School Violence in China and U.S. Spurs Reflection, Debate

On Friday in Henan Province, a man walked into a primary school and stabbed 22 children. None were killed. The same day, in Newtown, Connecticut, a man armed with at least three semi-automatic weapons shot his way into an elementary school and killed 26 people, including 20 first graders. The two eerily similar acts of violence against children have inspired inevitable comparisons, especially between the gun-loving culture of the U.S. and China, where guns are prohibited for personal use. For the New Yorker, Evan Osnos writes about the reactions he has seen in China to the Newtown tragedy and to America’s gun policies:

After the Newtown attack, a Chinese commentator with a nationalist bent wrote, “When I see these democratic elites pretending to condemn the murderer, it seems absurd. You are the people who sustain the gun policy. You are also the people who condemn the shooter.” And another:

As the ‘free, democratic, human-rights-based’ land of heaven, the one that has lectured other countries everyday for a hundred years about ‘freedom, democracy, and human rights,’ even to the point of armed intervention, America should calm down and examine its own gun-control policy.

It takes a lot to make China’s government—beset, as it is, by corruption and opacity and the paralyzing effects of special interests—look good, by comparison, in the eyes of its people these days. But we’ve done it. When Chinese viewers looked at the two attacks side by side, more than a few of them concluded, as this one did that, “from the look of it, there’s no difference between a ‘developed’ country and a ‘developing’ country. And there’s no such thing as human rights. People are the most violent creatures on earth, and China, with its ban on guns, is doing pretty well!”

The Chinese government has taken the opportunity to urge the Obama administration to enact stricter gun laws, through an editorial in Xinhua News Agency:

Obama said of the latest tragedy the country had “been through this too many times,” and it was time to put aside political differences and “take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this.”

Some people have noticed Obama’s tougher tone this time, compared to the Colorado shooting, when he called for “prayer and reflection.”

Action speaks louder than words. If Obama wants to take practical measures to control guns, he has to make preparation for a protracted war and considerable political cost.

But online comments translated by chinaSMACK show a different side of Chinese responses, with many comparing the government reactions to the two incidents:

The United States have lowered their flags to half-mast, I want to know what China has done.


Democracy is a very complicated thing, so complicated that it is the only thing Chinese people have not been successful in shanzhai‘ing.


We’re unable to treat the elderly well and we’re also unable to keep our children safe. We have no past and we’ve lost the future as well…



Yesterday, I watched an entire day’s worth of CCTV4 news. I watched how America is in chaos and an abyss of suffering, with guns spreading unchecked, and had no idea whatsoever about the extremely tragic crime in Henan! May the children rest in peace.


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