Smearing our country’s image

This story of a foreign female cyclist standing up to a driver in Beijing who was driving in a bike lane has made the rounds of the bike forums and mailing lists. I was, however, more disgusted than cheered by the story. The woman’s actions are, of course, laudable. But I find it abhorrent that the driver had his identity hounded down by angry “netizens”, and that their rationale for hounding him down was “we must get him to realize that his behaviour is smearing the country’s image and the face of Beijing”. Unsurprisingly, given this completely “pragmatic” attitude towards what clearly was a moral slight on the part of the driver, the driver himself was sorry because “the incident had hurt him and his family greatly”. As for this:

“The incident shows two things,” says one of the blog articles. “It shows the Chinese are self-reflecting people and readily accept positive criticism. It also shows the terrifying power of the Internet, its power to mobilize people and bare secrets.”

Am I just reading too much into it, or does that sound like nationalistic feel-good propaganda, reminiscent of those red slogans one sees painted on village walls? You probably have not accepted positive criticism if the only reason you react to it is because you want to preserve your country’s public image.

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