Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A context for the killing of children in China

Chengcheng Jiang, Jessie Jiang, and the editors of Time magazine try to provide some broader perspective on the rash of attacks on very young school children in China. They point to some big gaps in the capacity of the authoritarian system.

The Class(room) War: Assaults on China's Schoolchildren
[A]ssaults, mostly on schoolchildren [have] prompted questions about the state of China's mental-health care, highlighted shortcomings in the country's legal system and left the government struggling to stop the bloodshed. For a leadership that has emphasized the creation of a harmonious society, the repeated assaults have painfully exposed how distant that ideal remains.

The carnage has left at least 18 dead and dozens injured…

Deficiencies in mental-health care likely contributed to the recent bloodshed. At least three attackers had known problems. "What they all have in common is a lack of friends and family connections," says Pi Yijun, a criminal-psychology professor at the China University of Political Science and Law, "and they have no psychological support when they need it."…

The sweeping social changes that China has undergone over the past 30 years have left many people struggling to cope. Millions have migrated far from their homes in search of work. A rising wealth gap has helped stoke animosity between rich and poor. In this particularly Chinese milieu, pent-up frustrations are exacerbated by the lack of opportunity for conflict resolution. Disgruntled parties have little legal recourse when they clash with local officials…

How can pressure be reduced on fragile individuals? China's petition system, which allows citizens who feel they are being mistreated by local officials to file a complaint with higher authorities, is inefficient. One study found that just two out of every 1,000 petitions achieve any sort of results. To stem the flood of violence, says Ma Ai, a sociology professor at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, the government should improve the legal system. "In the long run, it boils down to building a society where everyone is treated justly by law," says Ma...

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