China said: “Let there be a national hero,” and there was a national hero

Alia | June 5th, 2012 - 5:29 am

Yesterday, we featured a story of China’s own superhero Captain China. Today, we will present the story of a real-life Captain China who sacrificed his own life to save 24 others.

On May 29, a 48-year-old bus driver, Wu Bin, was struck by a piece of flying metal smashed through the bus’ windshield while driving on the highway between Southern cities of Wuxi and Huangzhou. Though severely injured, he still managed to “stop the bus, turn on the hazard lights, put on the parking brake and advise the passengers to remain seated before collapsing from his injuries.” (Click here for original news from Xinhua). Netizens gave him the name “The most beautiful driver.”

His story moved the entire country and stayed on Sina Weibo’s Top Trending Topic for days. Weibo posts of his heroic deeds have been shared tens of thousands of times, a speed that only political rumors, government scandals or criticisms can match.

On the day of his funeral (June 4), thousands of people in Hangzhou bid him farewell as local police cars escorted his hearse.

The hearse escorted by police cars

People gathered on streets to bid Wu Bin farewell

“Salute to grass-root hero” banner held by local people

Fellow bus drivers saluted to his hearse 

Everything seems OK until moves from local government made the story a bit uncomfortable to some people. At first, it was local government granting Wu Bin the title of “model worker”, which is common in China for those who have made special contributions to society. Things started to go a bit too far when the Zhejiang provincial government conferred the honorary title of “revolutionary martyr” (烈士) to him. “Revolutionary martyr” is typically a title given only to soldiers or civilians who made great contributions but died in wars against outside enemies in China. As netizen thebanker  commented: “The driver was admirable without question.  But there seems to be too much hype over this. Not only do the media and the people need the hype, but more importantly, Chinese government needs the hype.” 王志安 went on: “As an experienced driver, all of his actions may be completed subconsciously. The media may be reading too much out of this. But it also shows how much we need to hear some good, positive news.”

Scene at Wu Bin’s funeral, “the memorial ceremony of “revolutionary martyr” Wu Bin”

Indeed, the stroy came right in a time when all that ordinary Chinese people read about are news of political scandals, corruption, food safety sandals, indifferent fellow citizens, suffering poor people and enlarging inequality in society. Like in the 50s when Lei Feng was set up as a national role model for high morality, people now also need something to hold on to and tell them that there is still warmth in China. Like an article by China Newsweek commented: “Let there be more believers of the good and let there be a better social ecosystem, then there will be more “Wu Bin” coming out. The waves of positivity and kindness sparked by such cases have incomparable values to our society and are the best cure for the lose of faith in China now. They are opportunities we must not waste.” All is true but does it sound familiar? I hate to say this (because it’s unfair to Wu Bin), but promoting images of national heroes and their selflessness have been a typical trick for propaganda in China.

Related posts:

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Chinese netizens raised concerns about social media goodwill after publicity stunt exposed on Weibo
Chinese netizens unhappy about Liu Zhiqun’s suspended death sentence
Chinese netizens strike back amid Internet crackdown
Are Chinese netizens rightists or leftists? The tale of two non-mainland celebrities
13-year-old Chinese girl forced mom to abort second child

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