The Japanese Train Controversy

Cam MacMurchy of the Zhongnanhai blog reports on the online furor caused by a train conductor’s decision to make a special, unscheduled stop by the Dalian airport for his Japanese passengers.

On August 22nd a train in the Dalian traffic section made an unscheduled stop close to the Dalian airport for some Japanese passengers. Thanks to the one-minute stop, the passengers were able to catch their flight on time. One of the Japanese passengers was so thankful for the gesture that he wrote a letter in Chinese to thank the captain: “The train stopped temporarily for us for one minute. This would not have been done in another country in the whole world,” he wrote.

News of the train stoppage has provoked controversy among Chinese netizens. Over ten thousand people posted their opinions online. Should the train have stopped? Would the train stop for Chinese passengers in an emergency? 90% of people online don’t believe the train would’ve made the unscheduled stop for Chinese passengers.

[…]Some netizens questioned the credibility of the letter written by the Japanese passenger. According to the report, the writer, who represented the Japanese passengers, wrote, in Chinese, “This would not have been done in another country in the whole world. The train stopped just for us at the Zhoushuizi station and the captain organized for us to get off in advance, which gave us enough time to catch our flight. This has never happened in daily life in China before. The captain even organized the police car to escort us to the airport. I don’t think this has ever happened before, either.”

Some netizens thought the letter was sarcastic.

The train conductor soon caught word of netizens’ anger, via his son who had been surfing online. In response, the conductor wrote the following statement, translated by Zhongnanhai:

First, why was there a delay? Due to the rapid growth of the Chinese economy and our large population, the demand for railway services is far higher than the actual volume. The report (the author references an original newspaper article praising him for stopping the train) said that China’s railway volume is 7% of the world’s railway volume, but in fact it stands at 40%. This is a huge accomplishment, but a big problem, too. This can not be solved in the near future due to the massive amount of investment needed for the development of the China Railway industry. We have nothing to do with the delays of Chinese trains. The acceleration of the Chinese railway system is at the expense of fewer stops. Lots of trains don’t stop at small stations. I hope everyone can understand these delays.

Second, why would we stop for those Japanese passengers? The seven Japanese passengers were late for their flight, which was due to the delay of our train. If they couldn’t catch the flight, it would cause them a late departure and maybe other troubles as well. It was due to our problem. There were two elders in their group and they looked really worried. Credit (?) records are very important in the developed world, so if there was a late departure on their passports it would cause other problems for them. From another point of view, Japan is a developed country. Our country needs their investment and has to import lots of advanced technology from them. I did it for the benefit of our country. It was a good opportunity to build a good image of China. There are no trivial things in diplomacy. If I didn’t handle this well, it would result in damage to our country’s reputation and foreign investment.

Zhongnanhai also translates some of the user comments to his response:

If it was Chinese, would you stop for them? I look down upon some people who caters to foreigners, soft bone! Double faced! It is not shameful to be in a low social position, it is shameful to have a low spirit.

I don’t think netizens are angry only at you. It is the common SUPER NATIONAL TREATMENT incidents. If “it won’t happen in any other countries in the world”, why we would sacrifice to please “foreign friends?”

October 24, 2008 11:31 PM
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