This is a common question that folks who live and work in China are asked. I often reply that I feel very safe in China, except when I'm crossing a street or hurtling through town in a taxi being driven by a sleepy driver.
However, a perusal of recent stories out of China in recent months might give the impression of peril at every turn: stabbings in Beijing and Shenzhen by mentally deranged individuals; a man trying to blow himself up at the Beijing airport. Add to these the seemingly never-ending list of food safety scandals: contaminated milk powder; fake mutton, beef, and honey; glow-in-the-dark pork; and thousands of dead pigs floating in the river in Shanghai.
But when I look at the news reporting mass shootings, hundreds dead in my own country (the US), the question 'is China safe," takes on a rather odd hue, because other than in breathless tones by freshly tanned anchors on the nightly news, I don't hear people ask "is America safe?"
Part of the issue is the "over-there-ness" of it. When I am "here," the bad things happening "over there" sound more scary and perhaps more widespread than they really are.
So, how should we respond to the alarming headlines (whether at home or abroad)?
I have long been helped in this area by the preaching and writing of John Piper. In a recent podcast about his new short book, "Risk is right," he says that the "so-called safety we seek is really an illusion." We know this based on experience:
"You can't put enough padlocks on your door and enough bars on your window to keep a heart attack from happening. There is no guarantee that anybody is going to live another breath. And therefore all the efforts that we make to keep ourselves safe are ultimately an illusion in terms of absolute security. Our lives are in God's hands."
And we know this based on the Bible:
"Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit" yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."
Is China safe? Of course not, but neither is your own country or town or neighborhood or school, or even your own home.
Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio