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02/01/2006

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Date Posted: 10:34 09/02/2004



Bombs, Bumpkins And The Idiocy Of Rural Life

Logic goes out of the window


IRRATIONALITY is a problem in China, as it is in the rest of the world, and people frequently act without any sense of logic or proportion whatsoever. Last Friday's China Daily tells of a man in Nanjing who stabbed a sales assistant in a book shop when the latter asked him to put out his cigarette, which seems excessive. There was also a story a few months ago about a woman in Xi'an trying to stop an ex-boyfriend from hassling her. She did so, quite comprehensively, by setting off a bomb in the nightclub the boyfriend often visited, killing several other people in the process. We also hear about business disputes that culminate in almighty conflagrations, or in the death by rat poison of dozens of innocent diners. In other rat poison cases, a kindergarden head in Guangdong Province sneaked into a rival's school and poisoned 70 kids, while in Henan Province, a water-purifier salesman contaminated a reservoir just in order to boost sales.

Today the China News Service has a story about a love affair in Sichuan Province going wrong, when a spurned lover – a taxi driver – decided to get his revenge by starting a petrol fire at his old flame's dormitory, killing five, including a seven-year old girl. Another case, also revealed on the China News Service today, tells the tale of a man who shot a hairdresser in the muff with an air gun because he apparently thought she was too pretty.

The government often talks about improving the 'quality' or suzhi of the Chinese population, and is doing so again this week, with details of a new 'population development strategy' emerging in today's People's Daily. They mean to say that much of rural life in China is beset by superstition, idiocy and outright infamy. If the peasants aren't blowing up in illegal coalmines, they are carrying unstable explosive materials onto crowded trains, blithely throwing each other into incinerators, or blinding and poisoning each other with moonshine stolen from nearby chemical plants.



It's the quality of the education of course, itself connected to the brute poverty that still blights most of China's countryside, despite considerable improvements in the last two or three decades. For Westerners, it is sometimes hard to appreciate how vile and cheap rural life can be. The Chinese know all too well.

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