Sunday, July 24, 2011

Behind The Glitters - China Behind "Harmonious" Facade

People have been marveling at the Chinese miracles for a couple decades now and it is undeniable that China has made stride in improving its economy and living standards. For foreigners who visit the most developed coastal cities, China has come of age indeed.

Yet, the glitters that have dazzled people for so long, blinded many observers so much that they could not see behind.

Finally, it seems the reckoning days are coming fast.

The most ambitious projects after the Three Gorges Dam is the new high speed train networks. The most recent addition to the networks is bullet train between Beijing and Shanghai, the equivalent of Washington D.C. and New York City, respectively.  However, a week or so after its opening on June 30th, within four days, there were four breakdowns along the line and passengers were trapped for hours in completely sealed cars without air conditioning.  They should have considered themselves lucky, comparing to another breakdown due to lightening, again, with lethal consequences.

When one fast train lost power, "due to lightening strike", and was disabled on the track, it was hit by another high speed train on 23 July.  So far, death toll has risen to 35 and there are 192 injured.

The pictures are gruesome and also poignant.  The name of one of the train was called Harmony, in correspondence to the drive to build harmonious society, alas, through repression and suppressing dissent.  Now the veneer of the harmony has been torn apart brutally.

Train Wreck in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province - Train Label 'Harmony' 1

Photo source - People Daily

After the first round of the high speed train breakdowns, Chinese officials demanded people's lenience on their judgments of the high speed train systems.  Can they continue to receive people's indulgences?

The high speed train systems were built as an effort of a new Great Leap Forward.  Some senior railroad engineers claimed that some of the roads were being constructed while surveying and designing.  The railroad minister had lost his job early this year due to graft.  One has to wonder the quality of these great leaping efforts.  There are many design issues as well.  The global positioning technique can be used on buses and why not on high speed trains?  The automation system to prevent such collision was supposed to be in place. Why did it fail?  The collision occurred only 10 minutes to 25 minutes after the first train lost power, according to some reports.  Whey would that be long enough to prevent such tragedy?  Another incomprehensible aspect of these trains is that the windows of the trains could not be opened, even when the rescue team tried with heavy hammers.  Whoever approved such design should shoulder blames as well.  People daily also had boasted that Chinese railroad system had successfully trained rookie drivers within 10 tens, despite the requirement of three months training specified by German experts. 

These problems are not confined to a corrupt ministry.  In last couple weeks, two highway bridges collapsed out of blue on the same day with casualties in China.  A demolition of nearby building caused a collapse of a high rise in Harbin.  It is just reported that a bridge under construction collapsed in Hefei, Anhui Province:

Photo source - People Daily

Or the collapse of highrise being built in Shanghai (2009):

Shanghai June 27 2009

According to many, shoddy constructions were the cause of many children's death in the big earthquake in Sichuan Province in 2008.  Yet, the people who got jailed were people who tried to discover the truth and record the malpractices in the construction, contractor and the government officials, including the internationally renown artist Ai Weiwei.

China has avoided a financial disaster with its vast governmental spending but if the money well-spent is a mystery to many.  GDP is the only thing the officials are being measured and development driven GDP became the surest bet.  Better still, a piece of land can be developed again and again.  Therefore the repeated land grabs with tragic endings when people tried to immolate themselves in order to save their dwellings.

All these are behind the glitters they put forth in series of big events - Olympic in Beijing, World Expo in Shanghai and many big and small events sold to locals as international events which attracted few but profit seekers.

The bigger tragedy will come still if Chinese government continue to try to achieve harmony through repression.  The reckless development craze and local debts will engulf a large portion of the huge wealth China has accumulated in fast pace.  When the over-heated housing market tumble, a severer reckoning day will render the society anything bu harmonious.

1 comment:

  1. International Business Times reported that "On Sunday, less than a day after two bullet trains collided in the south of the country, killing at least 43 people and injuring a further 210, eight mechanical diggers began to dig trenches to bury two twisted and broken train carriages.

    Other reports on the site said the ministry was burying parts of the wrecked trains near the site, news to which locals reacted badly as they accused the government of trying to cover up the disaster and questioned how a full investigation can be carried out without an inspection of the wreckage.

    People were further angered after a video emerged which appeared to show at least two bodies falling out of the carriages as they were being moved. The video became an instant online hit and has been watched over 1.2 million times in less than a day."