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China: A traffic incident sparks fury against Japanese

The following post is making rounds in many Chinese forums and blogs. It concerns an accident between a Chinese couple and two Japanese in Beijing two weeks ago.

2010.5.23日当日太阳快下山的时候,在咱们北京东城区后海的西沿孔已己饭店的前面小桥上,发生了一幕让中国人愤怒的事情。

On 23 May 2010, when the sun is setting down, an incident, which makes Chinese people angry, happened near the Kong Yiji restaurant in the Dongcheng District of Beijing.

事情的大概经过是这样,当时一辆宝马320i汽车(车主是小日本大概30左右)在孔已己饭店的前面小桥上拐弯的时候没打转弯灯迎面过来了一对小情侣骑着双人脚踏车,当脚踏车的车主发现不对劲的时候,脚踏车已经挂是宝马车的反光镜上(据目击者王某说:“当时脚踏车已经停下了,但道路狭窄”意外还是发生了,但是,宝马车主下车后二话不说(车主是日本人,难道不会说中文?)就是照着骑脚踏车的拳打脚踢,可怜当时骑脚踏车的车主(学生)周围的大爷大妈钓鱼的路过的旅游的看见有人大家都过来劝(就在这个时候不知道谁报警了)。

The incident is as follows. At the time, a BMW 320i car (the driver is a Japanese of about 30 years old) is turning the corner on the bridge in front of the restaurant, without making a signal. A couple riding a bicycle is coming from the opposite direction. When they realized something is wrong, the bicycle has already hit the mirror of the BMW. According to eyewitness Wang, ‘The bicycle has already stopped. The accident happened nevertheless because the road is too narrow. However, a Japanese came out and kicked the bicycle without muttering a word. Many uncles and aunties, tourists and passers-by tried to comfort both sides. At this time, someone called the police.’

这个时候从宝马车上又下来一个小日本,估计是开车的头,其中一个人又给脚踏车主一耳光,就在这个时候,一位勇敢的中国人站出来骂了一句“小日本滚出中国去”一石激起千层浪。四周的大爷大妈年轻小伙子都开始骚动了,当时的路面已经站满了行人,小日本看见这么多人也傻眼了。

A while later, another Japanese, who was the driver, came out of the BMW. The owner of the bicycle got a slap from one of the Japanese. One brave Chinese passers-by came up and said, ‘You little Japanese, fuck off!’ This created a stir, and the onlookers, young and old, were roaring. At this time, the road was filled with people, which scared the little Japanese.

Onlookers in the accident

Extreme nationalism, as expected

As would be expected, this incident provokes many nationalist comments from netizens, given the sensitive historical issues of Japanese wartime aggression towards China. The fact that this post is popular in the first place shows that hostile attitudes towards Japan are still alive among many Chinese. The following are representative comments, out of over 900, taken from a chinanews.com.cn forum:

四环使者: 2010-06-05 08:52 让日本人下跪赔礼道歉。

Let the Japanese kneel down and apologize.

花香谁知: 2010-06-05 06:19 让小日本滚出去!!

Let those little Japanese fuck off!!

一个中国人: 2010-06-04 22:01 就该砸它!到中国还这样不讲道理!让以后来中国的日本人也老实点!

The car deserves to be smashed! How dare they are misbehaving in China! Serves as a warning for Japanese to be more civilized in China!

二手烟: 2010-06-04 19:48 我要是在场,我一定干死那个小日本~~吗的,敢欺负我们中国人,这不是找死啊

If I were there, I would kill the little Japanese. Mother fucker, dare bully we Chinese, are you looking for troubles?

中国爷们: 2010-06-04 14:22 狗日的小日本 中国已经不在是当年的中国了 岂能容你们撒野

Bastard little Japanese. China is longer the China of the past. How can we tolerate you acting wildly?

老大: 2010-06-04 12:42 想起了抗日战争

Think of the Sino-Japanese War

中国人: 2010-06-04 11:06 等有实力了人们团结了我们也去日,日那些日本女人,扬我国威

When we are strong and united, let us go to Japan, fuck those Japanese women, and show how strong we are.

A mirror of China’s own problems

Meanwhile, however, quite a number of Chinese bloggers have drawn different lessons from the incident. Some argue that it is the weaknesses of Chinese which caused the incident to happen in the first place. Contemporary China is plagued with many social problems: corruption, injustice, inequality, exploitation of citizens by officials, etc. Because many ordinary Chinese today cannot live with dignity, and are used to being bullied, some foreigners, at heart, do not really respect Chinese. The younger generation, being spoiled, is also unable to stand up against injustice – as in the accident, the couple do not fight back the Japanese. Another more disheartening interpretation is that because Chinese are already used to all kinds of injustice, they have become apathetic. Nationalism is just a cover to express their anger and helplessness in face of social injustice.

Richen Jiangfeng, writing on sina.book.sina.com.cn, hopes that this accident could ignite a sense of justice among Chinese:

“小日本滚出中国去”的一声呐喊,让我们每个人听了都会感觉到兴奋,我们现在缺少的就是这样的一种勇气与信仰,为什么现在的社会这么乱,就是我们缺少着自己的文化与这种强大的信仰,中华民族的传统文化传承了5000年,但现在我们看到的中国文化却几乎不复存在,[…]我们不要把我们自己的精神给丢掉,把中华5000年的传统给丢掉!坚持我们的正义感,保持我们的同情心、爱心、中国心

I am excited to hear ‘You little Japanese, fuck off!’ What we are lacking is this bravery and belief. The reason why our society is so chaotic is because of this lack of belief. We have over 5000 years of glorious culture, which is now almost non-existent […] We should not abandon our spirit and our 5000-year tradition. Preserve our sense of justice, compassion, love and Chinese spirit.

A Japanese soldier prepares to execute a Chinese during World War II

However, You Mei, responding to Richen Jiangfeng’s article, is less optimistic. She sees the arrogance of foreigners in China, and also the cowardice of the new Chinese generation:

记得曾经看到过一张半个世纪前的黑白旧照片,一个日本军官挥刀劈向一个跪在地上的中国人的脑袋,周围一群中国人站在那里观看。区别是,一个是半个世纪前全副武装、不可一世的日本军人,另一个是今天在中国开着车的一个日本平民,一个是半个世纪前积弱的中国,另一个是今天震感着世界的中国,然而半个世纪是岁月没有改变的,是中国人冷漠的袖手旁观,和日本人头脑里对中国人深深的鄙视,不然这个日本人怎敢在中国的首都开车横冲直撞?怎敢对一个中国学生拳打脚踢?怎敢当着中国警察的面再给中国学生一记耳光?难道他开的宝马车跟当年日军的坦克一样厉害?

I remember seeing a historical photograph taken over half a century ago. In it, a Japanese military officer is chopping off the head of a Chinese, kneeled down in front of him. A group of Chinese onlookers were watching the execution. Let’s compare the two cases. One concerns an arrogant, Japanese military officer; the other ordinary Japanese citizens driving in China. One occurs in a weak China, the other in a roaring, strong China. But what hasn’t changed is the apathy of Chinese, and Japanese contempt for Chinese. How else could we explain the arrogant attitude of the Japanese in our capital city? Their daring to use violence towards our students? Their daring to slap our students in front of the police? Is the BMW stronger than Japanese tanks half a century ago?

在日本国内,开车的人对路上的行人和骑自行车的人有多礼貌、多谦让,每一个到过日本的人都很清楚,怎么到了中国,这个日本人就变了呢?是谁把他骄纵成这样?

I imagine that in Japan, drivers and cyclists would be much more civilized and polite. Why is it that once those Japanese are in China, they become arrogant?

这一声“小日本滚出中国”真让我觉得不是滋味,为什么在警察到来之前仅仅只有几个大爷大妈的劝说?为什么日本平民竟敢在中国的首都,当着中国警察,给中国学生再加一记耳管,为什么没有一个中国男人站出来,照这个日本人的脸上来上一拳?(据说有人动手砸了日本人的宝马车)

To me, this ‘You little Japanese, fuck off!’ is not really that exciting. Why were there only a few uncles and aunties persuading each side before the police arrive? Why is it possible that the Japanese could slap our students in front of the police? Why didn't a single Chinese man stand up and fight back? (according to some reports, the BMW was being smashed)

是这个被打的学生怯懦、不善打架?其实单纯武力,一个身在中国日本平民没有什么好可怕?难道就像人们说的:中国80后、90后的孩子光会在家里对着爸爸、妈妈、爷爷、奶奶、外公、外婆凶?

Is the couple too weak and cowardice? There is nothing to fear about ordinary Japanese citizens in China. Is it because these Chinese kids, born in the 1980s and 90s, only dare to be arrogant towards their parents and grandparents, but no one else?

Finally, Wan Xiaodao, who calls himself a migrant worker born in the 1980s, offers a few explanations on why Chinese kids nowadays and Chinese in general are cowardice. From his sina blog:

一,现在的中国青年体质太弱,打不过日本人。我们所谓的素质教育,提高不了中国学生的身体素质。我们中国的大多数数家庭,从小生怕孩子受点累吃点苦,被称之为“温室的花朵”一点也不为过。而日本人恰恰相反,以前从新闻里看到,日本学校在冬天还让小孩赤身锻炼身体。如果在中国,这可能吗?中国家长估计会状告学校虐待他的孩子。

1. Chinese youth nowadays are too weak to fight against Japanese. Our so-called quality education cannot raise the physical fitness of Chinese students. Most Chinese families spoil their children, and it is not too far off to describe these children as ‘flowers in the greenhouse.’ It is exactly the opposite in Japan. I saw from the news that Japanese schools train kids physically in the hash cold winter by leaving them naked. Is this possible in China? The parents would certainly sue the schools for mistreating their children.

二,中国人被欺压惯了,大多数不知道反抗,姑且称之为历史原因。中国人民每个时代都受着这样那样的欺压,被外族,被帝国主义,被中国三座大山,被现在贪官、奸商还有黑涩会恶霸欺压。中国人在家里被宠坏了,在学校又被驯坏了,步入社会只会蔫坏了。历史课本上说,几个日本兵押着上千名中国人,却没人敢反抗。从日本宝马车主暴打中国情侣事件上,可以看出现在的中国人在这方面进步了,但并不够。人多的时候,互相壮着胆子起哄,人少的时候,都缩着头做乌龟。

2. Chinese are used to being bullied to the extent that they have become indifferent. Let’s assume this is due to historical reasons. Depending on the time, it might be due to foreigners, imperialism, the ‘three big mountains’ [note: the high costs of healthcare, housing and education in China], corrupted officials or crony businessmen. At home, the Chinese are spoiled; at school, they are tamed; in society, they are exhausted. History books say that a few Japanese soldiers can escort over a thousand Chinese, who dared not mutter a word. From the BMW incident, we can see that the Chinese have improved, but this is far from enough. When we are many, we uproar; outnumbered, we chicken out.

三,大多数中国人在有权贵面前没有尊言,他们受欺压贯了,自已都认为低人一等。如果宝马车主不是日本人,是中国人,结果会怎么样?该青年还是会被打,打了还是不敢还手。[…] 大概围观者都会看看热闹。一来,他们对付不了现今权贵,二来在这些围观者心中,民族主义更强于正义。[…] 我很怀疑围观者怒砸宝马车是因为正义,更多的是因为车主是日本人。

3. Many Chinese do not have dignity in front of the rich and powerful. Used to being bullied, they view themselves as second-class citizens. If the BMW driver is not a Japanese, but a Chinese, what would the result be? That young lad would still be beaten up, and he would dare not fight back. […] There would be many onlookers, who are helpless about abuses by the powerful, and are more concerned about nationalism than justice. […] I reckon that the onlookers are angry because the driver is a Japanese rather than it is unjust.

四,中国政府……这一条就不多说了。我一说,就整篇就会被和谐。最近好像被盯上了,接二连三的删除我博文。卖糕的。

4. The Chinese government…… on this I would not say much, otherwise this article would be harmonized. Recently, my blog seems to be under monitor, and quite a few posts have been deleted [by the authority]. This is shit.

It seems this accident has shown many complex issues surrounding Chinese nationalism. In other countries, this could easily be interpreted as a normal incidence of inappropriate behavior. In China, however, just because one of the parties is Japanese, this provokes a lot of sensitive sentiments. It also provokes a sense of inferiority, which is attributed to the many injustices happening in China. In a sense, nationalism is a way for Chinese people to vent their anger about social problems, towards which they feel helpless. If anything, this should make the Chinese government wary of any extreme forms of nationalism, for it could easily turn from xenophobia to discontents about China’s own social problems, and, by extension, the rule of the Chinese Communist Party.

10 comments

  • Can you really take this one single incident as an example for all Japanese? I do not think that Japanese in general would behave so badly in China, would they?
    I mean, it is the same with Germans (I am German). Some behave like assholes when they are on vaccation somewhere, and others are really polite and friendly.

  • The Japanese driver and car owner have behaved in exactly the same manner as Chinese drivers of BMWs and Buicks, whose appalling emperor syndrome antics I’ve witnessed on many occasions.

    • Sonagi

      You are correct, Stuart. In fact, I recall a similar mob that formed on the campus of either Qinghua or Beida after a driver got into a scuffle with a bicyclist. I wonder about the accuracy of the account given by Chinese witnesses. My perception of Japanese living in China is that they were very low key and avoided conflicts in public, in part because of awareness of anti-Japanese sentiments. I believe the car hit the bicyclist, but the accusations of insults and slurs and who threw the first punch may be embellished details to heighten the we-versus-they story plot.

  • I don’t think this incident could be in any condition an representative example of all Japanese. But the opinions on Chinese forums are quite representative.

    • Sonagi

      You’re right about that, Portnoy. In the comments, “Korea” and “Koreans” could easily be substituted for “China” and “Chinese,” as Koreans exhibit the same complex and conflicting notions of insecurity, pride, victimhood, and anger.

  • Lee

    Reading this reinforces my believe that China cannot afford to have democracy. I think these guys want war!

    Have a read of the following article, and then imagine what would happen if China was a democracy like India:

    http://indiaschinablog.blogspot.com/2010/03/you-scratch-my-back-but-i-wont-scratch.html

  • harlen

    Is this real.. I don’t see it on any of the major news sites
    And BMWs are really the Chinese luxury car of choice..

  • One has to look at the deep roots of a cultures belief system. I love Japan and I also love China and what both these culture have given in my life. But there is a deep belief and very old belief system that lays dormant in the Japanese collective unconsciousness they believed they were direct descendants from the Goddess Amaterasu the Sun Goddess which makes them superior race then everyone else….this is the old belief system help start world war 2. It is no different then the the Germans believing they were a super race in during the time of Hitler. Or the Born again Christians thinking they will be the only ones saved. Or the Jews think they are God’s Chosen Ones. These old programs are hidden in the collective unconscious mind. We need to clean this out of ourselves individual and realize we all came from God and all will return… Amaterasu being the symbol of the Higher Self…..this is the roots of programs that brings separation between different cultures and also religions. And that is why we should know our history.

  • cm

    I do not believe for one minute, this supposed true account of this incident in the Chinese media. A lot of it sounds like it was made up which was designed to feed up on insecurities of the Chinese. We’ve seen this before with Anti-Korean bashings in China, where anti Korean hate is mostly driven by rumors on the internet and phony stories printed in the Chinese media.

  • laojames

    can we just all get alone?!…why people have to thrive on conflict all the time? Let bygone be bygone.

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