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China: Reactions to the Virginia Tech slayings

In response to the slayings at Virginia Tech this week, upon seeing the shooter's ethnicity prematurely declared to be that of Chinese, many de facto Chinese bloggers were in disbelief, some ran with the false news to further their political agendas, but most were sympathetic to the victims, their classmates, friends and families. Then there were the views like those expressed in journalist and Bullog blogger Ten Years of Chopping Timber‘s post today, in response to two commonly-seen tragedies in China, ‘Waiting for Bush to Reciprocate

等着布什的回礼

Waiting for Bush to Reciprocate

美国弗吉尼亚理工大学发生殒命33人的惨案(包括凶手在内),我国家领导人及时地发出慰问电,果然是泱泱大国,礼仪之邦。几乎在这一惨案发生的同时,神州大地也发生了两起灾难:河南省宝丰县发生矿难,33人生死不明; 辽宁铁岭市清河特殊钢有限公司发生钢水包整体脱落事故,共造成32人死亡。罹难者人数如此接近,时间几乎在同时,按照礼尚往来的原则,布什应该给我国政府发来慰问电才行,

Upon news of the massacre of 33 students (including the killer) at America's Virginia Tech, our national leaders immediately sent their condolences, truly a magnificient power, a country of etiquette. Almost at the same time as this massacre was taking place, two tragedies struck this great land China: a mine disaster in Baofeng County in Henan province in which 33 people were unknown to be dead or alive; and a ladle for pouring molten steel at the Qinghe Special Steel Corporation in Tieling city, Liaoning province derailed, leading to 32 deaths. The numbers of victims are so close, and the time was nearly simultaneous, so assuming a principle of reciprocated etiquette, Bush ought to send our government his consolation.

就算美国是惟一的超级大国,比较牛逼,但接到我国领导人慰问电后,也应该回电致以慰问。至今没有媒体报道布什发来慰问电,估计这份慰问电恐怕等不来了。

Given that America is the only superpower, and such a bad-ass one, yet after receiving our nation's leaders’ message of consolences, it should also have returned the call to express condolences. Until today there have been no media reports of Bush having sent a sympathetic message, and I'm afraid we'll be waiting forever for this message of condolence to arrive.

乍看此对比,会觉得布什这鸟人,何其不懂事,连民间百姓走亲戚也知道来而不往非礼也。不过先别骂布什,首先要看看两国政府对自己国民不幸罹难的态度。

At first glance in making this comparison, you might think Bush is a bit of a birdbrain, that he doesn't know what he's doing, that even the people and his own family know it's impolite not to reciprocate. But before you start cursing Bush, you first need to see the attitudes the two governments take towards the tragic deaths of their own people.

在美国,人家连续一周降半旗,布什夫妇亲自到惨案发生的校园内慰问。如果我国也照此办理,估计天安门广场上的国旗没几天能升到旗杆顶端,国家领导人也没多少时间可以出国访问。我国这两起灾难发生后,除了他们的亲人,有几个为其表示悲伤呢?而美国政府把那场惨案当成国丧。

In America, everybody lowers the flag to half-mast for a week, and Mrs. Bush visited the campus where the slayings took place to express condolences in person. If our nation dealt with things this way, I imagine there wouldn't be many days when the flag in Tiananmen Square would ever rise to the top of the flagpole, and our national leaders wouldn't ever have much time to leave the country for visits. After these two disasters took place in our country, except for their relatives, how many people expressed sorrow for them? Yet the American government has turned the slayings into national mourning.

政府元首间对灾难的慰问,不看对方死多少人,而是看该国政府对灾难的慰问。尽管国有大小强弱之分,人有贵贱贫富之分,但对生命的态度并不仅仅取决于贫富,而是当家的对生命的态度。一个再富的家庭,视该家奴婢的死亡如小动物的死亡,随便找个乱葬岗埋了了事,别人怎么可能来悼唁呢?不知轻重地悼唁那是讽刺人家么。而再穷的人家,如果把家庭成员的丧事,郑重其事来办理,四乡八邻的人也会来表示哀悼,不去则是失礼。

When heads of state give condolences over tragedies, it's not important how many of the other side's people died, but the country's government's expression of sympathy in itself. Regardless of how big or small, weak or strong the country is, some people will have money and others none, but attitudes toward life not only depend on whether said people are rich or poor, but also on the rulers’ attitude towards life. If an exceptionally rich family, upon seeing the death of a slave or small animal, merely finds a random place to bury them and be done with it, is anyone going to bother come mourn? Don't they know that putting this much effort into mourning over people amounts to mocking them? If an exceptionally poor family approaches the bereavement of its family members with earnest, people from all corners of the land will come show their respects. To not go would be disrespectful.

所以,如果等不来布什总统的回礼,也不能怪罪人家。

So, if Bush's condolences never come, he'll have nobody to blame but himself.

19 comments

  • zhwj

    Nice entry. Combing through the forums the past few days, I saw lots of people connecting 33 and 33; this is a thoughtful extension of that connection.

  • John,

    TPD didn’t run the story to further any agenda. The rumors of the shooter appeared in a comment on an unrelated thread. In an attempt to short circuit what I knew to be similar comments coming (and possibly hijack the thread), I tracked down the source of the rumors–the Chicago Sun Times article and the CNN interview–and posted those links with a strong caveat that it was too early to tell the identity of the shooter.

    “Obviously details are still sketchy and while police admit that they have identified the shooter, they are not officially releasing his name or any other details at this time. It’s too early to say for sure who committed this heinous act or where he was from.”

    I hardly think that qualifies as “running with it…”

    Frankly, I found the initial comments on the TPD site to be out of line and inflammatory and took a middle ground: posting the rumor as rumor and requesting a wait-and-see attitude.

    Did I take an afterthought (and in retrospect, perhaps petty) swipe at CCTV who loves to cover tragedy when it happens abroad but ignores it when it happens in China? Sure. I though the newscast that morning had a smarmy tone to it that rubbed me the wrong way. (32 steel workers died in a horrible industrial accident this week–somehow that didn’t make it into the CCTV1 morning news…) But to say that TPD was using this horrible event to further an agenda is as abhorent as the NRA accusing gun control advocates of “relishing tragedy.”

    Any thinking person feels nothing but sympathy for all of the students and families affected by this terrible tragedy.

    I’ve always been a great admirer of your work, John, and have frequently linked to your insightful posts on my own blog. I was trying to calm a situation down on the TPD site, not start fires.

    Thanks for allowing me to clarify.

  • […] At Global Voices Online, John Kennedy translates a Chinese-language blog post called “Waiting for Bush to Reciprocate” (等着布什的回礼) The idea is that 33 people die on a pretty regular basis in China, and President Bush doesn’t always send his condolence straight away. In America, everybody lowers the flag to half-mast for a week, and Mrs. Bush visited the campus where the slayings took place to express condolences in person. If our nation dealt with things this way, I imagine there wouldn’t be many days when the flag in Tiananmen Square would ever rise to the top of the flagpole, and our national leaders wouldn’t ever have much time to leave the country for visits. After these two disasters took place in our country, except for their relatives, how many people expressed sorrow for them? Yet the American government has turned the slayings into national mourning. […]

  • nanheyangrouchuan

    So china’s “condolences” are nothing but 空话 meant to goad Bush and the US for not sending condolences to China for whom massive industrial accidents are an everyday occurence thanks to knuckle-dragging local bosses.

    China, the US sends it condolences for the gov’t and country you have.

  • Thanks zhwj, and sorry Jeremiah. What I didn’t make clear enough in that line was my intent to draw attention to opinions being expressed by Chinese readers at The Peking Duck and not those per se of any of its non-Chinese authors like yourself, or any political motivations you might or might not have. Leaving the nature of the comments aside for a minute, to the best of my knowledge The Peking Duck is one of the few blogs where comments in English from Chinese readers on this issue can be found, and this is something I for one am appreciative of.

  • Considering how some large-scale industrial accidents have been marginalized by the Chinese media (especially when they relate to unsafe working conditions or corruption), I don’t think the problem is entirely with America.

  • bingster

    nitpicking

    所以,如果等不来布什总统的回礼,也不能怪罪人家。

    So, if Bush’s condolences never come, we can’t blame him.

  • It’s not nitpicking…I was confused by how that last part was translated. From the original and the translation, my sense was that the blogger’s overall message was: if we ourselves don’t value Chinese life as precious, and mourn it when it is lost, then how can we expect anyone else to?

  • Bea

    We too here in Turkey had a tragedy of 33 the same time. 29 second grade students with several teachers died in a bus crash on a school outing. Why? I’ve written about about the connections to numbers and also how thought-provoking that the South Korean people share with Americans in this disgrace. May the great spirit help our world full of terror and pain!

  • SinaSource

    “Peking Duck” may be one of the few sources in English where comments by Chinese can be found but the site manager himself does not read Chinese nor does he post comments that are written in Chinese. Moreover, he is ever-so-keen to censor comments he disagrees with and encourage others who post to attack those who take a view different from his. His site is by no stretch of the imagination a place where dialogue is encouraged, especially from those who are Chinese, or who prefer to write in Chinese.

    Mind you, I would not argue that the manager is racist; only that he is a conduit about things Chinese, instead of an accredited analyst or expert commentator.

    I would add that Bush is not going to express sorrow for mine accidents that are produced largely by mismanagement and corruption by government officials at the local and township levels. One might further argue, nor should he.

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