Tag Archives: harmonious society

China – Under The Hood: Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil

Yesterday’s autumnal afternoon was typical of late: drizzling, murky and, if you found yourself in the middle of Hangzhou’s snarling traffic, chaotic. Thanks to a very impressive and convenient public bicycle system, I was cycling along minding my own business when, without warning, a real nasty piece of work, the local equivalent of a Hell’s Angel on an electric-bicycle, the ultimate street menace, tried to squeeze in front of the metre distance separating my pedal bicycle and the plastic bollard dividing our bicycle lane from the regular traffic lane. Unluckily for me his sudden, impulsive, totally devoid of conscience, maneuver was never going to work and I came off much worse in what was another surreal Hangzhou moment.

Within a flash there’s spread-eagled me and a mangled bicycle sprawled on the grimy black surface. The first thought to enter my mind was whether I should get up and strangle him? Meanwhile, the peloton of E-bikes and bicycles behind me had stopped. Waiting in readiness:

Urchin, with the jumpy smile, and everyone else from ‘rent a crowd’, was impassively staring at me waiting for me to pick myself up. Not one helping hand 漠不关心 (‘mo bu guan xin’ or “completely unmoved or indifferent) as I lay there.

Amid the spectators and the ‘raring to go’ din of more and more impatient bicycle bells, honking e-bike and motorised tricycle horns and blackboard screeching brakes no more than two or three metres behind me, I could hear the repeated words “你看他是老外!”, or simply “老外!” (‘ni kan ta shi lao wai’ a derogatory term for “foreigner”, “look he’s a foreigner!”).

As soon as I managed to shove the bicycle a few inches out of the way with my foot the horde was once again on the move, cautiously filing through the narrow gap I had created, all wearing the same sheepish gaze I have witnessed so many times while living in China: The ‘Three Wise Monkeys’ code of silence ― ‘Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.’ What happens to a stranger outside their immediate comfort zone of family and friends is none of their business, so best to flee rather than be blamed for any injuries the “老外” lao wai may have sustained.

No doubt I’d be the topic of conversation amid the cacophony of slurps over their next bowl of noodles. Now looking back, I am rather surprised that for added conversational embellishment one of the quick thinking onlookers didn’t have the ‘cop on’ to take out her iPhone and snap a photo of me sprawled on roadside with wrecked bicycle. On second thoughts such an exercise would have risked losing the Teacup Poodle peeking out of her designer handbag. In any case, I seriously doubt that any conversation about me would have decried the pathetic apathy or laziness of the renmin who left me on the ground, not bothering to offer any assistance: 漠不关心.

China Under The Hood - Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil - Something like 1,000,000 electric bicycles stalk the streets of Hangzhou

Something like 1,000,000 electric bicycles stalk the streets of Hangzhou

As for me I finally made my way to the hospital.

I couldn’t wrap up this exposé from the harmonious society of Hangzhou without a special mention about local hospitality as witnessed yesterday: Mind numbing, really touching indeed. It certainly gives a special resonance to the recent incident down in Foshan City where little Wang Yue was run over by two vans and ignored by 18 passers-by http://wp.me/p15Yzr-jJ.

The ethic of the jungle ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,’ looking out for yourself, may have been expedient in the dark days of Mao Zedong’s revolution. However, here in a China subjected to dramatic economic and social changes in nearly all aspects of life on an unprecedented scale, the gazes of indifference and lack of compassion for a fellow human being, as witnessed yesterday, patently reveal a public engulfed by a great moral vacuum, empty of imagination, hope and of any future… not really the hallmarks of a harmonious society.

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Filed under China, Chinese, Culture, Hangzhou, Indifference

China – Under The Hood: Tinder box – China’s long hot summer

It’s the height of summer here in Hangzhou and it’s extremely hot…. Like sizzling! However, the degree of how hot varies between what is official and what the common man and woman on the street knows and feels.

Official hot (government offices, factories, etc are mandated to close if the official temperature hits 40 degrees Celsius) versus unofficial hot: Mary, who runs the GoMax tea and fruit drink outlet near my apartment, insists her thermometer showed an outside temperature reading of 42 degrees Celsius, but officially it was still 37 degrees Celsius.

People like Mary are increasingly aware of the alternative perspective: The truth uniquely experienced and the massive amount of shared beliefs gleaned from micro-blogging websites such as Sina Weibo.   Worn out by the never-ending official pronouncements, a tinder box situation of growing antipathy towards the way Official China is being run and directed is palpable.

Today, China’s rising prices, ever increasing income disparities, a mode of governance that pursues rapid economic growth and infrastructue development above all else, unrelenting corruption scandals, and a lack of transparency and accountability are testing this populace like never before.

And the spark?

Translation: “The Derailed Country

You ask, why are they acting like a bunch of lunatics?

They think they’re the picture of restraint.

You ask, why can’t they tell black from white, fact from fiction?

They think they’re straight shooters, telling it like it is.

You ask, why are they running interference for murders?

They think they’ve thrown their friends under the bus. And they’re ashamed.

You ask, why all the cover-ups?

They think they’re letting it all hang out.

You ask, why are they so irretrievably corrupt?

They think they’re hardworking and plain-living.

You ask, why are they so infuriatingly arrogant?

They think they’re the picture of humility.

You feel like you’re the victim. So do they.

They think: “During the Qing Dynasty, no one had television. Now everyone has a television. Progress!”

They think: “We’re building you all this stuff, what do you care what happens in the process? Why should you care who it’s really for, so long as you get to use it? The train from Shanghai to Beijing used to take a whole day. Now you’re there in five hours (as long as there’s no lightning). Why aren’t you grateful? What’s with all the questions?

“Every now and then, there’s an accident. The top leaders all show how worried they are. We make someone available to answer journalists’ questions. First we say we’ll give the victims 170,000 kuai apiece. Then we say we’ll give them 500,000. We fire a buddy of ours. We’ve done all that, and you still want to nitpick? How could you all be so close-minded? You’re not thinking of the big picture! Why do you want us to apologize when we haven’t done anything wrong? It’s the price of development.

“Taking care of the bodies quickly is just the way we do things. The earlier we start signing things, the more we’ll have to pay out in the end. The later we sign, the smaller the damages. Our pals in the other departments—the ones who knock down all the houses—taught us that one. Burying the train car was a bonehead move, true, but the folks upstairs told us to do it. That’s how they think: if there’s something that could give you trouble, just bury it. Anyway, the real mistake was trying to dig such a huge hole in broad daylight. And not talking it over with the Propaganda Department beforehand. And not getting a handle on all the photographers at the site. We were busy, ok? If there’s anything we’ve learned from all this, it’s that when you need to bury something, make sure you think about how big it is, and make sure you keep the whole thing quiet. We underestimated all that.”

They think that, on the whole, it was a textbook rescue operation—well planned, promptly executed, and well managed. It’s a shame public opinion’s gotten a little out of hand, but they think, “That part’s not our responsibility. We don’t do public opinion.”

They’re thinking: “Look at the big picture: We had the Olympics, we canceled the agricultural tax, and you guys still won’t cut us a break. You’re always glomming on to these piddling little details. No can-do spirit. We could be more authoritarian than North Korea. We could make this place poorer than the Sudan. We could be more evil than the Khmer Rouge. Our army’s bigger than any of theirs, but we don’t do any of that. And not only are you not thankful, but you want us to apologize! As if we’ve done something wrong?”

Society has people of means, and those without. There’s people with power, and those that have none. And they all think they’re the victim. In a country where everyone’s the victim, where the classes have started to decouple from one another, where it’s every man for himself, in this huge country whose constituent parts slide forward on inertia alone—in this country, if there’s no further reform, even tiny decouplings make the derailings hard to put right.

The country’s not moving forward because a lot of them judge themselves as if Stalin and Mao were still alive. So they’ll always feel like the victim. They’ll always feel like they’re the enlightened ones, the impartial ones, the merciful ones, the humble ones, the put-upon ones. They think the technological drumbeat of historical progress is a dream of their own making.
The more you criticize him, the more he longs for autocracy. The more you gaomao him (piss him off), the more he misses Mao.

A friend in the state apparatus told me, “You’re all too greedy. Forty years ago, writers like you would’ve been shot. So you tell me, have things gotten better, or have they gotten worse?”

I said, “No, you’re all too greedy. Ninety years ago, that kind of thinking would have gotten you laughed out of the room. So you tell me: after all that, have things gotten better, or have they gotten worse?”

Source:

Attributed to China blogger Han Han and posted on Sina Weibo 27th July 2011 (it was subsequently deleted). 23 July 2011, two high-speed CRH ‘Harmony’ trains collided on a viaduct in the suburbs of Wenzhou, in southern Zhejiang province killing at least 40 people. Inept officials reacted to the accident by hurriedly finishing rescue operations and ordering the burial of the derailed cars. Result: Uproar.

http://chinageeks.org/2011/07/han-han-the-derailed-country/

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Filed under Accidents, China, China Under The Hood, Corruption, Damage, Economy, Hangzhou, Indifference, Poetry, Scandal, Security, Thought control, writing

China – Under The Hood: On Censorship

Censorship only needs one excuse to act in the interests of the community.

The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, but become blind to the arguments against it

(George Bernard Shaw)

Traditional Chinese code of silence

Traditional Chinese code of silence

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