Is the information society breeding people like the deranged
mass murderer of Virginia Tech, Cho Seung-hui? According to this interview with
one of China's leading information technology experts from the state-controlled
Xinjingbao [Beijing News], it isn't the easy-availability of guns that is the
problem, but increasing dependence on the Internet. This has resulted in a
generation of alienated young people with weak communications skills, posing a
threat to the entire world - not just the United States.
with Li Ji-bing [马晶] conducted by Ma Jing [者马晶]
excessive reliance on information technology cannot be curbed in a timely
fashion; if humanity cannot distinguish between the real world and the virtual
world; if the violent tendency of online games cannot be curbed; if fundamental
education in culture and the humanities cannot be enhanced; we may - by promoting technological progress for the betterment of mankind - be
creating an even bigger danger for ourselves in the future.
-- Li Ji-bing*
On April 16th, ChoSeung-hui,
a foreign student of South Korean extraction, committed the deadliest campus
assault in American history on the campus of the Virginia State University of Science and Technology. Xinjingbao
spoke to Mr. Li Ji-bing, the incumbent Commissioner for the National
Expert Commission on Telecommunication Economy at the
Ministry of Information Industry. He is a leading IT expert and economist who
once served as a court-appointed expert in the State of Virginia. As an
information industry specialist who lived in United States, he explains how the
information society promotes alienation, and he also describes the impact that
this has had on the immigrant culture of Asian-Americans.
Xinjingbao: Was the recent shooting at Virginia Tech random, or was it
Ji-bing: I have a
very good understanding of the United States and Virginia. Because of my work,
I have visited Virginia Polytechnic University many
think this was a random, isolated shooting. This tragedy should cause everyone
to reflect on the impact of the information society on the education and
interpersonal skills of our young people.
This armed assault was a historic first on an American campus,
because the mood of an individual brought about a mass slaughter. The killer's
behavior lacked any ideological pretext [Translator's Note: The author appears
to be referring to the lack of a political or religious motive for the crime,
which he regards as more depraved]. It was purely personal. It was a
fundamental betrayal of humanist values. Thus, it is a tragedy of mankind as a
whole, not only the United States or a University in America. It is not just a
random occurrence, but the inevitable result of danger which has accumulated
over the years.
Xinjingbao: Why do you say it was “inevitable?” Is it the inevitable
result of some kind of trend n social development?
examining the campus shooting incident in Virginia, it is clear that the personality
of the murderer, Cho Sheung-hui, was withdrawn, eccentric and twisted. This
young man's mentality is a reflection of the fact that over past 10 years, the
rapid development of information technology has not only brought great
opportunity and wealth, but a perversion of the human spirit due to the influx
of distorted information. With the Internet culture and virtual world under
constant development, the ability of individuals to communicate and interact
with the surrounding society has steadily weakened.
experiments prove that communication skills are inversely proportionate to the
degree of reliance on the Internet. More importantly, when people increasingly
rely on the Internet and the virtual world, not only do his communications skills
weaken, but his ability to make rational judgments in response to changes in
the real world tend to weaken as well.
In regard to theVirginia Tech assault, how do you trace this incident to the information
armed assault was in fact a negative consequence of information science. The
expansion of the virtual society reduces opportunities for human interaction,
creating people who don’t know how to operate in society and take part in
social interactions. These people are constantly on edge and once they erupt, a
tragedy for society can result.
other hand, the flood of Internet violence has added fuel to the fire,
specifically the many online games that promote violence and bloodshed. Very
many young people, instead of spending time studying the humanities, science,
the history of civilization and the essence of human culture, get addicted to
these games and spend massive amounts of time in a state of game-inspired
that the “personal vendetta” of Cho Seung-hui
should be considered a form of terrorism, only more dangerous than traditional
terrorism, which is triggered by political differences or religious ideology.
What has this
shooting taught the world?
Ji-bing: In fact,
the conditions that triggered this tragedy exist all over the world. Every
nation, including us in China, must reflect on this tragedy. Specifically,
under our present educational system, we should not over-emphasize the skill of
by-rote memorization and neglect the character development of our young.
Moreover, we must take measures to overcome the reliance of young people on the
Internet and find a balance between the virtual world and actual human society.
What needs to be emphasized is this: If humanity's excessive reliance on information technology cannot be
curbed in a timely fashion; if humanity cannot distinguish between the real
world and the virtual world; if the violent tendency of online games cannot be
curbed; if fundamental education in culture and the humanities cannot be
enhanced; we may - by promoting technological progress for the
betterment of mankind - be creating an even bigger danger for ourselves
in the future. This is the first important lesson Cho Seung-hui has
much-criticized availability of weapons in America and the Internet culture you
have discussed, were there any other broad societal issues at play in this
this tragedy has a most profound social backdrop. Cho Seung-hui migrated to the
U.S. along with his parents during primary school, and received his Permanent
Residence status after growing up there. This is quite similar to many Asian
children in America.
Asian families enter the U.S. on a lower economic rung, whereas Cho Seung-hui's
family lived in Fairfax County [Virginia], which is the wealthiest county in
America, with average family income at around $100,000. Growing up in this kind
a social circumstance, Cho Seung-hui most definitely grew up with tremendous
Generally speaking, Asian immigrant families have two main
concerns: A focus in a child's academic record, which leads to a neglect of his
or her's social education; and a focus on the family's economic status to the
detriment of the child's character development.
Seung-hui taught us is that a family that focuses excessively on the
accumulation of family wealth will not be able to raise a child with healthy personality
traits; and we can conclude from this that a society in which wealth is
concentrated in the hands of a few cannot be a healthy and stable one.
though many Asians have outstanding academic results, they often feel out of
step with the local culture and frequently feel isolated.
tragedy of Cho Seung-hui should sound the alarm for all Asian families in
America. After immigrating to the U.S., the most important issue should not be
academic results, but the integration into local culture. If this warning is
not heeded, this tragedy could be repeated anytime.
*Li Ji-bing currently
serves as Commissioner for the National Expert Commission on Telecommunication
Economy. He is also the Chief Advisor at the International Lab on
Electromagnetic Field Theory and Application at the Beijing University of Post
and Telecommunication and has been a Visiting Professor at various universities
In the 1990s, Mr. Li
was employed in the United States as a Senior Economist at both the Montana Public
Utility Commission and U.S. Department of the Navy in Washington, D.C. where he
received a performance award. He was also the Principal Economist at Virginia
State Corporation Commission. Mr. Li received his B.S. in Mechanical
Engineering at Beijing Jiaotong University. Besides
taking numerous Ph.D. study courses, Mr. Li obtained his M.S. in Regulatory
Economics at University of Wyoming.
A reporter knocks on the door of the family of Cho Seung-Hui, 23, in Centreville, Virginia. There was no answer.
Norris Hall, center and right, on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.. This is where most of the murders took place.
A Glock 9mm pistol, similar to the one purchased 36 days ago by Cho Seung-Hui, for $571. But some believe it is the information society which is at fault, rather than the easy availability of hand guns.
Cho Seung-Hui: Was his horrific crime a warning - not about guns, but the Internet?
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