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Nanchang Nightmare: Chinese Woman Stabbed to Death by 32-Year-Old Man in Apparent Random Attack

Manya Koetse

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Chinese netizens have responded with shock and sadness after news came out that a young woman was stabbed to death on Friday afternoon in the city of Nanchang, in what appears to be a random attack.

In the late afternoon of May 24th, a Chinese woman was attacked and stabbed as she was walking the streets in Nanchang’s Honggutanxin District. The victim, a 24-year-old woman from Ruijin city, was rushed to the hospital shortly after the attack but died of her injuries.

The suspect, a 32-year-old man from Nanchang, was arrested shortly after, The Paper reports.

Nanchang is the capital of Jiangxi Province in southeastern China, and has a population of more than five million.

While local authorities are investigating the motives behind the violent incident, security footage making its rounds on social media show how the victim was walking by the side of the road together with two other women, when the man suddenly came up from behind and started attacking her.

The man continued to stab the woman when she was lying in the street and then fled the scene. The incident happened within a matter of seconds, and left the woman’s friends in apparent shock and terror, unable to rescue her from the attacker.

On social media site Weibo, many netizens discussed the case on May 27, but related hashtag pages were soon taken offline. The topic also seems to have been blocked from the site’s “hot search” rankings. At time of writing, the hashtag “Nanchang Honggutanxin Stabbing Incident” (#南昌红谷滩杀人事件#) is still accessible and has more than 7 million views.

Many people have responded with shock and are unable to make sense of why the incident occurred. “She was killed in broad daylight, in the city center, while walking with others,” some commenters said, with many others writing things such as: “It was not at night, she was not by herself, she didn’t wear any revealing clothing, she wasn’t taking a Didi.”

Last year, two young Chinese women were murdered while taking a Didi cab, a car-hailing service comparable to Uber. These crimes became one of the biggest stories on Chinese social media in 2018, igniting debates on women’s safety in China.

In 2015, a man with a sword stabbed a woman to death in front of the Uniqlo store in Beijing’s Sanlitun area. That same year, another Chinese man stabbed five random women who resembled his ex-girlfriend.

“Many similar incidents have occurred before,” one commenter writes about the Nanchang case: “We can’t give publicity to this news because it might lead to other people doing the same and it’s very hard to prevent. We can only pray for the innocent life that’s been lost.”

Screenshots of a WeChat conversation containing comments by a person who claims to have spoken to the suspect are currently being shared on Weibo. The person talking in the chat alleges that the Nanchang suspect suffers from a mental illness, and was unable to find a wife. He supposedly wanted to commit suicide, but in order not to die alone, decided to kill a pretty woman to die together with him. These comments and alleged motives have not been verified by official media.

Many women on Weibo are expressing their worries, writing that it is virtually impossible for women to “be careful” if they could even be attacked in the city center in broad daylight: “How can we be careful? I’m embarrassed to tell people to take care now, we can’t possibly guard against something like this,” a female blogger writes.

By Manya Koetse

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar

    pak

    June 3, 2019 at 11:41 am

    that’s so sad. the gov should take serious of the people with psychology problems and do something to help them online or off.

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China Media

Lost in Translation? UBS’s “Chinese Pig” Comment Stirs Controversy

“Chinese pig” – much ado about nothing or an insulting remark?

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A report by the UBS titled “Very Normal Inflation” caused controversy on Chinese social media on Thursday for containing the term “Chinese pig.”

The UBS, a Swiss multinational investment bank, published the article on consumer price inflation on June 12. The author, economist Paul Donovan, wrote: “Chinese consumer prices rose. This was mainly due to sick pigs. Does it matter? It matters if you are a Chinese pig.” The same text also appeared in a podcast on inflation in China.

Global Times (环球时报), a Chinese and English language media outlet under the People’s Daily newspaper, lashed out against the USB for its “insulting” and “discrimatory” remarks.

Many netizens agreed with the Global Times, and see the “Chinese pig” remark as a joke with a double meaning, assuming that Donovan was both talking about pigs in China, as well as insulting Chinese people.

Some people suggest that if Donovan did not intend to make a pun, he could have written “it matters if it is a pig in China” instead. They argue that UBS and Donovan could have avoided using the term to begin with, and intentionally wrote it up like this to insult Chinese people.

There are also social media users who come to Donovan’s defense. Author Deborah Chen (陈叠) writes on Weibo that she has known Paul for a long time and that she knows him as a straightforward and humorous commentator. “There is just one kind of translation for ‘pigs of China’ (中国的猪) and ‘Chinese pigs’ (中国猪) in English,” she says: “If you look at the context, you’ll see he’s talking about farm animals, and is not humiliating the people of the nation.”

On Weibo, multiple people called the reactions to the article “overly sensitive.”

A commenter nicknamed “Taxpayer0211809” wrote: “The way I understood is just that China’s consumer prices have inflated and that this is because of the swine fever. Is this thing important? It is important if you are a pig in China, or if you like eating pork, for the rest of the world there won’t be a big influence.”

Shortly after the controversy erupted, the UBS and Donovan sent their apologies, which were also published by Global Times:

But some Chinese web users did not accept those apologies. One Chinese author wrote there was nothing “innocent” about the remarks made.

The article in question has since been removed from the USB website.

 
Also read: Bulgari’s Noteworthy New China Marketing Campaign on a Happy ‘Jew’ Year of the Pig (Zhu)
 

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

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China Books & Literature

Nineteen Eighty-Four Turns 70: Orwellian China and Orwell in China

“We still need independent, courageous thinkers like George Orwell. We still need 1984.”

Manya Koetse

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George Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty-Four turned seventy this week. For a country that is labeled ‘Orwellian’ so often, it is perhaps surprising that the modern classic, describing a nightmarish totalitarian state, is well-read within the People’s Republic of China and is not banned from its bookstores.

“Big Brother is Watching You” is the sentence that people around the world have come to know through the novel 1984 or Nineteen Eighty-Four, that turned 70 this week.

Nineteen Eighty-Four is a novel about a nightmare future in the year 1984. It takes place in a totalitarian state where the Party is central to people’s everyday lives and where propaganda, surveillance, misinformation, and manipulation of the past are ubiquitous.

The book revolves around Winston Smith, a citizen of London, Oceania, who works at Minitrue (Ministry of Truth) and who secretly hates the society he lives in with its all-controlling Party, the ‘Big Brother’ leader, and the Thought Police.

Smith is critical of the workings of the Party and the lies it imposes, which then pass into history and become ‘truth’; as the Party slogan goes: “Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

 

“Orwellian China”

 

There is probably no other country in the world that has been described as “Orwellian” in English-language media as often as China has over the past few years. According to Google Trends, ‘China’ currently is one of the most related topics people in the US are searching for when they type in the word ‘Orwellian’ on the search engine.

The topic recently most associated with Orwell’s novel is that of China’s Social Credit System. In October of 2018, US Vice President Mike Pence addressed China’s nascent Social Credit System in a speech on China, calling it “an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life” (Whitehouse.gov).

Since then, George Orwell and Nineteen Eighty-Four have been used more often to describe developments in China.

‘Orwellian’ and ‘China’ come up with more than 28,000 results in Google News alone, the term often being used with any PRC news that relates to technology, government control, and propaganda.

Ironically, many of the news reports addressing ‘Orwellian China’ and its Social Credit System (SCS) are, in the Orwellian tradition, spreading misinformation themselves, conflating different issues or presenting speculation as fact – see some examples of speculative reporting on the SCS in this list.

But also when reporting on China’s growing mass camera surveillance, the Xinjiang internment camps, the launch of the ‘Study Xi, Strengthen China’ [Xuexi Qiangguo] app, or the increasing use of facial recognition, the comparison to George Orwell’s 1949 classic is everywhere in the English language media world today.

 

一九八四: Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four in China

 

For a country that is labeled ‘Orwellian’ so often, it is perhaps surprising that Nineteen Eighty-Four is actually not censored or banned in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Since the first PRC edition of the novel was published in 1979, it has become a famous and well-read work that is available for purchase in Chinese or English in all big bookstores in Chinese cities or online via e-commerce sites as Taobao.com.

The famous sentence “Big Brother is Watching You” translates to “Lǎo dàgē zài zhùshìzhe nǐ” (“老大哥在注视着你”) in Mandarin, and often pops up on social media, together with terms such as “doublethink” (shuāngchóng sīxiǎng, 双重思想) or “Thought Police” (sīxiǎng jǐngchá 思想警察).

On Douban, an influential web portal that allows users to rate and review books, films, etc, various editions of Nineteen Eighty-Four (most of them translated by Dong Leshan 董乐山) have been rated with a 9.3 or higher by thousands of web users.

Reading 1984, by Weibo user @耀离Pinus.

“I like this book, it’s just a bit too dark for me,” some reviewers write, with others just saying the book is “very scary,” or seeing some resemblance with the classic works of Chinese authors such as Wang Xiaobo or Lu Xun.

WeChat blog Vopoenix recently stressed the importance of Nineteen Eighty-Four, writing that the novel is not anti-socialism per se: “What Orwell really opposes is fascism, totalitarianism, and nationalism (..), what he really supports is political democracy and social justice.”

70 years later, totalitarianism still has not disappeared, the blog writes: “(..) instead, it has evolved with the times in a more secret way (..). We still need independent, keen and courageous thinkers like George Orwell. We still need 1984.”

One Douban reviewer writes about their thoughts after reading Nineteen Eighty-Four, saying: “What scares me is that sometimes people will ridicule North Korea for being so shut off from the world, but what about us? We’re like frogs at the bottom of a well, but the scary thing is, we don’t even know we’re in the well.”

 

“Just a work of fiction to Chinese”?

 

Public sentiments about the 70-year-old Nineteen Eighty-Four novel bearing a resemblance to (present-day) China are seemingly growing stronger on Chinese social media recently. The book appears in online comments and discussions on a daily basis.

“I finished reading the book today,” one Weibo commenter writes: “The biggest thought I had is: this book is very suitable for Chinese people to read.”

“I can now imagine what those ten years were like,” one Douban user posts, referring to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

Nineteen Eighty-Four is the first satirical book I’ve read that comes close to the situation in China. If you read it, you’ll know what I mean,” another reader writes.

Different from English-language (social) media, Chinese commenters are not mentioning the book in relation to the country’s Social Credit System at all, but in relation to the heightened censorship that China has recently been seeing in light of the China-US trade war, the Tiananmen anniversary, and the Hong Kong protests.

One Weibo blogger writing a critique about the growing “bizarreness” of the “elephant in the room” (referring to all those big China-related issues that cannot be discussed on social media due to censorship) attracted the attention of Chinese netizens earlier this week (see the full translation of post here).

Many commenters spoke about the Weibo post in relation to Nineteen Eighty-Four, especially when the post addressing the censorship was censored itself.

Some commenters are speculating that Orwell’s novel might one day be banned in China.

Others also wrote that it seemed “like a miracle” that the book was not banned in China, and some suggested it might still happen in the future.

“It will be forbidden very soon,” one Weibo commenter speculates.

“The future is becoming more difficult, really,” one netizen recently wrote: “It’s nearing 1984 (一九八四), and [we] might not be able to see it later.”

But, in Chinese online media, Nineteen Eighty-Four is by no means only mentioned in relation to China. There are also those blogs or news articles that mention the Orwellian aspects of the story of Edward Snowden, or connect Orwell to Trump’s America.

In late 2018, state tabloid Global Times denounced the ubiquitous Western media reports on “Orwellian China.” Author Yu Jincui wrote:

Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic to Westerners, but it is just a work of fiction to Chinese and they are fed up with Orwellian style preaching from Western elites. This kind of conversation will lead nowhere.”

But many netizens do not agree with the fictional part. “Nineteen Eighty-Four is not a work of fiction, it is a record of our future,” one Weibo user writes.

“Is Big Brother watching me?” others wonder.

“The first time I read it, I just read it,” another Douban user says: “The second time I read it, I really started to understand. Here’s to George Orwell!”

Despite all speculation on social media, there are no indications that Nineteen Eighty-Four will be banned from China any time soon.

For now, even 70 years after its first publication and 40 years after its first Chinese translation, readers in the People’s Republic can continue to devour and discuss Orwell’s classic work and the mirror it holds up to present-day China, America, Europe, and the world today.

By Manya Koetse

PS: Some recommended reading on Social Credit in English:

* Creemers, Rogier. 2018. “China’s Social Credit System: An Evolving Practice of Control.”May 9. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3175792.

* Dai, Xin. 2018. “Toward a Reputation State: The Social Credit System Project of China.” June 10, available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3193577 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3193577.

* Daum, Jeremy. 2017. “China through a glass, darkly.” China Law Translate, Dec 24 https://www.chinalawtranslate.com/seeing-chinese-social-credit-through-a-glass-darkly/?lang=en [24.5.18].

* Daum, Jeremy. 2017. “Giving Credit 2: Carrots and Sticks.” China Law Translate, Dec 15 https://www.chinalawtranslate.com/giving-credit-2-carrots-and-sticks/?lang=en [27.5.18].

* Horsley, Jamie. 2018. “China’s Orwellian Social Credit Score Isn’t Real.” Foreign Policy, Nov 16 https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/11/16/chinas-orwellian-social-credit-score-isnt-real/ [10.6.19].

* Koetse, Manya. 2018. “Insights into the Social Credit System on Chinese Online Media vs Its Portrayal in Western Media.” What’s on Weibo, Oct 30 https://www.whatsonweibo.com/insights-into-the-social-credit-system-on-chinese-online-media-and-stark-contrasts-to-western-media-approaches/

* Koetse, Manya. 2018. “Open Sesame: Social Credit in China as Gate to Punitive Measures and Personal Perks.” What’s on Weibo, May 27 https://www.whatsonweibo.com/open-sesame-social-credit-in-china-as-gate-to-punitive-measures-and-personal-perks/.

* Kostka, Genia. 2018. “China’s Social Credit Systems and Public Opinion: Explaining High Levels of Approval” SSRN, July 23. Available at https://ssrn.com/abstract=3215138 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3215138 [29.10.18].

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