Nearly 800 people were killed in traffic accidents across China during the eight-day Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holiday. The Ministry of Public Security said that the death toll was down over 46 percent from the same period of last year, but it was still an alarming figure.
This is today's China. Traffic accidents in the country claimed the lives of more than 60,000 people in 2011, equivalent to the population of a small or medium-sized European city. Traffic officials stressed that the traffic deaths occurred in China, with more than 100 million motor vehicles. Nearly 80,000 people died in traffic accidents in China in 1998, when the country only had more than 10 million motor vehicles.
However, certain people have argued that annual traffic fatalities in the United States, where there are more than 200 million motor vehicles, are only around 40,000 people.
The former focused on China's rapid progress, while the latter highlighted the country's problems. A combination of the two perspectives may contribute to a more accurate depiction of China. The once poor country has some sort of “original sin,” but is indeed “progressing rapidly.”
Every day, countless debates take place in China over whether to view the country's development vertically or compare every aspect of the country to the world's best level. The former perspective brings optimism and confidence, while the latter leads to frustration and anger.
Both perspectives are useful and should coexist. The latter provides China with broader horizon and direction, and the former is the country's development trajectory.
If there is only the former perspective, the country may become politically complacent and arrogant. If there is only the latter perspective, the country's progress may be totally negated, and its problems may be played up.
It should be noted that public opinion in China used to be dominated by the former perspective, when the country was always depicted as “advancing triumphantly” despite the existence of many problems. However, things have changed due to the reform and opening-up as well as globalization. Nowadays, the Chinese people already know their country's position in the world.
The latter perspective is becoming increasingly popular in China. It naturally ignores the progress China has made in the past few decades, and presents the country as an awful mess.
China should conduct both vertical and horizontal self-inspection. The just past eight-day holiday is both cheerful and somewhat “chaotic.” The chaos reflected China's rapid development as well as its weak points compared to the world's best management level. China is bound to deal with various problems on its way ahead.
It is normal to grumble, but appearing surprised and confused by China's problems is definitely acting dumb. It would be sad to see many Chinese people act dumb this way.
It is inaccurate to label complex countries like China as simply “good” or “bad.” Both statistics and facts prove that China is developing rapidly, which coincides with the intuition of most Chinese people. There are always problems, and the purpose of development is to solve these problems. Labeling a problematic country as “bad” is misinterpretation of development, and no different from quoting out of context.