There are few nations other than China where families lavish such special attention on their kids. Certainly in all countries, parents love their children. But in China, entire families – mom, dad and both sets of grandparents — will place all of their hopes and dreams on one single child.
Parents will go to great lengths to ensure that their child has the best possible chance to succeed in life – slaving away at jobs they hate, saving every yuan, in an effort to make sure their child has a better life than they did growing up. They will put the child’s needs above their own.
The term “tiger mom” is often used of China’s millions of moms, who give up any semblance of a personal life to make sure their children succeed. And grandparents in China lavish unrelenting affection on grandchildren, playing a major role in kids’ upbringing.
That dynamic may be why killers in China are targeting children as young as five years old. As the Asian giant develops, deranged mental cases at times blame society for their problems – and seek revenge by killing society’s most beloved citizens.
In China, killing a child will destroy the lives of at least six others – the parents and two sets of grandparents – not to mention deeply impact the lives of aunts and uncles. Targeting children may be the most sinister way for these deranged killers to maximize damage against a society they feel, in their warped minds, has wronged them.
Plus, in China, with its special affection for children, the killers’ deeds will get much more attention in the media and in private conversations than if the violence were directed against adults. Often, killers with a beef against society want to make their feelings known to the public – that’s why they commit such a public act in the first place.
While the grievance against society may not be real – the killer’s problems may be his parents’ fault, his own fault, or the unfortunate result of a mental illness no one can control — it’s his perception that can cause him to lash out.
The latest of a spate of attacks occurred earlier this week, when a bomb killed eight people at a kindergarten. The attack occurred in XuZhou, not far from mega-city Shanghai, and was allegedly carried out by a 22-year-old man who may have been mentally ill. Aside from the eight people killed, over 50 were injured by the blast.
The killer, a university dropout supposedly struggling with a nervous disorder and working part-time jobs, looked like he was reaching a breaking point in the days before the murders. He had allegedly written graffiti in a nearby apartment building that said “criminals = fathers and mothers.” He also wrote “when a nation commits a crime, the nation dies.”
The attack came not long after an incident in May, in which a school bus driver in Weihai, in China’s east, set fire to his bus after losing overtime pay. The blaze killed 11 children from China and South Korea. In 2012, a man in the central prince of Henan injured 23 children with a meat cleaver. In May 2010, a 48-year-old man entered an elementary school and hacked to death seven children – the fifth such attack in two months. In March of that year, a man with a history of mental illness stabbed eight young children to death outside an elementary school in the city of Nanping.
MANY PEOPLE FEEL SHUT OUT
As China develops, there’s a growing amount of people who feel they’re not getting the breaks they deserve, in a country with a vast rich-poor divide. China functions very much on a system of guanxi. Loosely translated, that means connections. If you’re young and bright, chances are high that you’re not going to get promoted in your company unless your uncle went to grade school with the company’s boss. On the other hand, the boss’s closest relatives, who may be incompetent, lazy and stupid, may be moving up the ladder fast.
The system of rewarding people based solely on trust and not on their ability stems from the fact that people just don’t trust strangers in China. That’s because courts and law enforcement are often considered untrustworthy in China, so people feel they can’t rely on judges or police officers to settle disputes with business partners or employees. That’s why many people in China feel they can only trust their family members.
This dynamic shuts a lot of talented people out of good jobs and good lives, and causes much frustration among those who come from poor backgrounds and with few connections. While most will not lash out in violence, those kinds of conditions can have a deep impact on someone who is mentally unstable.
At the same time, those with mental illnesses often do not get the help they need, and their problems are often swept under the carpet by family members who are overwhelmed by the problems and simply don’t know what to do about them.
Add mental illness to feelings of being shut out from society while others thrive, and you’ve got a recipe for potential violence.
Some also believe the lack of religion and what they call a lack of public morals in China plays a role.
Christianity, for example, was decades ago crushed in China. While it still exists there – and is making a rapid return –Christian morals are not widely preached and churches are often persecuted for spreading their beliefs. The same is true of other religions, such as Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.
Religion, whether you believe in it or not, has taught people in nations worldwide the difference between right and wrong.
Confucianism teaches people to respect the elderly and love the young people and children. Taoism teaches people to respect nature and animals. Buddhism tells people to do good in this life in order to ensure you don’t reincarnate as a worm in the next life. Christianity preaches anti-violence, honesty and good will toward others.
But now, the philosophy among many in China is simply to get rich – and it doesn’t matter how you get there.
That is of course a simplification. There are those in China – including those who are well-off – who donate money to poor people, who volunteer to teach reading and writing to orphans and so on. But some critics say there are also millions of others who are focused solely on acquiring material wealth.
There is also the issue of not having enough women in society. Men are driven by a desire to procreate. Societies such as the Middle East, where men and women are kept separate (and single men are doing what nature tells them to do – i.e. chase girls), are often places where tempers are volatile and tensions run high. Why? Too many dudes and not enough women makes a lot of guys really frustrated.
In China, it’s seen as a man’s duty to have a wife and raise a family, and is seen by much of the lower-income population as the road to happiness.
But with years of a one-child policy, there are simply not enough women in China. That’s because couples pregnant with a girl child would often abort the girl and try again to have a boy, as boys were, up until very recently, always the desired gender.
Now, women can have many options in finding a husband. And those men who don’t make enough money for buy a decent apartment – which is increasingly hard even for middle class people, due to skyrocketing real estate prices – will have a hard time finding a wife.
That doesn’t mean every woman wants to marry a rich man (and anyway, rich Chinese men choose to marry models nowadays), but a husband has to be able to provide a standard of living by which the couple will not be impoverished.
For some men with a history of mental illness, loneliness, feelings of being shut out, not to mention sexual frustration, could be enough to trigger a meltdown and cause them to commit violence acts.
The government and its supporters point out that there are crazy people everywhere. They note the level of killings that happen every day in the U.S. are much, much higher than in China – a nation where murder and mass killings are not common.
Those individuals will tell outsiders to worry about their own domestic affairs before criticizing China. China’s government contends that it is focused on developing the economy, and that once there’s enough wealth and infrastructure, such issues will resolve themselves. The government emphasizes that every county has its own unique domestic issues and challenges, and argues that Westerners comment on China’s social issues without understanding the society or history of a massive country.
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