Head-Sized Benefit, January 8, 2010

Updates / Related

» … und ging vorüber, Sinica, Oct 25, 2011


6 Comments to “The Death of Wang Yue, and the Irresistible Conclusions”

  1. I wrote that hell piece because I think it is one small piece of a big puzzle, but I do think when everything is considered, factors present in all humans were more to blame than unique Chinese social factors. And I’d agree the media is blowing this whole issue up and trying too hard to point to simple answers. I wrote a piece to this end in Global Times six months ago:

    And here’s a good video that shows plenty of instances where Chinese did help. We’re very vulnerable to confirmation bias if we ignore the counter-evidence like this:


  2. When it comes to bigotry, it’s hard to tell who’s doing better – the Chinese or the foreign media.

    Both are fairly even when it comes to this, most of the time.

    Nice piece, JR. Well written.


  3. Thousands of trivial incidents like that must happen every day in China, but only the instances where nobody helps get any news coverage.
    Eric; be sure that there will be such reports in the Chinese press very soon. Some party officials will award the cool rescuer flowers or money, or a car, or a grant for his or her only child, to study at Renmin University, and the whole Lei Feng machinery will be in full swing.

    My point isn’t that China wasn’t different – it actually is, and not only because of the bigger crowds or because of the Peng Yue effect. The CCP is continuing a tradition which was (quite aptly, I believe) described in the late 1920s:

    Probably, what is treason to us, is to them only human nature. They escape it by never allowing themselves to be caught in unconditional devotion. Within the family, even with strangers, the Chinese are as a rule full of the frankest respect for friendship proved, or services of friendship received; they are touchingly loyal. Ingratitude arises from the system. The social structure of family ties withholds their innermost from flowing readily into the wider social connections.

    And while I’m not pretending that I could read peoples’ minds, I think it is not quite the coincidence that the only person on the video who was prepared to help came from society’s not-so-respected stratum. She’ll never make it to some social standing in China, unless a party official takes care of her, out of gratitude, because she helped to “save China’s face”. Whenever handy, exactly these officials will argue that China needs to be governed by a strong chain, with particular attention to that chain’s weakest link.

    (And in all likelihood, he won’t be thinking in “moral” categories there.)


  4. She’ll never make it to some social standing in China, unless a party official takes care of her, out of gratitude, because she helped to “save China’s face”.

    And if that were to happen, there’s every chance she’d become one of the other eighteen. The Chinese themselves have a proverb or saying that says, effectively, that once the underdog is on top, it becomes as bad as the former dog.


  5. Very well written post, hats down and greetings from Formosa.


  6. Many years back, when foreign companies still had to employ Chinese through a state agency (I forgot the name of the agency, though), I met a German manager on a Yangzi cruise. He lamented the fate of one of his Chinese workers who bled to death on the doorstep of a hospital after having an accident at work, because he hadn’t any health insurance .How could the Chinese medics be so cruel and cold-hearted? Then I asked him, how it could be that the workers was without insurance, if the German company had had employed him through the state agency? That the manager refused to answer. I think they had hired the Chinese illegaly without the agency just to save some costs for insurances and bureaucratic fees. Now that’s what I call a double standard!

    Liked by 1 person

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