People lay flowers at the site of a stabbing that left 6 pedestrians dead and 14 wounded in the Chinese city of Anqing on June 6, 2021.

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As the United States routinely faces the tragedy of mass shootings, China is struggling to put an end to its own threat to public safety: indiscriminate stabbings.

Over the weekend, six people were killed and 14 injured after a knife-wielding man stabbed passersby on a pedestrian shopping street in the eastern Chinese city of Anqing. Videos circulating on social media show wounded pedestrians lying on the pavement, covered in blood.

Police quickly arrived at the scene and arrested the suspect, a 25-year-old unemployed man who was seeking to “vent anger over family troubles and pessimism,” according to a local government statement.

The incident is the latest among a spate of public attacks in China in recent months. With guns strictly controlled and out of reach for ordinary people, knives have become the most common weapon used in such atrocities.

In April, two children were killed when a knife-wielding man entered a kindergarten in southern China. An additional 14 children and two teachers were wounded, according to state news agency Xinhua. The police said the suspect had a history of schizophrenia – a serious mental illness characterized by symptoms of psychosis.

In December, another mass stabbing in a small city in northeastern Liaoning province left seven people dead and another seven injured. State media reported the 62-year-old suspect was socially withdrawn after losing his son and getting divorced, and carried out the attack to express his “dissatisfaction towards society.”

These incidents have stood out in China, which boasts a powerful and ubiquitous surveillance system and comparatively low rates of violent crime. According to the World Bank, citing the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s International Homicide Statistics database, in 2018, there were 0.5 intentional homicides per 100,000 people in China – one tenth of the murder rate in the US.

And unlike the US, gun violence is rare in China, where the regulation on firearms is among the strictest in the world. Chinese law generally prohibits private possession of firearms (except for hunters with permits), and the Chinese government has stepped up its policing of illegal firearms in recent years.

According to the most recently available statistics from China’s Ministry of Public Security, there were just 58 cases of gun crime in the country in 2017, an 82% drop from 2012.

Chinese state media has often highlighted mass shooting incidents in the US, and in some cases even characterized it as a human rights issue on which “the US should learn from China.”

But while China’s strict control on guns has sharply reduced the number of casualties in public attacks, it has seemingly failed to address the root causes that repeatedly trigger these types of tragedies.

According to official announcements, the suspects were often found to have been living with mental illness, or were seeking revenge against their employers, officials, or the wider society.

In China, public access to mental health services remains limited, partially due to a shortage of qualified mental care professionals. Social stigma surrounding mental disorders also discourages many people from seeking help.

Around Asia

  • An estimated 100,000 people in Myanmar’s Kayah state had been displaced by fighting that included “indiscriminate attacks by security forces” in civilian areas, the United Nations said Sunday.
  • Thailand began its mass Covid vaccination program Monday, following criticism of delays and concerns over health authorities relying on AstraZeneca shots produced by a company owned by the country’s king.
  • Dozens of passengers were killed and several others injured after a train collision in southern Pakistan on Monday morning.
  • In Siberia, a microscopic animal has been revived after slumbering in the Arctic permafrost for 24,000 years.

The US could soon spend big to counter China’s tech rise

The United States has long found China a technological threat. Now Washington is trying to seriously step up its spending to keep its big rival in check.

The US Senate on Tuesday passed rare, bipartisan legislation meant to counter Beijing’s growing influence by investing more than $200 billion into American technology, science and research.

The bill still needs to pass the US House of Representatives before making its way to President Joe Biden’s desk. But the strong showing in the Senate – the final vote was 68-32 – shows Washington is growing more united in its criticism of Beijing, and its desire to curtail the rise of the world’s second largest economy.

“It’s stepping up in a major way – primarily by spending money – to meet the competitiveness challenge China presents,” said William Reinsch, a trade expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made no secret of his desire to lead the world on tech and other key industries. He wants to turn China into an innovation leader by 2035 and a global tech superpower by 2050. In the past couple of decades, several Chinese firms have become enormously influential on tech, from Alibaba and Tencent to Huawei.

The US, in turn, has taken steps to curb its competition by imposing restrictions on the ability for Chinese companies to access American tech.

But the Senate bill, should it become law, suggests Washington knows hobbling your opponent isn’t enough if you’re not investing in your own backyard.

“I think it reflects Biden’s view that if you’re in a race, there are only two ways to win – run faster or trip the other guy,” Reinsch said. “There is a role for both strategies, but this bill emphasizes running faster.”

– By Jill Disis

Photo of the Day

CCP exhibit 0608 RESTRICTED

Revisiting the past: People visit a photo exhibition in Beijing showcasing how life in China has changed over the past 100 years. Tours, exhibitions, performances and other events celebrating the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party have sprung up across the country in the lead-up to July 1.

Australian Prime Minister sets likely tone ahead of G7

The world is living through its greatest period of uncertainty since the 1930s and the risks of miscalculation and conflict “are growing,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to say in advance of the G7.

Speaking in the Australian city of Perth Wednesday, Morrison will call for democratic nations to work together to “reinforce, renovate and buttress a world order that favors freedom,” according to a transcript of the speech provided to CNN.

“Meeting this challenge will require a degree of active cooperation among like-minded countries and liberal democracies not seen for 30 years,” Morrison is expected to say in a nod to Cold War alliances.

Morrison’s expected remarks come ahead of his flight to the United Kingdom for the Group of Seven meeting, which will see leaders from the UK, the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Italy and Japan meet in-person for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Talks will also be attended by the European Union and guest nations Australia, India, South Africa and South Korea.

The summit, which begins June 11 and runs for three days, is expected to include discussions on how the world’s wealthiest democracies can work together to tackle major global challenges such as access to covid-19 vaccinations and climate change, while countering the rise of China and Russia.

Writing in the Washington Post on June 6 ahead of the meeting, US President Joe Biden underscored his belief in the power of democratic alliances to rise to the moment, and offer a “high-standard alternative to China for upgrading physical, digital and health infrastructure that is more resilient and supports global development.”