Communist China has enacted some market reforms in recent decades and thus has enjoyed a fair degree of economic growth. But many of its social policies remain starkly brutal and repressive.
Not the least of those is its one-child policy -- enacted to hold down population.
A woman who cannot pay the equivalent of a $6,300 fine in order to have a second baby can be forced to abort her child.
That was on gruesome display with the savage killing by government officials of an unborn baby who was only weeks from birth. Not content to force the woman to abort her child, government officials cruelly beat her, as well, according to news accounts.
But someone was watching, and this time the government didn't get to play out its vicious tendencies with impunity. Photos of the woman beside her bloodied, dead infant were circulated on the Internet, and they were met with deserved revulsion and horror not only abroad but among Chinese citizens.
The totalitarian government felt the pressure. Though it offered no clear repudiation of its sickening one-child policy, it issued a statement on its official website labeling this particular forced abortion "society's shame." One commentary on the site "said the case exposed the lack of humanity in some administrative officials," The Associated Press reported.
And that decency deficit surprises exactly ... whom?
China's "Great Leap Forward" led to the deaths of perhaps 45 million of its citizens -- both from outright murder by the government and from needless famine that resulted from collectivist policies -- only a few decades ago. Countless religious and political dissidents have been killed or tortured in the intervening years. (Remember Tiananmen Square?)
This is not, in short, a government that is long on "humanity." It has nursed for decades on the blood of innocents.
So it is tragic but, in a sense, almost unremarkable that a mere Chinese citizen -- a lowly woman, no less -- should have been brutalized and her baby slaughtered in a nation steeped in officially sanctioned mayhem.
Why would the world expect anything different?