Cornell College Instructor Recounts Surviving China Stabbing, Says He Didn’t Realize What Was Happening

David Zabner, an American college instructor from Iowa’s Cornell College, has spoken about his experience surviving a stabbing attack in northeast China’s Jilin province. He recounted that he “turned around to find a man brandishing a knife at me” and that he “didn’t immediately realize what was happening.” 

Zabner and three other Cornell College tutors were stabbed while participating in a program with a partner university, Beihua, in Jilin City. 

“I turned around to find a man brandishing a knife at me. I didn’t immediately realize what was happening. I thought my coworkers had been pushed, and he, for some reason was trying to push me,” Zabner said. “And then I looked down at my shoulder and realized, ‘I’m bleeding. I’ve been stabbed.'” 

China’s foreign ministry identified the suspect as a 55-year-old man with the surname Cui. He has been taken into custody.  


“Police told us that he was unemployed and down on his luck, and that somebody in our group bumped into the man,” Zabner said. “And he decided to respond in the way he responded.” 

As of Tuesday morning, the radio station reports that Zabner and his colleagues are still recovering at a local hospital. 

“We are deeply concerned by the stabbing of U.S. citizens in Jilin City, China. Our team has been in touch with these Americans and our PRC counterparts to ensure that the victims’ needs are met, and appropriate law enforcement steps are being taken,” Jake Sullivan wrote on X. “We wish them a speedy recovery.” 

China’s foreign ministry says that none of the injured are in a life-threatening condition and said the incident was a “random attack” that would “not affect normal people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States. 


Images circulating on social media purporting to be from the scene show two men and a woman on the ground, with one of the men’s clothes covered in blood.  

“We are working through proper channels and requesting to speak with the U.S. Embassy on appropriate matters to ensure that the victims first receive quality care for their injuries and then get out of China in a medically feasible manner,” Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks wrote on X. 

China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lin Jian said the incident was isolated, and an investigation is underway. 

’ Michael Dorgan, Reuters and