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.
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.
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.’
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:
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:
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?
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?
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)
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:
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.
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.
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.