Road rage ver­sus un­fair crit­i­cism

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

A21-year-old Chi­nese, sur­named Duan, study­ing in the US was killed in a road ac­ci­dent in Cal­i­for­nia re­cently. It was an other­wise or­di­nary ac­ci­dent, ex­cept that Duan was driv­ing a Fer­rari.

The news of the ac­ci­dent gen­er­ated some nasty re­ac­tions from some people, es­pe­cially ne­ti­zens, prob­a­bly be­cause the vic­tim was a rich man’s son. Some com­ments on the pop­u­lar Sina mi­cro blog are es­pe­cially scathing, with one ne­ti­zen say­ing: It’s bet­ter for him to die than to kill oth­ers (while speed­ing).

Ac­cord­ing to a Los Angeles Times re­port, how­ever, “the Fer­rari was trav­el­ing at an ap­pro­pri­ate speed in a 35-mph (56 kilo­me­ter per hour) zone, but the Hyundai (which hit the Fer­rari) was mov­ing ‘well above the posted speed limit’”. Be­sides, the driver of the Hyundai is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion on sus­pi­cion of driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol. In fact, so far, no ev­i­dence has been found to sug­gest that the vic­tim had done any­thing wrong.

Last week, in an ac­ci­dent of a dif­fer­ent na­ture in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince, a BMW driven by a young man named Hu Bin over­turned at a curve. Lo­cal po­lice saw noth­ing un­usual in the ac­ci­dent and said no one was in­jured.

But as soon as news of Hu’s in­volve­ment in the Hangzhou ac­ci­dent emerged, ne­ti­zens crit­i­cized him for be­ing a “show-off” who re­fuses to change. Some me­dia out­lets re­ported the ac­ci­dent in a sim­i­lar tone.

Per­haps Hu’s back­ground has a lot to do with it. Five years ago, Hu knocked down a pedes­trian on a Hangzhou street. And al­though po­lice later said that Hu was not speed­ing, the death of the pedes­trian prompted many people to ig­nore the of­fi­cial re­port. Hu was sen­tenced to three years in prison but was re­leased nine months ear­lier af­ter his sen­tence was com­mu­tated.

De­spite his crim­i­nal record, there is no ev­i­dence to show Hu vi­o­lated any traf­fic rule in last week’s ac­ci­dent. Many ne­ti­zens, how­ever, will have none of this be­cause of their ha­tred to­ward rich people like Hu and Duan.

Over the past three decades, China’s re­form and open­ing-up have helped many people be­come rich (and some, su­per­rich). While these people’s wealth has in­creased ex­po­nen­tially, there has not been much im­prove­ment in their haughty be­hav­ior and ar­ro­gant at­ti­tude. Many me­dia re­ports show China’s nou­veaux riches are prone to show­ing off their wealth in pub­lic and mak­ing reck­less re­marks that ir­ri­tate the poor, leading to sim­mer­ing re­sent­ment against them among the pub­lic.

Al­though some me­dia out­lets have played a du­bi­ous role by twist­ing some rich people’s re­marks and thus mis­lead­ing the people, the pub­lic re­sent­ment against the rich is per­haps rooted in the pop­u­lar be­lief that they have ac­cu­mu­lated wealth through dirty deals with the com­plicit help of cor­rupt of­fi­cials, jeop­ar­diz­ing the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion’s in­ter­ests. In­deed, the cen­tral au­thor­i­ties have in­ten­si­fied ef­forts to fight cor­rup­tion, but they are yet to root out such busi­ness-re­lated cor­rup­tion, which con­trib­utes to the pub­lic ha­tred against the rich.

Nev­er­the­less, crit­ics should dis­tin­guish be­tween rich people who have suf­fered tragedies, such as road ac­ci­dents, with­out com­mit­ting any mis­take from the haughty and nau­se­at­ing nou­veau riche.

Crit­i­ciz­ing people like Duan and Hu even when they have com­mit­ted no wrong is a dan­ger­ous so­cial trend. It is detri­men­tal to fos­ter­ing a rea­son­able and con­struc­tive at­mos­phere for pub­lic dis­course, which in turn will harm the healthy de­vel­op­ment of so­ci­ety as a whole.

In a so­ci­ety in which hold­ing a ra­tio­nal pub­lic dis­course is not pos­si­ble, ev­ery­one’s in­ter­est, in­clud­ing that of the poor, will be at risk.

To bridge the so­cial chasm, how­ever, we should not pin our hopes solely on the im­prove­ment in the sen­si­bil­ity of some ir­re­spon­si­ble ne­ti­zens. In­stead, we must ac­cel­er­ate the pace of build­ing a clean econ­omy and fair so­ci­ety, where people can get rich through hon­est means, by the sheer strength of their hard work, and the rich-poor wealth gap can be grad­u­ally nar­rowed.

China’s Gini co­ef­fi­cient, widely used to gauge the wealth gap in a coun­try, is 0.47, much above the warn­ing line of 0.4. Only when China makes sub­stan­tial head­way in bridg­ing the wealth gap can emo­tional out­bursts and un­founded crit­i­cism against the rich di­min­ish. The au­thor is a se­nior writer with China Daily. xinzhim­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

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