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Rich kids' arrogant, disastrous driving fans hatred of wealthy

By James Palmer (Global Times)

09:34, August 29, 2012

(Illustration: Global Times/Sun Ying)

If there's one piece of advice rich parents in China should follow, it's this: Don't let your kids anywhere near a car.

The latest case of drunken and deadly idiocy happened in Chengdu, where a 19-year-old, driving a sedan, hit a group of roadside migrant workers, injuring two and killing one.

The culprit, who didn't have a driving license, looked properly distraught in video taken by onlookers, but it was his female companion who really drew ire by yelling "Go on, film me! Yayayaya!" Hardly the best way to behave after vehicular manslaughter.

But such scandals are nothing new. From Yao Jiaxin, a student who stabbed a young mother to death after he hit her with his Chevrolet in October 2010, to Li Tianyi, the 15-year-old son of a famous musician who drunkenly attacked an older couple after bumping his car into theirs and then shouted "Who dares to call the police?"in September 2011, the mixture of entitlement, arrogance, and youth is inevitably disastrous.

Perhaps the most archetypal case is that of Li Qiming, who ploughed his Volkswagon into a crowd of students on campus of the Baoding-based Hebei University in October 2010, killing one and severely injuring another. Detained by campus security, he yelled out "Go ahead, sue me if you dare. My dad is Li Gang!" His father, the deputy director of the local public security bureau, found his family at the center of a media firestorm, while "My dad is Li Gang!" became a popular Internet meme to refer to corrosive family corruption and influence.

There's nowhere that more neatly encapsulates the gulf between China's fuerdai, or "second generation rich," and the rest of society than on the roads. As ordinary people strap-hang to work on buses or the subway, the spoilt children of the elite zoom past in BMWs or Mercedes, driving with one hand on the wheel and the other on the smart phone. In ordinary contexts, their carelessness and callousness is merely annoying. But put them in charge on a ton of metal at 90 kph, and it turns lethal.

And when the incidents go public, they become an easy focus for public rage at a society where it can seem like who you know is more important than what you did when it comes to justice. When the perpetrator seems smugly confident that they can get away with things, netizens' anger boils over. Meanwhile, the victims, usually pedestrians trudging home along the road, are often on the lowest rungs of Chinese society. The gulf between culprit and innocent, rich and poor, is brought into sharp focus.

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