Little Wang Yue died on Oct. 21, but the issues raised by the ending of her short life are not going away.
On Oct. 13, Wang Yue, also called Yue Yue by her parents, was run over first by a minivan and then a pickup truck. Video from a surveillance camera shows she lay in her own blood for seven minutes while 18 people passed by pretending not to see her.
That video, which went viral on the Chinese Internet, has caused the biggest discussion ever among netizens and also within the state-run media about how morality has declined in China. That the netizens and the state-run media both have the same view about anything is unusual.
But the discussions about the simple decline of morality miss the point unless they consider the question, why? Why morality in China has declined has been much less discussed, for reasons that will become obvious.
The Trash Scavenger’s Story
The 19th person to come upon Yue Yue in the alley was a middle-aged woman named Chen Xianmei, who was carrying a gunnysack she used to pick up any trash that might be worth something. Chen pulled Yue Yue out of the road and yelled for help until Yue Yue’s mother, hearing Chen, came running.
Someone identified as Lin, said to be a professor of history at Harbin Normal University, made a comment about Chen that has been forwarded many times on Weibo, the Chinese microblog.
“Why did Chen Xianmei help Yue Yue? It’s absolutely not an accident,” Lin is quoted as saying. “It is totally due to her lack of education. She hasn’t read many textbooks, has no time to read the newspaper, hasn’t studied theory [in China, “theory study” means the study of communist theory], hasn’t willingly accepted the propaganda, hasn’t been transformed in her view of the world. The result is that she has kept her basic conscience.”
No matter who the real author of this comment was—someone named Lin or someone else—it goes to the very bottom of the issue: The true reason behind the indifference to Yue Yue is the communist culture. The less one is influenced by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) culture, the higher moral standard one can have.
Since she helped Yue Yue, Chen’s life has become difficult.
First came the attention from the local CCP offices. The Civilization Offices of the Nanhai District and Dali Township each gave Chen 10,000 yuan (US$1,564).
She refused to accept the money, saying that she only did what she was supposed to do. But the officials insisted and almost forced her to take the money.
Then came the media. Foshan Daily, the official newspaper of the CCP Foshan Committee, published an article with the headline “That Moment, She Made Foshan Proud.”
After that, someone on the Internet and her neighbors started to point fingers at her, saying that she had only helped Yue Yue because she wanted fame and money.
Tired of the continued visits by the Party and state officials, the attention from the media, most of which are Party mouthpieces, and the neighbors’ finger pointing, Chen decided to leave the city and went back to her hometown, hoping to get some privacy and rest.
Chen’s experience is not alone. In today’s China, anyone who does something good will immediately become a magnet for awards, forums, media interviews, and inclusion on lists of moral models.
The less one is influenced by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) culture, the higher moral standard one can have.
Her words will be quoted even though she probably has never even thought of the words that are attributed to her. The Party will be especially eager to claim credit, saying the good deed was the result of the “socialist spiritual civilization.”
The person will be labeled as the role model of the socialist moral standard. She will say many words that she doesn’t want to say and appear at many places where she doesn’t want to be. She doesn’t belong to herself anymore. She belongs to the Party and becomes part of the propaganda machine.
The award of money is absolutely necessary because, through this, the Party takes credit. Besides, the money is probably the only thing that the Party officials, who are self-proclaimed materialists, can think of as a reward for a good deed.
Turning down the money is not in the person’s power, just as with Chen Xianmei. This explains one reason why nobody wants to be a hero in China. Who wants to become the Party’s tool?
Continued on the next page … Causes of Indifference