Insider, Outsider, and a Dying Toddler

You may have heard the news this week about a toddler in southern China who was run over by a small van (twice) and left unattended in the road while at least 18 people walked by without offering any assistance. The entire incident, from the girl first being run over to the arrival of a scrap collector who finally carries her out of the street was captured by security cameras and, as you can imagine has caused quite an uproar here in China.The video is all over the internet, but I will not link to it here; it's too disturbing.

Chinese social media exploded with discussions about how such a thing could happen.  Some say it is just another example of the breakdown of morality in a modern China that only values money. Others lay the blame at recent cases where bystanders have helped someone in need, only to be accused of causing the injury in the first place and thus being held financially responsible by the court. In other words, to help might bring the helper and his/her family mafan ("trouble"), both legally and financially.

Someone online started a "Stop the Cold-heartedness" campaign.

I also think that the insider/outsider mentality that I wrote about in my previous post plays a part in situations like these, which are actually common in China.  The difference here is that it was filmed for the entire world to see.

Interestingly, in all of the articles and analyses that I have read about this, the only journalist who's mentioned this aspect is Austin Ramzy, of Time who writes in a piece titled  Amid Anger Over Grisly Collision, China recognizes a Humble Hero:

"In his 1939 work Peasant Life in China, Chinese anthropologist Fei Xiaotong examined how social obligations were determined by the closeness of relationships. Fei "called this a concentric pattern of social relations with positions measured by how close one stood in relation to the actor," Linda Wong wrote in her 1998 book Marginalization and Social Welfare in China. "The more distant the location from the centre, the weaker the claim, so that ultimately one did not have any obligation to people unknown to oneself."

I don't know you, therefore you aren't.

Some are calling for the establishment of  "Good Samaritan" laws to prevent these types of incidents. I suspect that the cultural context of the Good Samaritan story was similar to China, in that there were clear distinctions between insiders and outsiders, Jews and Samaritans, and this is exactly why the story must have been so radical to those listening.

May we all (Chinese and foreigners) be more like the Good Samaritan, challenging cultural conventions and saying "God knows you, therefore you are."


Three more good articles:

Would a Good Samaritan Law in China have Helped Little Girl (Josh Chin, China Real Time Report)

A note on Chen Xianmei, China's most famous "trash collector." (Adam Minter, Shanghai Scrap)

Shocking Foshon Incident Reveals an upspoken illness at China's core (Yajun Zhang, The Guardian)



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “Insider, Outsider, and a Dying Toddler

  1. I think you and Ramzy are on to something with the insider/outsider dichotomy. When there is less of a fine for killing someone than for the financial obligations of wounding someone, I can see how this type of insider/outsider thinking can lead to some very dark and sad consequences.

  2. I am a Christian and I am a student of Mandarin. I am considering taking a course on TEFL online soon. I am 62 years old and I studied Mandarin years ago in college and since returning to Maryland near Washington, DC, in 2009 I started studying Chinese again. I tried to sign up to receive emails from you but a note said your website is not enabled for me to receive such. Can’t you just add me to your address book for email recipients? I would appreciate that.

    I read on thegospelinchina website not to think teaching English is needed or some other way to get into the country, but my real motive is to have a chance to evangelize. I read Bob Fu’s book and noticed that his English teacher was intrumental in his becoming a Chrisitan. I have heard other testimonies of people from China who became Chrisitans becuase of the testimonies of their English teachers.

    Helen McAllister