A violent, dramatic video taken in the city of Xi An went viral on 20 January 2022. An Audi driven by a young man drove into the path of a taxi. Both drivers got out and the young man driving the Audi started shouting at the old taxi driver, threatening to hit him.
Suddenly, the taxi driver pulled out a knife and stabbed the young man. Bleeding, the young man apologised and pleaded with the taxi driver to stop. Seeing that he has won, the taxi driver asked the young man: “do you know who I was when I was young?”
The spectator taking the video then turned his camera on the Audi and saw a passerby reaching into the car to steal something. A simple “plot” and a few characters sum up the reality of the China Dream.
The young Audi driver is the “princeling” enjoying the wealth that his parents had accumulated during the early days of economic reforms. Folks like these take their wealth for granted and see bullying as a privilege. According the experience of some of my friends from China, it is quite common for drivers of luxury cars to confront and bully taxi drivers or other seemingly poorer people.
The taxi driver here represents the millions who used to be well-off but lost everything due to the bursting economic bubble and changing political winds. How big he was in the past is of course immaterial, but it was a psychological baggage he must have been carrying in agony for years. How could this happen to me? Why is it so unfair?
The thief in the incident represents the vast majority in China. They don’t necessarily steal, but they do stoop very, very low in order take whatever advantage they can of others or even the system itself whenever the opportunity presented itself. This category also includes those who sold surgical masks at grossly inflated prices in times of crisis. When donated foodstuff from neighbouring provinces arrived in Wuhan which was in lockdown, nobody was willing to provide storage facilities. It ended up that the donated food was kept in supermarkets which sold them, also at inflated prices.
Finally, there is another party not shown in the video. And that’s the ambulance that failed to respond to the stabbing incident due to strict Covid restrictions. All this has to do with China’s strict “safety” measures zero Covid target. The government has vowed to aim for zero Covid “at all cost” (to the people). Those who are overzealous about complying often end up neglecting their common sense and humanly instincts.
Every single person in this episode can make life miserable for the average Chinese person, but only those who are like the taxi driver can be a threat to the powers that be. He knew that he’d probably be going to jail for assaulting the young man, but in spite of his maturity, he was no longer able to bottle up the angst and indignation that had been building up all these years. Being bullied by a young man who had it good was the last straw needed to break the camel’s back. The Party is concerned about growing numbers like Mr taxi drive, but as long as the meek and sneaky in the last category remain the overwhelming majority, the chances of a major revolution to overthrow the Party remains slim.