After a Horrific Crash, a Stark Depiction of Injustice in China

Following the the death of 18 preschoolers when their school bus crashed after being filled way over capacity, netizens and the public have gone online to express their sadness and outrage. The 21st Century Business Herald went a step further, by publishing side by side columns about the numbers of children killed in recent school bus crashes, and the amount of money spent by government departments on new cars. The New York Times reports on reactions to the school bus crash and says that, unlike at many Occupy protests around the world, Chinese citizens are not most angered by the growing wealth gap, but by the unfair distribution of power and privilege:

As China sped toward its new status as the world’s second largest economy, the already yawning gap between the rich and poor grew wider. By sociologists’ calculations, income inequality here is not that far from levels that have spurred social unrest in other nations.

But some things are not easily reduced to statistics. There is an argument, buttressed by the Gansu tragedy, that what truly eats at people here is not so much the rich-poor gap as the canyon that separates the powerful from the powerless.

“Most Chinese aren’t angry about rising inequality,” said Martin K. Whyte, a Harvard sociologist who specializes in research on Chinese social trends. “It’s not rich versus poor. It’s the system of power and procedural injustices that they’re upset about.”

And in fact, many episodes in the litany of scandal and misfortune that has consumed Chinese Web surfers in recent years had little to do with money.

For examples of this phenomenon, see “My Father is Li Gang“, as well as the case of the 15-year-old son of acclaimed PLA singer Li Shuangjiang, who attacked a couple he hit while driving a car illegally, and another recent Internet meme: “Will you speak for the Party, or are you prepared to speak for the people?


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