The Hidden Blade: China’s Unseen War on Mass Attacks | Nathan Wilson


In the West, we tend to view problems as being unique to a culture or region. Examples of this include our perception of the ‘War on Drugs’ as a Latin American problem or school shootings as a problem of the United States. However, one phenomenon that we consider to be a Western problem is actually also taking place on a large scale elsewhere. that has gone very much unnoticed within the Western World, is that of the Chinese knife crime epidemic. 

It was revealed late last year in the South China Morning Post (SCMP) that at least seven individuals had been killed in a mass stabbing in China. The events unfolded when a man had rampaged through the city of Kaiyuan (a small city to the Northeast of Beijing in China).

The knife attacker was only identified by the surname Yang after he was detained by Police in Kaiyuan within Liaoning. The Police had stated that they responded to calls from the public describing a man attacking people at random within the city at 8am. During the apprehending of the suspect, one police officer and several civilians were injured. 

A local woman called Liu who runs a music shop in Kaiyuan said during an interview with the SCMP that ‘most of the victims appeared to be middle-aged or elderly women’ and that ‘the man appeared to be in his 50s. He just stabbed strangers with a knife. It was really horrible’. In addition to this, the attack began outside of a local school within the city. 

Following this, a video was published by Xian Evening News that showed several people lying in the street, being tended to by medics while a middle aged man dressed in black was taken away by police. 

This comes as, in China, there exists much more high-tech equipment regarding police systems and the ability in reducing crime. However, knife attacks are still common within the nation as the favoured form of mass attacks against the public. This comes as besides the attacker’s name, the police in Kaiyuan did not release any other information about the arrested individual but that an official investigation into the incident had begun. 

Without context, many would remain puzzled or complexed into the relevancy of this onto say Western countries. But I would argue that this remains highly important as they mirror our Western forms of violent crime. Much information is available today regarding knife attacks in Europe but comparatively little effort has gone into exploring similar events in China. The silent epidemic of Chinese knife attacks is scarily similar to the epidemic we in Britain are experiencing. If we paid attention to the Chinese analysis of their problem, perhaps we’d learn a little more about our own. 

This follows as the month before the attack in Kaiyuan, a young woman in Fujian province had been stabbed to death outside of a hospital with a steel bar. Her killer worked at the hospital and told police he was angry because of a dispute with a colleague and decided to take out his anger onto the young women. 

Even further back in June 2019, a young man in his twenties stabbed two children to death outside of their school within Shanghai. He would later state to police officers that his reasons were due to his anger at being unemployed and had decided to take his anger out on society. As a result, he would later get the death penalty and had been executed in December 2020. The worse incident was in 2014 when 33 people were killed and hundreds were injured in Yunnan. The methodology of these attacks remains mostly based on knives, hammers, and even tractors as shown in 2010. Religious extremism does not seem to be the primary motivation for knife attacks occurring outside of Xinjiang (a region with a known Islamist extremist problem).

The unusual trend of mass murders in China remains a true mystery for security experts. Like Gun violence in America brings debates around gun legislation, China and its mass attacks offer a more complicated answer. The majority of mass attacks in China take place with knives and hammers, unlike in America which is commonly associated with gun violence (Although, knives and blunt force weapons kill more per capita). The reasons for these security threats remain universally unexplored and ignored within Western nations. 

One common thought answer was the failure of the PRC (People’s Republic of China) in addressing mental health illnesses and adequate social safety nets for unemployed young men within China. Young unemployed men in China face widespread social stigmatisation and lack of health insurance which it is believed has contributed to furthering the reasons for knife attacks in the nation, as explained here.   

Also, the targeting of schools is believed to be due to possible copycat attacks by mentally ill young men within the country. However, a new theory has argued that China’s male-dominated culture and gender imbalance (resulting from the controversial one-child policy) has created a large sub-group of single men who are frustrated at a lack of available dating market within China. As a result, it is believed that they are more likely to resort to violence. This is similar to the ‘incel’ movement in the West and the security problems that have arisen as a result. 

What one might infer from such topics is the potential to examine this ongoing trend to help ourselves in the West to understand our own problems. The strong similarities that both trends share could provide vital insight into the tackling of violent crime within both world spheres. 

Overall, it remains unclear why mass killings are still taking place in arguably one of the most secure nations in the world. Regardless, it’s still important to examine such events in order to explore and hopefully prevent such actions, not just within China but also in the West.


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