Once upon a time there was a man who was alive.

Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States
St. Cuthbert and Disciples in a Boat


Unquiet in the Middle Kingdom

A man with terminal lung cancer blew himself up on a bus in Fuzhou today, and it made the news somehow, which is the remarkable part. While I was in Mengzi there was a suicide bomber; it however did not make the news and no one would talk about it.

It happened a couple weeks after our group's arrival. Two girls in our group came by the scene shortly after the incident; the bomber was scattered across the sidewalk and street, and the blast blew out the front of a bakery and gashed a tree up. As far as we could gather no one else was killed; but then we could gather very little. By the next day everything was scrubbed up and the bakery was already cleaned out and the window repaired. By the next week it was restocked and open for business. Only the gashed tree gave any evidence anything had happened.

I walked by the scene the day after, along with a couple of my Chinese friends. I paused to look at the tree, and then kept walking. My Chinese friends were clearly nervous, and muttered something about 'bad people,' 'many difficulties in society,' and the like, and then didn't seem to want to talk any more. They had nothing to say about it, and I didn't press them. It wasn't until we were a couple blocks away that they started talking again and lost the uncomfortable stance. Clearly the whole incident was meant to be ignored, as if it had not happened. Thus we had no idea who had done it or why.

It was not until several weeks later that we learned that the bomber was apparently engaged in bitter divorce proceedings, and blew himself up as a sort of last desperate statement. Presumably he did not mean to do it in front of the bakery; perhaps before a government building or some such. For it is quite likely, almost certain, that most of these incidents are not merely the result of desperate suicidal people, who could otherwise jump off a bridge. Someone willing to carry out such an extreme method of suicide has other grievances. The man in Fuzhou no doubt was attempting to make a statement: there are some fatally flawed things in the administration of China. People are beginning to voice their opinions, usually not, fortunately, in such an insane manner, but in other ways. Protests, even full-fledged riots, are increasing in China, even if they do not always get reported. The average Chinese person is increasingly aware of the lopsided nature of China's economic system, and the massive advantages vested towards the Party elite, who hold and control so much of the wealth in China.

I found that one topic many students were willing to complain about was enironmental degredation, and the fact that the government seemed uninterested. One student told me that a river in his hometown had once held numerous fish when he was young; today you are lucky to find anything at all alive in it, thanks to unregulated industry. Another student complained to me about how the Chinese elite- who are almost entirely Party members- are able to manipulate the system in ways unavailable to the poorer masses. The son of a Party member with enough money, he said, can get access to any university he wants, regardless of examination scores. And so it goes: the elite rule and make money, while the mass of Chinese people must do their best in an ecnomic system titled towards the elite. One student told me, with a mixture of resignation and anger, that China is a 'feudal country.'

And then there are further grievances that would not be voiced to me as a foreigner, but still exist. They are being expressed though, more and more, through strikes, protests, and individual, sometimes inexplicable, acts, of the masses. This is particularly true among rural people: the very people who comprise the majority of China's population.

It is true that China is far more capitalist than it once was; it would probably not be innacurate to say communism is a dead letter there. However, the form of capitalism that operates there is not the same as American free-market capitalism. It is top-down government overseen capitalism. It will not be able to sustain itself forever. The Chinese people are not stupid, and though they have incredible patience and bear up under sufferings to an incredible degree, I do not think they will remain content with the flawed system they are forced to live under forever. There is unquiet and discontent in the Middle Kingdom, and it will eventually rise above the surface, one way or another.


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