For a while, now, it has seemed that, on the mainland, traditional values of morality and compassion are disappearing when it comes to helping people in distress. In several well-publicised cases, elderly people have responded to Good Samaritans' assistance by wrongly blaming them for their injuries, making the innocent helpers liable to lawsuits and susceptible to compensation payments.
The 'smart' attitude now is to avoid getting involved - a regrettable reflection of a materialistic society in which people tend to mind their own business to a fault.
Millions of mainland bloggers, however, have drawn a line of outrage at the inhuman cruelty and indifference shown to two-year-old Wang Yue. While she lay on the road gravely injured by two hit-and-run drivers in Foshan , Guangdong, as many as 18 passers-by avoided getting involved, until an elderly rubbish scavenger came to her aid. This atrocity has focused debate on the decline of morality and community ethics in an increasingly money-driven society.
The issue was foreshadowed last month when a crowd of onlookers failed to render assistance to, or even call for help for, an 88-year-old man in Hubei who collapsed on the pavement; that had to wait until his wife and son arrived an hour and a half later. The man reportedly died of suffocation from a nosebleed blocking his air passage.
To many bloggers, the toddler's fate confirms the erosion of traditional values of the Chinese people in a fast-changing society, where materialistic hunger is blamed for a void of morality and ethics.
Ironically, the authorities are finishing plans for tighter control of the online world to rein in rumour-mongering and regulate dissemination of information. We hope this will not mean censorship of robust social commentary, even if those comments are seen to reflect badly on the mainland system. After all, millions of microblogs filled with outrage over the callous treatment of a toddler are evidence that Chinese still do care.