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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


  • I dunno what to think of this translation. On one hand it could be satire. On another hand, it reads as mindles if taken literally.
    Obviously, making significance out of similar death stats in two completely unrelated tragedies is useless except for humor’s sake, unless you’re Cantonese and place significance in numbers as fortune.
    And it’s equally stating the obvious that the Chinese mining industry is a disgrace that the Chinese media and government do their best to minimize.
    And also obvious that “condolences” from Dubbya are as worthless as a counterfeit 5 yuan note.
    So what do you really have here? Cultural confusion as in “it’s obvious to a Chinese reader, but not a Western one?” or a poorly written attempt at a profound statement? Or satire? Or translation that misses the nuances?
    You tell me. Por favor.

  • Alan Han

    Who did this translation? The last sentense is a bit misleading.
    The original text actually means:
    “So, if Bush’s condolences never come, nobody should blame him.”

  • In a similar vein, there’s also this:

  • Thanks, bingster, Jennifer and Alan for the careful eyes. I was a little rushed on this post, and I had trouble following the internal logic to his point, just thinking that he was trying to be ironic with the paragraph on the rich family/poor family funeral metaphor, but it seems to have been lost on me. Thanks also for the correction on the last line. If you could help clarifying the second-last paragraph, I’d be really greatful.

  • mahathir_fan

    “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, ”

    You should be careful of drawing conclusions based on comments from the Peking Duck. People like me have been banned from posting my comments there. It happened after a couple of people there ganged up on a English language Chinese commenter on the Tiananmen incident. I charged in and drew similarities between the Tiananmen incident and the Bonus March. Thereafter, I was banned from posting.

    So the postings you see on that blog are those that have been “censored” to be safe for public viewing by Mr. Peking Duck.

    I do applaud that Mr. Peking Duck was quick to see that I was trouble to his blog. He banned me within 48 hours after my 1st comment posting.

  • mahathir_fan

    The difference between the deaths at the mining site and virginia tech is that one is an accident (or negligence), while another is a school shooting.

    If we really want to mourn for deaths, there are so many avoidable deaths every day. Take for example heart disease. Close to 1 million Americans die of heart disease every year – that makes it 2700 deaths per day in America due to heart disease.

    Heart disease is completely avoidable through a healthy choice of food, exercise, and lifestyle. That 2700 people are dying every day is a failure of the health maintainance of the people.

  • SinaSource,

    I agree with you that the two events occurred in very different contexts. Would China even have acknowledged Bush’s “sympathy” if he gave it? The industrial accident that killed those workers wasn’t exactly the lead story on CCTV last week.

    That said, I strongly disagree with your unfair characterization of The Peking Duck. I know you have an axe to grind with TPD. The ‘site manager’ does actually read some Chinese. Moreover, as you’ve been told over and over again and yet somehow refuse to/are not able to comprehend, two of the main contributors to the site do a considerable amount of translation both inside and outside of the blogosphere.

    You seem quite content to take cheap shots in the comment sections of other peoples’ blogs, but I’ve yet to see anywhere online where you yourself offer commentary or insight in any language. If so, may we see a link?

    To be banned by TPD is actually quite difficult. Those who have been banned are given ample warning. The internet is an open place, people are free to create their own spaces. You wouldn’t walk into somebody else’s home or place of business spewing hateful, abusive, racist, or homophobic insults, would you? Does civility have no place on the web?

  • Duncan

    Interesting comment mahathir_fan. If heart disease is entirely avoidable, which particular forms of death do you think are not avoidable?

    Surely everyone will die of some form of disease or malfunction of an organ or bodily process (if they are not killed by some external force). Some of the early deaths from heart disease may be avoidable, but even with the best of health and fitness regimes some people will die of ‘heart disease’.

  • mahathir_fan

    Jeremiah wrote:
    “To be banned by TPD is actually quite difficult. Those who have been banned are given ample warning. The internet is an open place, people are free to create their own spaces. You wouldn’t walk into somebody else’s home or place of business spewing hateful, abusive, racist, or homophobic insults, would you?”

    What a load of crap jumping into conclusion. If you are a frequent blog reader of my comments, you will see that I never spew anything hateful, abusize, racist or homophobic insults. On the contrary, I get hateful response to my comments.

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