Revenge on Society: School Violence and Policy Implications

Crowd Gathers After School Attack in Taixing (Photo: AP)

Crowd Gathers in Taixing Following Attack on School (Photo: AP)

Last Friday I wrote a preliminary post on China Hearsay about the recent spate of school violence in China and some of the broader issues that had thus far been percolating in the media and in online conversations. At that time, news of the third consecutive attack on a primary school had yet to break.

For anyone that hasn’t been following these incidents, here are some of the basic details as summarized by AFP:

[A] farmer attacked children with a hammer at a primary school in eastern China on Friday before setting himself on fire — the latest in a wave of assaults that has left eight children dead and 50 people injured.

The farmer’s rampage in Shandong province left five children and a teacher hurt but in stable condition, Xinhua said.

On Thursday, a jobless man apparently angry over a series of personal and professional setbacks slashed 29 children and three adults with a knife used to slaughter pigs in an attack at a kindergarten in the eastern city of Taixing.

On Wednesday, a 33-year-old teacher on sick leave due to mental problems injured 15 students and a teacher in a knife attack at a primary school in southern China’s Guangdong province.

In Friday’s post, after reading some of the online chatter, I identified five hot topics of discussion:

  1. China’s income gap.
  2. Individuals who feel like they have no control over their own lives.
  3. Mental illness.
  4. The vulnerability of schools and students.
  5. Revenge on society.

Since that time, I would add one item: media coverage of the violence.

Media Coverage

Let’s tackle the last one first. Kai Pan has already written on this topic, specifically the controversy over government instructions to push coverage of the latest school attack off the front pages of China’s newspapers to make way for articles about the opening of the Shanghai Expo (and a lot of coverage of tough new school security policies).

Three explanations have been put forward:

  1. Minimize the possibility of future copycat crimes by limiting publicity of the incidents.
  2. Ensure that other important news, including the Shanghai Expo, is not overshadowed by “sensational” news coverage of violence.
  3. Minimize political fallout of incidents by limiting dissemination of these details to the public.

Cynics and China critics will undoubtedly latch on to the second and third explanations. These points of view are expressed in some of the comments excerpted by Kai. His own conclusion is that the government, in exerting its influence over the media to ensure adequate coverage of the Shanghai Expo, has made a reasoned trade-off that should be looked at carefully and not immediately dismissed as just another example of authoritarianism.

As one china/divide commenter has suggested, it is interesting that the government has not utilized the copycat excuse thus far, an explanation for limiting media coverage that is eminently justifiable.1 I agree, and since the government has not availed itself of this “out,” we will have to chalk up their actions to concern over Expo coverage and a desire to keep some of the more salacious details away from the public.

Mental Illness

This is an important topic that always crops up when violent acts are committed. Anyone who would kill children must be crazy, right? Moreover, it is certainly the case that China’s mental health services are inadequate and in need of more resources, better professionals, and simply more attention devoted to problems that are facing a stressed-out population.

At his New Yorker blog, Evan Osnos suggests that even if societal factors were involved in these incidents, mental illness is not getting enough attention:

As the Times points out, mental illness remains such a hushed topic in China that the British medical journal The Lancet, estimated that ninety-one per cent of the hundred and seventy-three million Chinese adults that are believed to suffer from mental problems never receive professional help.

But mental illness can only take us so far. It may be helpful in identifying individuals that may be more likely to commit a violent act, for example. However, mental illness does not explain why these particular individuals committed these acts or why they lashed out at young children, which brings us back to political and economic issues.

The Income Gap and Lack of Control

China’s rapid economic modernization has brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, has created a vibrant middle class, and has made many people fabulously wealthy. In doing so, however, development has created winners and losers as well as tension between the different levels of society.

Two of the three school violence incidents last week, in addition to many others this year, involve individuals who were experiencing financial difficulties. These cases are not limited to mentally ill people who terrorize schools. I wrote last week on China Hearsay of a tragic incident in Anhui Province, where a woman who had been taken into custody following her assault on an excavator poised to demolish her home fell to her death from the police station.

Greg Anderson, who touched on the topic of school violence in a highly recommended ChinaBizGov essay that delves into the “China Model” political theory debate, sees economic tension as the root of the problem:

Lately, we have also seen a rash of school attacks in China. At the risk of reading too much into this situation, I would like to suggest that these are further symptoms of disappointment among China’s lower classes due to their powerlessness. If this were simply a matter of mental illness, as some observers have suggested, then why aren’t the mentally ill stabbing children worldwide? Why is this happening in China, and why now?

There are many different terms one can use to describe this situation, including “class resentment,” “economic dislocation,” or “lack of control.” Evan Osnos refers to this as “marginalization” and describes how China’s rapidly-changing society has led to severe disorientation:

Whatever the combination of marginalization and mental illness, these cases are a reminder of how disorienting Chinese life can be in 2010. For those already fragile, there is not much to lean on. A Xinhua story about Zheng Minsheng, who murdered eight children outside their primary school last month, described him as “a ‘loser’ without a job or a wife and already middle aged.” Perhaps the best diagnosis of this phenomenon comes from an unnamed twenty-eight-year-old factory worker that a Los Angeles Times reporter encountered at the hospital in Taixing after the attack there Thursday: “This man was obviously sick,” the worker said. “But our society is very complicated. The economy has changed so quickly. It is hard to know where you are.”

The Policy Response to ‘Revenge on Society’

Although it is somewhat enticing to chalk up horrific incidents to mental illness and bizarre one-off  behavior, easy dismissal is difficult in the face of multiple iterations. Although our initial response may rightly be “What the hell is going on?” – the first sentence of Ryan McLaughlin’s Lost Laowai blog post on the school violence subject – responsible lawmakers will review these incidents for the proper government response.

The government may view these acts as one-off episodes perpetrated by deranged individuals, people lashing out at perceived societal injustice, or purposeful terrorist attacks against society (or the government). As discussed above, the “one-off” argument seems weak in the face of numerous incidents. So are these acts revenge on society, and if so, for what reason are they being carried out?

These acts have been referred to in terms of “revenge on society” (“报复社会”) since the victims of the attacks have no personal connection to the perpetrators. Moreover, primary schools/kindergartens have been described as the most defenseless part of society, making them attractive targets for people lashing out and attempting to shock the public.

Based on the lack of any political motivation, there seems to be no reason to believe that these individuals were targeting society or the government per se. With the common factor of economic distress, however, it seems that Greg Anderson’s characterization of these acts as the result of “disappointment among China’s lower classes due to their powerlessness” is a reasonable explanation.

The income gap and the problems faced by China’s lower classes is nothing new to policymakers in Beijing, and is quite a well-tread topic on China Hearsay. Indeed, the issue was foretold by Deng Xiaoping in 1992 while on his Southern Tour; in speeches that have become famous for glorifying entrepreneurship, he tempered his economic liberalization rhetoric with a warning about the income gap and class resentment.

Two current politicians that have taken Deng’s warning seriously are Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, both outspoken proponents of “rebalancing” China’s economic development, even if it means sacrificing some GDP growth. Their policies have focused on many of the problems that have been exacerbated by the income gap, many of which have been laid bare by recent violence.

The Hu/Wen administration in recent years have implemented progressive tax rules, particularly in favor of rural residents, have begun the rebuilding of China’s social insurance infrastructure, including the health care and education sectors, and have strengthened anti-corruption campaigns against not only outright bribery, but also the abuse of power that is often central to stories of residents “powerless” to remedy their economic situations (often involving property transfers).

The politics of the recent violence is difficult to pin down. On the one hand, governments always bear some responsibility for such events, even natural disasters and their aftermath (just ask George W. Bush). The fact that these individuals may have been acting out of frustration over personal financial issues brings the discussion well within the scope of economic policy.

On the other hand, the current administration has been fighting the battle over the income gap and economic discontent for several years now, pitting themselves against the “growth first” faction. To the extent that such horrific acts serve as a wake-up call to opponents of rebalancing, a more aggressive approach towards reducing the income gap may be on the way.


  1. For anyone interested, Yahoo News has a discussion on the copycat phenomenon with respect to these incidents []



33 Comments

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  1. -+-2

    “Cyn­ics and China crit­ics”

    I stopped reading here, you’re using loaded language to imply that anyone who criticises the CPC is in fact criticising China itself and that anyone who doesn’t trust the CPC is being cynical instead of making rational presumptions based on their past actions.

    This is classic China Daily newsspeak and according to your bio you’re not stupid so you’re probably doing this because you’re trying to maintain your pro-party credentials in order to keep both of your politically sensitive jobs.

    All your pseudo-criticism of the CPC falls within their narrow definition for the bounds of political discourse, you would never question their legitimacy or call for radical reform because if you ticked them off you’d be denied a VISA the next time you tried to visit China.

    • Bin Wang

      -++4

      What does this rant have to do with the substance of the post? I don’t understand why “radical reform” (READ: complete overthrow of the CPC) is, apparently, the ONLY path according to people who hold views similar to yours. Does this make one, per se, a de facto apologist for CPC wrongs if one actually believes that radical reform is not necessarily what’s best for China and the Chinese people?

      Jumping to the conclusion that the writer’s sole motivation is for self-gain/preservation in taking a non-radical-reform approach to Chinese politics is, itself, NOT a “rational presumption.” Just because people disagree with your radicalism doesn’t mean they’ve been bought off by the Party. To assume as much displays your own personal bias and agenda.

      Addressing a substantive issue in your rant, the problem is that in Joe Mainstreet American perception, the line between criticism of China and criticism of the CPC is often blurred. Cafferty said “‘they’ are basically the same bunch of goons and thugs …” and only later clarified that he meant the CPC and not the “Chinese” in general. Furthermore, the politicalization of the Beijing Olympics, allegedly meant only as criticism of the CPC, ended up being an affront to the Beijing Games itself, tarnishing an event important, not just to the CPC, but the Chinese people themselves.

      Do you think everyone who reads the paper and watches the news is able to clearly draw the line between encouragement to form a negative perception of the CPC versus encouragement to form a negative perception of the Chinese people or China itself? I assure you, they can’t … or won’t. And this is the issue of bias in the media that had Chinese students in the West up in arms a few years back.

      Simply, even if you think the CPC are “goons and thugs,” the Chinese people are not, and neither are people, Chinese or otherwise, who don’t necessarily believe that radical overthrow of the CPC is the best idea.

    • -+

      Man, I wish I had decent government guanxi. I’d have a much larger bank account.

      I think you’re fantasizing about some sort of authoritarian China populated by nervous critics and toady sycophants. There are many of each of those, but not everyone can be put into one of the boxes. In fact, we are trying very hard on china/divide to avoid either point of view.

      Not sure what the legitimacy of the government has to do with school violence . . .

      By the way, my bio says nothing about my intelligence. I could be a functional imbecile for all you lot know. Certainly doesn’t take a genius to practice law.

    • friendo

      -+

      What do you make of “I married my grandma” and “I gave my boyfriend AND my dog a STD” from Indiana?

      Civilization collapse incoming?

  2. lolz

    -+

    Considering China’s population I think it’s kinda hard to make generalizations on the recent school attacks. That said, like Columbine maybe the recent attacks will serve as a wake up call for some of China’s social ills.

    I don’t buy the notion that income gap would turn people into mass murderers. China has about the same income gap as the US and while you see mass murderers in the US all the time they don’t do it just because there are a few mega rich people showing off their money.

    I do think Chinese have very little way of letting off steam due to heavy censorship though. There are lots of injustices and unlike the Western nations people are not brainwashed enough into thinking that justice can be served.

  3. friendo

    -+

    Income =/= wealth

  4. King Tubby

    -++1

    These three school murder episodes combined with the almost routine “mass incidents” revolving around land/housing reclamations by local govt officials (oftern working cap in hand with real estate developers and hired thugs), reminds me of the Land Enclosure Movement which took place in England in the 17th and 18th centuries. A period of extreme stress between the lower orders and feudal landowning minority http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enclosure

    How did the dispossessed react? They burnt hay ricks, maimed livestock and cut down fruit trees, plus a good dose of Luddism. Ned Lud and Captain Swing.
    Well, since children in China are a families real wealth and their superannuation scheme, this is not a surprising development. And as far as causal factors go, I don’t think it is a useful exercise to slate it down to any one of the five mentioned above….more likely a mix of motivations.

    Now Stan mentioned Hu and Wen’s ambitions to rebalance society, an excellent policy directive, but I wonder whether it is just too late in the game. I would also throw in pollution and competition for rapidly diminishing water resources as another major social irritant. Anyway, I have yet to find any substantial report which shows this rebalancing act producing substantial results across the board. All very gestural to date.

    Now, shifting gears and going off the reservation.

    What has been the govts response?
    * beefing up school security aka “scientific emergency response”
    * more CCTV and surveillance of local pc rooms and other adjoining public spaces
    * giving students a basic knowledge of self defence – really big eye roll here.
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iyFKNk7rhWWWJNtc53ZbmSIOumZw

    Now step back a bit, and skim read this piece by Naomi Klein on China’s Golden Armour Project.
    http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2008/05/chinas-all-seeing-eye

    Okay, it is written for the American market, but it DOES tell us something about Beijings population management ambitions/directions. A pretty scary Orwellian vision of a new type of bio-politics as a work in progress (and not just peculiar to to the PRC, I should add…the Brits are well up in this game.) But China, in the absence of any well-grounded ROL and and with its overwhelming concern for state security….don’t even think about it.

    These school incidents simply make the Armour project a lot more urgent.

    Down the track> an avator will travel with all citizens and be able to be scanned anywhere, anytime. Containing a GPS, your bio-stats, your net entries and a security rating. They are working on the convergences right now.
    Apologies for the length, but I had to scratch that itch.

    .

    • -+-1

      Re: Hu and Wen policies, it’s a fair point. I’ve made that general comment in the past, and I usually add a disclaimer about rhetoric vs. results. All one can say is that these guys are on the record in favor of such policies and have actually passed some measures that look like good ideas (e.g. tax phase outs for rural poor).

      I like to encourage that sort of thing — it’s better than not trying at all. Whether they actually work or not in the long run is another matter, and I am always a skeptic.

    • Bai Ren

      -+

      Tubby,
      Good on you for bringing up the golden shield at a time like this when the public message starts with fear and moves to how the government will provide security through universal policey measures.

      The less these instances are throughouly and individualy investigated and publicaly explained (as I doupt they ever really will be) and the more they can be explained as mental illess, the failier of current security measures and equally preventable, the more comforting security restrictions appear to the people.

      Bing Bing Bing you up

      • King Tubby

        -+

        Bai Ren Many thanks. How about my very last paragraph….the idea of everybody travelling with their own info/security avator. Sounds sci fi, but believe me, it is the ambition, and the convergences are being developed right now in China and the US. Every security lapse is an opportunity for these guys as you note.

        • Bai Ren

          -+

          Isn’t this how the Hukou is being developed? I heard a year ago or something about cisco or someone helping to integrate tracking informaiton etc into identity cards. Furthermore I have heard something about new tech for bank cards which would allow shoppers to avoid lines and upon walking out of a store with merchandise the stuff you have would be charged to your account. This is all hearsay from a few colleges and from long lost podcasts and radio programs. But your talk of an avitar is on the same track of this and has reminded me of it

  5. -+

    Let’s keep in mind that income inequality is, if anything, a contributing factor to these acts. Whether it is a proximate cause, or even a but/for cause, may be something worth discussing, but no one is, or should be, saying that it is the only reason for these incidents. If that was the argument, the easy counter would be “Why aren’t poor people all over the world cutting up children with knives?”

    Moreover, income inequality and related issues seems to be a common factor to most of these incidents, but not necessarily all of them. Other things can push mentally unstable folks over the edge as well.

    Despite all of this, it’s still useful to discuss the problem of income inequality (and others, like mental illness) and its contribution to the problem.

    • King Tubby

      -+

      Stan. I’m more interested in views on the second part of my post. Envisioning the future of state security mechanisms in China. There is a lot of good stuff in your piece to bounce off. Me. Bit sceptical since, while Beijing pronounces, provinces pretty well do what they like.

      • -++1

        I wrote a related post on China Hearsay this morning about the poor kids that will be subjected to all this new security crap. The post is tongue-in-cheek, but it is on your point, sort of.

        Yeah, most of this will happen, but it may not be implemented all of a sudden because of what Beijing says. Because of certain types of paranoid thinking here (I’m trying to put this delicately) and the value placed on the little princes, it is inevitable that Big Brother will dominate school life.

        Will this spread to other areas? Will we have a London-style camera net here? Absolutely, at some point. Certainly the government would love the additional info/capabilities. What government wouldn’t? I’m sure Bush had fantasies about such things.

        This is barely an interesting topic of discussion insofar as it seems quite inevitable. One can think about the how and the when and the to what extent, but not the if. I expect that all this will come in waves, based on technology, budgets, and political will. The latter will be furthered every time we get a big demonstration, mass killing, or other outrageous event (yes, I’m thinking Shock Doctrine here).

    • Luke

      -+

      Income inequality is the factors on the surface. over the past decades years, ordinary chinese have a increasing perception of social injustice and grievances, particularly among the priviledged people. Those claims of Chinese government, such as three representitives, harmoney society, etc. are just the deception of ordinary chinese to stabilize the power and rules, but not into actions, or those chinese find those beautiful claims are used to benefit political and commercial elites at the expense of grassroots in practice. in practice, Chinese government have been engage in good words and bad deeds, which caused strong disatisfactory among many lower classes chinese. some awakened with rights awareness adopt various tactics to struggle for their rights, and the others keep suffering in silence until beyond the extrimity of their tolerance, who might take extreme actions with the harmful release of the rebellious feelings. especially unaccepted, Chinese government even recklessly tramples on the laws and regulations it makes that are conceived as unfair against constitutions. more or less. inequipty preveils everywhere all over the world. but if anyone is interested in the explanation of this phenomenon in China, he or she has to find the difference between China and other countries in detail. What happen to these priviledged people in China. And how the polices chinese government makes influence them in practice, not the claims. And how chinese government responds to the discontent.

      This is my understanding and explanation

      maybe it is helpful to get a bigger picture about china to read the books and articles written by He Qinglian, who has considerable insightful ideas. Her book, China’s pitfall, is well-written.

      Her blog: http://www.danke4china.net/ywwz/index.htm

  6. Jay (a different one)

    -++1

    There are about four to five times as many people in China as there are people in the USA. Assuming they are equally nuts, percentage-wise, then you would expect four to five times as many ‘incidents’ as in the USA, or maybe more, or less, depending on influence of education and culture.
    Taking the USA as model for all that is good and wonderful (as some do), new questions come up such as why the low incidence of disgruntled postal workers going on rampages in China, or for that matter, why do there seem to be less violent episodes in Switzerland or Vietnam?
    The fact that knives are used instead of guns may have something to do with the fact that guns are not as widely available in China as they are in the US.
    My hope is that this form of stupidity (sorry, can’t think of a stronger word right now) will blow over in a while once the nut cases learn that no, knifing kids also does not speed up delivery of your free new BMW, and they’ll go back to more effective methods, like smoking and drinking and playing cards, or making fake eggs (for the more entrepreneurially inclined)…

    • Jay (a different one)

      -+

      And while we’re at it, why were there four blokes knifing kids? Sure, there is an excess of useless males (as much as 20%?) in China, give or take regional variance, but why were there not at least one or two female nuts going around cutting up kids or spiking their food or something? Not a single incident comes to mind of Chinese women directing their anger or general nuttiness toward others, and only a small percentage of cases of self-inflicted whatsit….
      Or am I once again missing the point? Ladies, your comments…? (note one ‘d’ in ladies, thankyou).

  7. yangrouchuan

    -+-1

    Those with feelings of powerlessness going after the only ones they perceive to be weaker than they, that is what this boils down too…initially.

    I wonder how many of these child mass murderers have their own families, or are they the “bare branches”?? Their own lack of family (every man needs roots) and knowing that their economic and social condition may keep them single forever, leads them to lash out in this manner.

    Similarly, many animals kill the children of females to drive them into heat.

    With that said, I agree with Pusan Playa about Stan’s obvious kowtowing. Stan is weak minded and pathetic.

  8. Jones

    -++1

    “Cynics and China critics will undoubtedly latch on to the second and third explanations.”

    First of all, in agreement with PP on the brandishing of anyone who has a not-so-admirable point of view on something happening there as just being an overall “China critic” or, even more ignorantly named “cynic”.

    Secondly: From Kai’s article, he explaiend that the government’s message to Sina “suggested that front-page or home-page cover­age of the recent string of school knif­ings should be tem porarily halted “with consideration of the World Expo opening”.

    A lot of people will latch on to those two ideas because of the numerous times this “media blackout” strategy has been used in the past, and because they SAID IT THEMSELVES. Seriously, the message says “with consideration of the World Expo opening”. No mention of copy-cat crimes. No real effort to show they care about protecting the children with the blackout. You’d think they’d say that they’d want to prevent copy-cat crimes if they really were thinking that, but I’m afraid the copy-cat prevention is just an added bonus to the real reason they’re blacking out this information.

    I mean, hell, think of all the times an official does something stupid and it’s blacked out of the media. Or just try to get on Facebook. Oh, but, right I’m sure this time it’s for honorable reasons.

    • -+

      Dude, my post already says that we have to accept the Expo explanation since that is what was put out there in the public domain. I agree with you.

      My only reason for referencing “cynics and critics” is that they would naturally gravitate towards those explanations anyway, even in the absence of that notice that Kai included in his post (the majority of the public didn’t see that and yet many came to the same conclusion). I’d put myself in the “cynic” camp as well – it’s hardly a put-down and certainly seems like a reasonable observation.

  9. Goodness

    -+

    Has anyone seen that old move “Falling Down”? When I looked at those five hot top­ics of discussion:

    1. China’s income gap.
    2. Indi­vid­u­als who feel like they have no con­trol over their own lives.
    3. Men­tal illness.
    4. The vul­ner­a­bil­ity of schools and students.
    5. Revenge on society.

    all but numbers 2 and 4 sort of reminded me of that movie.

    But I think that there is precious little that the government can do because an important line has been crossed here.

    The first guy breaks the taboo (taking your frustrations out on innocent kids is no longer unthinkable).

    The second guy shows that it’s not just an isolated incident.

    The third and forth occurrences tell me that this type of lashing out has reached a sort of legitimacy amongst the ‘just ready to explode’ set.

    Good luck trying to put this genie back into the bottle.

    • King Tubby

      -+

      Goodness. Yes, but unfortunately I hate michael douglas. Irony, he and his wife starred in Traffic….drug dealings over the Tex/Mex border…and talk about art recreating life….the son of douglas and his wife/Zeta just got done for drugs in NYC…five years.

      The same film editor did Syriana based on the bio of Robert Baer, the CIA operative….slicker, but not as good. I didnt answer your question I know, but Robert Baer has recently written a book on Iranian Shiaism (sic), and it is highly recommended.

      • Goodness

        -+

        King Tubby, I thought Syriana had some good parts but over all, it totally failed to live up to the hype.

        Any laws that attempt to level out the income disparity or protect people from unwarranted ‘property transfers’ will be meaningless without the power of the people to hold the government officials responsible for their actions. Without it any laws design to protect the people can be ignored or circumvented at a later time.

        • King Tubby

          -+

          Goodness. I have mentioned the importance of ROL many times in past posts. As I have also said, Beijing can legislate till the cows come home, but it is provincial officials who make the hands-on-decisions re land useage. Local nepotism and corruption. And provincial govts are highly dependent on land resale to property developers as a source of income. Buy it per square metre for one price and sell it for another very highly valuated price. And I have that on good authority, since a past biz student of mine went thru the details in excruciating detail. One of the projects run by his family consisted of 8,000 apartments, and they had other developments in Xiamen within Fujian. The red envelopes were massive. I hope you now understand where I am coming from.
          Let me tell you about the Fujian judiciary….your hair would stand on end.

  10. Bai Ren

    -+

    Stan
    You summerize and critque the main streams behind explaining this recent rash of violence. Taking on the role of a sociologist are you? Could there be an underlying rational which connect these attacks on school children, or might there not be? Are they a coincidential with the oncoming end of the school year which marks the advancement of modern society’s individuals?

    You give the most detailed responce and annalysis of the last theme listed, a ‘revenge on society’ as a result from (yes I am adding this in) institutionalized class division based on wealth. Here you give credit to the policy implimentations of the Hu/Wen administration and mention education and health care to name a few. I must admit my ignorance on this issue, for while I am well aware of the harmonious society policy I know it for being little more than a silencer of dissent and a minor effort to promote development in China’s eastern regions.

    The movement to spread ‘modernization’ aka ‘development’ to Eastern regions is being experianced on the ground in many places as an ethnic divide. Big brother Han coming in large numbers to provide a model to those ethnically less adapt to modernize. I reffer you to Emily Yeh’s “Tropes of Indolence and the Cultural Politics of Development in Lhasa, Tibet” as a studied example of this.

    Admitedly by introducing ethnicity into this discussion I am distracting a tad from the focus of your blog. However, I would contend that in Chinese public sentimate a similar culturally based bais exists between city dwellers and rural residents as between the Han and the rest of the 52 minorities… at least on the ability to adapt to a ‘modernizing’ society.

    On this account I ask what on the ground changes have occured as a result of the Hu/Wen administration’s “bat­tle over the income gap and eco­nomic dis­con­tent”? Where might I find this information?

    Thank you

  11. max

    -+

    I haven’t read it, but Mark Ames of the eXile wrote a book about American murder-suicide rampages called “Going Postal” if anyone’s interested in further reading or maybe making connections. Think there’s a documentary out there too. His general point, from what I take from his other writings, is that as Reagan privatized the economy and the power of unions dwindled in the 80s, working class Americans were squeezed by newly empowered corporations at the same time they lost a sense of themselves as real workers (as opposed to say, 711 employees, no, 711 associates). Anyway, could be a possible parallel with China since the 80s.

Continuing the Discussion