By now many of you may have seen the Chinese video of the small child being hit, run over and killed by a van. Many people around the world have reacted and wondered how this horrific event could have happened. Let me play ‘devil’s advocate’ as I explain something from another point of view. We have seen this video and reacted from a Western Perspective through the cultural norms we hold as a society and define events such as this. I am not saying in China this is normal or accepted, but things are sometimes very different here. Before we judge and jump to conclusions we should try to understand the rules and norms of another culture that can be very different from ours.
When I first arrived in China I was afraid to cross the street; pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way and cars, bikes and mopeds often ignore traffic signs and signals. Lights seemed to be a mere suggestion and the size of vehicle and decibel level of a horn gave right of way. I soon learned that you must be very aware of your surroundings and continue to look and watch for traffic on streets, sidewalks and around every corner. Major intersection lights are often obeyed, but side streets may not. People do not look for traffic and use mirrors or shoulder check, but instead rely on others to beep to tell them of their location. Horns tell other motorists and pedestrians to look out. Streets are busy and sometimes waiting is not an option, so if there is space to squeeze through and jump to the front of the que than do so.
Slowly more and more cars are taking over the streets and traffic is a nightmare…. you think the commute in North America is bad? Many streets are not always equipped for such traffic. The result is many blind spots and traffic flow are obstacles in the way. Not to mention the completion for space from many modes of transportation all sharing the same roads. Bikes and motorcycles weave between cars because they can. Where we live in Shanghai, streets are wider and well-marked, but smaller villages, towns and older parts of cities do not have the luxury of rebuilding streets and must navigate and use what is there. It can cause many traffic issues that we never have to experience.This does not excuse the driver, but merely offers an explanation of how something like this could have happened.
Some people may question why was the child alone? Well again things here are different and we must understand before we pass judgement. Children are rarely in daycare. I am not even sure if there is such a thing. I see happy grandparents parading children down streets, through parks and in front of apartment buildings. I assume the grandparents care for the small children if both parents are working. If a grandparent is not available the children go to work with the parents. From small babies to small pre-school aged children I have seen children at their parents place of business. Now I haven’t seen this in larger stores, but markets, fruit and food sales people who sell their wares on the streets often have their children with them. The children amuse themselves with toys, sitting in strollers or wandering close by. These parents are often the lower-income earners and busy trying to make a living. The child is not being ignored or abandoned, always with in close proximity of a parent, but not under the same eagle eye we have on our children. Again is this wrong or merely different? These parents are no less responsible as this is their way of life and earning a living. The children have a bit more independence and know to come when a parent calls.
For another point of view read this news article from the Washington Post:
Global News also reported on this event and a Chinese-Canadian was quoted in how the West has viewed this incident and portrayed it in the media as China being “uncivilized”. Read more at:
This is exactly my point. We often view things from our own perspectives, knowledge and prejudice and then are quick to jump to conclusions without considering other points of view. Our culture and society shapes who we are and how we think. How can we judge another culture from our perspective and not consider theirs? The media perpetuates this and often shapes our views. This is where we need to be critical thinkers and not accept everything we see and hear.
Many locals are also upset by the incident and questioning their moral fabric of what has happened or should have happened. A few ‘bad apples’ should not shape our opinion or understanding of another culture, location or event without knowing and understanding all the facts. I certainly am not saying I am above this and all-knowing because I live here and completely understand the culture. I am only asking, as I always do, for people to keep an open mind and try to understand what it is like from someone else’s perspective before making judgements and jumping to conclusions.
Stay tuned for more…