Great people, great nation, but we're still human

Wang Yong
In protecting your rights when you travel overseas, please behave in a way that justifies the greatness of our nation.
Wang Yong

In protecting your rights when you travel overseas, please behave in a way that justifies the greatness of our nation. That was the plea of a commentator from Xinhua News Agency to Chinese travelers in an opinion piece published yesterday.

Wu Liming, the commentator, was referring to three recent unrelated events in which some Chinese tourists have been less than calm in dealing with flight delays at airports in Japan, Sri Lanka and Iran. Some even resorted to shouting slogans or singing China’s national anthem at those airports in what he called an inappropriate attempt to “protect their rights.”

“It’s okay to protect your rights in a rational way,” he explained. “If your appeal is unreasonable, it’s not proper to try to satisfy your requests by invoking patriotism or imposing pressure on an airline or our embassies or consulates.”

Wu stressed that now is a time to respect civilization and the rule of law. “A contractual relationship is established once a passenger buys a ticket from an airline,” he said. In other words, both need to act according to that contract. Well said.

But that’s not how a stressful situation was dealt with recently in Japan. Shortly after 175 home-bound Chinese tourists were stranded at a Japanese airport on January 24 due to snowfall in Shanghai, staff from the Chinese Embassy in Japan rushed in and helped cool a heated situation.

On January 26, the embassy posted a notice on its official website, reminding Chinese tourists to be rational in handling such situations. In particular, the embassy suggested Chinese tourists who take budget airlines read their contract carefully in advance, especially disclaimers, so as to avoid being involved in unnecessary legal disputes or “excessive” appeals.

“The greatness of a nation is justified by the greatness of her people,” the Xinhua commentator continued. “You are truly someone from a great nation if you handle a matter in a balanced manner, and protect your rights in a lawful and rational way.”

It’s encouraging to see most Chinese news media have shared Xinhua’s view. By giving a balanced account of what happened to those Chinese tourists, they made us think: What is great about China? What is great about Chinese people?

To be sure, China has always been great, and her people, too. That some of our fellow countrymen sometimes act in an unreasonable manner shows only that no one is perfect – we are all human. So long as every one of us learns to face his or her own shortcomings squarely, we will continue to be strong as a people and strong as a nation.

Certainly, there are those who habitually look at China through a distorted lens. A netizen called Serefin commented on, an overseas news portal, on February 1, that “Chinese people are rude … I feel bad for whoever has to deal with Chinese tourists.” Similar comments abound, betraying the authors’ bias and propensity to generalize too much.

In this global village of ours, mutual respect and self-restraint are a passport to peace and greatness.

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