USC Murders Expose China’s Great Divide

A Los Angeles Times opinion piece highlights the shooting murders of two USC graduate students earlier this month, Ming Qu and Ying Wu, and the unsympathetic wave of negative reaction that has emerged in the Chinese blogosphere:

A comment on the popular site 163.com was typical: “Studying in America, driving BMW, a male and a female, let them die.”

Never mind that the BMW was a secondhand model and not the $60,000 luxury model the Associated Press erroneously reported initially. Or that Qu and Wu were not especially rich or well connected: Qu’s father is a manager at an insurance company, his mother a teacher. Wu’s father is a police investigator and her mother a retired textile worker.

Another commenter on 163.com posted this: “We should think about why a lot of families, even the poor ones, spend a lot to send their children abroad. This is meaningless. Studying abroad only contributes to American GDP…. Stop cheating us.”

The malevolence this tragedy generated grows out of deep divisions within China. The chasm between haves and have-nots is growing ever wider, and with it has come resentment that extends to the approximately 160,000 students a year — enough to populate three schools the size of UCLA — who elect to study in the .

The Dail Mail notes that the negative sentiment extended beyond China’s social media and into its official media as well, where reports claimed that the two were murdered for “showing off their wealth.” A China Daily report at the time of the murders also incorrectly referred to their car as a “brand new BMW.”

USC has offered a $125,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who killed the two engineering students while they sat in a parked BMW near campus, and a local councilmember has put up an additional $75,000. See also an open Facebook forum discussion about the tragedy.