Chinese Crowd Behavior


Chinese group behavior can be fickle. In the case of confrontations, serious injuries or other unusual happenings, they will form a circle around the focus of attention. Similarly, local police will also form a circle around a confrontation, except they will almost all be smoking. I call this behavior “Chinese First Aid”.

I was standing on the third floor landing of a wholesale market on day when another foreigner called me over to see something. Looking over a building half a block away we saw a crowd circled. At first, I thought I saw someone administering CPR. I could see a head. shoulders, and arms pistoning up and down. The crowd shifted a little and I saw that it was a man punching an unmoving woman on the ground. The crowd did nothing.

I do not know how long the beating had been going on. but it ended about fifteen seconds after we first witnessed it. The man stood and walked away. After about fifteen paces. he stop and turned back. “Maybe he has some regrets and wants to help this woman.” I thought. She was still unmoving. He marched back to the woman, pick up his hat, put it on and strode off. The crowd neve spoke or moved.

In the case of fatalities, all the Chinese with whom I have shared viewing a traffic fatality studiously avoided uttering even a single word about it. It is incredibly odd, bloody bodies splayed across the road and not a single Chinese person on a bus that c r a w l  e  d past the accident scene remarked on it. Meanwhile every foreigner on the bus was aghast and buzzing about it.

It seems to me that this is a shared characteristic among nearly all Asians, to suppress unpleasant or traumatic events. A case in point is the infamous Unit 731 located in Harbin, A unit that conducted horrific human experimentation on mostly kidnapped Chinese nationals.  After WWII, parts of the facility were repurposed into a school. This is China’s Auschwitz! It would be hard to imagine Auschwitz being used as a school. But, I certainly do not judge them for it, culture and circumstances play an important part in how a people deal with such a situation.

As I mentioned in another post, it would be wise not to linger where crowds are gathered lest you turn the attention to yourself.  Remember the movie line, “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

About Ken Hayes, M.Ed.