The news from Japan has highlighted the best and worst of how the Chinese feel about their neighbour and their place in the modern world. Here are a few extracts from posts in the hours after the quake struck.
‘zhynusan’ was ‘Happy, because all you Japanese dwarves have got what you deserved today... Sad, because the Japanese islands haven’t been totally submerged. How come so few of those f*ckers died? ... I hope that tomorrow I’ll be able to fetch a map of the world and say to my son “There used to be a country here, that produced stuff like Sora Aoi and Ran Asakawa [famous porn models], but it’s gone. And it won’t be coming back. Go tell your ma to kill that old chicken, ’cos we’re gonna have a feast to celebrate!”’
‘Fledgling bird’ posted ‘Quake on! Best if it quakes them all out of here! Tens of thousands of those Japanese dwarves are dead - better than winning the lottery! The filth, let’s all us Chinese cheer! Got off work and onto the net, and saw there’d been a tsunami, ho ho, felt really happy, if only it could’ve been bigger... I bet there’ll be people all over China having a wry laugh, ho ho. Serves them right. I don’t think China should be going to their aid... One thing that’s not so good is that there’s no word of a high death toll, but I think there’ll be more to come! A little tsunami like that won’t teach the Japs a proper lesson, let alone be a decent apology to us Chinese. I don’t know what the damage will cost, but it must be in the hundreds of billions in any currency. Looking at all those masses of cars, boats and houses, it’s a magnificent sight. I really want to go and take a look in person, perhaps offer the dwarves a tissue. We’re a civilised country, far better than their pissy little island nation. ... Let’s do them a half-second’s silence as a tribute, ho ho. Now it looks like there’s over 40 dead! Not enough - we need a few more, or it won’t be worth it. Come on, it was a massive 9 on the scale! May god bring another quake, amen! I pray that all the gods in the heavens bring storms to make it all the more ferocious!’
But another anonymous poster took quite a different angle:
‘The news of a big quake at sea a few days ago, with no injuries, had lots of you stamping your feet in anger. Looks as if nature heard your cries, cos today it struck Japan with a vengeance. Some of you are still asking “why at sea again? why only 20 or 30 dead? why not flatten Tokyo? can’t a tsunami wipe out Japan?” You haven’t exhibited a trace of sympathy, because Japan once invaded us and did such harm, and for that reason I hate Japan too. I’ve never called them “Japanese”, only “devils”. But in the face of nature we’re all equal. When others are in peril you can pretend not to notice, stand by and do nothing, but please don’t sneer and make fun, or get some kind of schadenfreude kick from their suffering. Some of you are saying too few died. What if one day we had a big quake, like the one in Yunnan the other day, and the Japanese said too few had died, how would you feel? ... Do we have to go on with all the same resentments and preferences of our elders’ generations? The best way to get revenge isn’t to bang on like you lot about “destroy Japan!” or “I’ll give my life to smash the Japanese”, or do you really want the flames of war to reach us again? No - we should strive for knowledge, whether in the humanities, sciences or arts, so that our technology, civilization and culture can conquer the opposition, and I think the Japanese would have no choice but to respect us.
[The buddhist monk] Foyin once said, “if you see people as shit, then your heart contains just shit, but if you see people as the buddha, then your heart contains the buddha”. I can’t forget the 300,000 murdered in Nanjing, of course. People can have things they hate, but mustn’t lack conscience. We could make a massive counter attack in revenge for Japan’s provocations, we can boycott Japanese goods, have an embargo on imports, but when we see lives being snuffed out by nature can we sneer and joke? If the invasion of China is the reason for your schadenfreude, well, have you forgotten the disastrous Great Leap Forward or the decade of chaos in the Cultural Revolution? That was your own countrymen doing the damage then, even more recently than the Japanese, and we Chinese killed more than the Japanese ever managed. Have you all forgotten? By your logic, when it comes to [the disasters in] Wenchuan, Yushu and Yunnan should we all just grab a drink and have a laugh, raise a toast to congratulate each other? perhaps let off a few firecrackers?
And another thing - all those people killed when those crappy buildings collapsed in Wenchuan, how are they going to get redress? Did the builders get their punishment? Aren’t you lot on a bit of a subjective mission? ... Before you sneer at others, you need to know that it’s harder to overcome yourself than it is to overcome others. Remember what Bai Yansong [CCTV news anchor for the Sichuan earthquake in 2008] said: why does China have so few friends internationally? It’s because China has no concept of the worth of common humanity. When 9.11 happened, the rest of the world’s press led with the story, and here the front pages carried stories about our leaders making official visits!
Compared to nature, we’re tiny; faced with disasters, there’s only people and people, not nation and nation, and we should have pity and sympathy, not narrow nationalistic feelings. To be a person you need generosity, and a nation even more so. If foreigners could see what you’ve been writing about the Japanese on the net, what would they think?’
Well, some of the foreigners at least have seen what they’ve been writing...