A heart wrencher.

[Update: This one, too, is well worth a read.]

I originally wrote a long post with long excerpts and then just deleted it all. The story speaks for itself and I can’t add anything of value. If you make it to the end, you’ll see the reporter closes the story with a strong implication that there is involvement from the central government here, not just local officials.

The Discussion: 24 Comments

there was a window for democracy and freedom of expression blah blah but it got squashed blah blah. if this sounds familiar it’s because we have been here before with sars. there wasn’t a loosening up – there was a lack of control and fear of the consequences if voices were silenced. now they feel the storm has passed they can move in.

July 11, 2008 @ 7:26 pm | Comment

China doesn’t allow free speech when it comes to political dissent that calls for change “outside of the system”. I know this, you know this, and Huang Qi knows this. There’s nothing new here.

I translated some of the articles on 64tianwang previously, and it directly calls the Communist Party murdering thieves, partly based on claims that the government knew the earthquake was coming and warned military factories but chose not to tell the public.

Now, this kind of discussion isn’t new; lot of people on this site have said the same and worse. But the Chinese government isn’t going to tolerate anyone publicly campaigning for the overthrow of the Communist Party. And absolutely, that is a central government decision.

I don’t like the fact that this sort of conflict happens, but nor do I believe it defines China or the Chinese government. I would prefer that these crackpots be left alone to fester, just like the 9/11 conspiracy theorists in the US.

July 12, 2008 @ 12:16 am | Comment

@tang buxi

“I don’t like the fact that this sort of conflict happens, but nor do I believe it defines China or the Chinese government.”

IMHO it does Tang. That kind of behavior is totally unnecessary. It shows people in power has very deep legitimacy problem, and they are very much aware of it.
Why do they have this legitimacy problem? Can you explain?

If they did not have it, they could just leave these guys alone, to their own ravings, just like…. 9/11 conspiracy theoretics. Heard of anyone jailed yet? Why not?

Still waiting for your promised post in your blog… 😉

July 12, 2008 @ 12:59 am | Comment

Nice blog by the way.

July 12, 2008 @ 1:00 am | Comment

Sadly, it’s nothing new. The CCP always defaults to type eventually.

July 12, 2008 @ 6:23 am | Comment

That sucks. But you know…the work crews on those schools weren’t trucked in from Hubei or Shanghai. They were all locals. Many of them had to have known that corners were cut. But nobody said anything, because everyone was making money.

This gets to the real problem, which is twofold. One is the pervasive lack of safety consciousness in Chinese culture — we have the same problem here in Taiwan. And the other is that “corruption” is the System and everyone participates in it. The guys who “steal all the construction materials” are one with the people who sell you bad fruit in the market and who run red lights and who cheat on their taxes and add illegal structures to their houses and gain access to things illegally through their guanxi connections. It’s all one culture and one set of behaviors, and to single out the construction companies for killing so many when they are behaving like everyone else is really to notice the problem only when it kills a lot of people all at once. After all, over a given unit of time, utterly preventable traffic accidents are going to kill more Chinese than the Sichuan quake, and for exactly the same reason: untrammeled lawbreaking and no enforcement of the law. The thing that needs reforming is not construction but lawlessness, and that cannot happen because, well, we all know that the CCP thinks of rule of law.


July 12, 2008 @ 7:43 am | Comment

Michael wrote: “And the other is that “corruption” is the System and everyone participates in it.”

I disagree. “One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch….”

July 12, 2008 @ 9:33 am | Comment

Michael, some good points but it’s hard to imagine a worker at the very bottom of the food chain in China standing up to his bosses and demanding they build their structures to code. If the worker has any idea what the code even is or that there is a code. I wouldn’t begin to compare their role in the duplicity to that of the officials and the construction company bosses.

July 12, 2008 @ 10:35 am | Comment

Richard, I think you are missing Michael’s point. It’s not that the lowest person on the economic food chain bears equal responsibility. Instead it is that they bear some responsibility by participating in what is for the most part a thoroughly corrupt culture where the rule of law does not prevail.

July 12, 2008 @ 11:10 am | Comment

@Tang Buxi

“I would prefer that these crackpots be left alone to fester, just like the 9/11 conspiracy theorists in the US.”

You sound like Bill O’Reilly here. 9/11 conspiracy theorists want to prove that the White House had a hand in the events of that day.

Grieving families in Sichuan (outlined in the article) want the assistance of their government in finding our why so many school buildings collapsed during the earthquake. Does that necessarily mean that they are blaming the government? No. Does that necessarily mean that they think the government purposefully constructed the building poorly? No. They are actually just asking for answers from a government that seems intent on neglecting its duties in order to save a little bit of face.

How do you establish a similarity between these two groups? Frankly, the fact that you do not want the government to help these people get the answers they deserve (and arrogantly dismiss them as crackpots) makes me sick. I was giving you the benefit of the doubt recently seeing as how you seemed to correctly point to the government’s mishandling of the Weng’an case, but this flip and ignorant dismissal of your fellow (poor) Chinese, only makes you sound more the CCP mouthpiece. “Blogging for China”…What a joke!

July 12, 2008 @ 11:37 am | Comment

Not-a-Sinophile, I do get the point but don’t really agree with it – in my eyes, the laborers’ culpability is close to zero. I can look down from my window right now and see a sea of migrant workers putting together numerous buildings, being told where to lay the stone and where to point the drills and blowtorches, etc. If the building collapses I’m not faulting the guy with the drill. But anyway, that’s a very small issue. I basically agree with Michael.

Andy, Tang will answer that because Huang Qi had written bad things about the murderous CCP he had it coming – he should have known better, he was tempting fate, he was a reckless fool. In other words, he may look like a hero to us naive Westerners, but most in China feel no sympathy since he should have known he was digging his own grave. You don’t buck the system, you don’t give the Party the finger.

I at least understand Tang’s argument, even if I disagree and feel his comparison of Huang Qi to 911 conspiracy nuts is idioticinaccurate.

July 12, 2008 @ 1:59 pm | Comment

There is an 4 part series on the Discovery Channel here, hosted by Ted Koppel, called “The People’s Republic of Capitalism.” It is very well researched and presented, head and shoulders above most “in-depth” coverage of China. In the second episode, he spent a few minutes on the corruption problem in China. He had been interviewing a successful Chengdu entrepreneur and asked repeatedly why government officials are often charged and punished for accepting bribes but the donors of the bribes were rarely prosecuted. After several evasive answers, Koppel got the truth out of the man. Koppel paraphrased him thusly: “You just don’t get it. If we prosecute the briber, all development would stop.”

July 12, 2008 @ 4:57 pm | Comment

There’s was this really drunk foreign bloke at a bar last night who kept going on and on about “The Great Hole of China”.

I assume that he was talking about bribery, right?

July 12, 2008 @ 8:46 pm | Comment


Just FYI, I did leave you a response post, but because it contained a link to my blog, richard had it deleted.

July 12, 2008 @ 10:31 pm | Comment

Tang, that is not the whole story. The comment wasn’t deleted, it is waiting for my approval – it never appeared. What you failed to mention is that I wrote you a polite email telling you why the comments weren’t appearing, telling you I was not happy with your repeatedly using my blog to drop in links to your own blog. If you tell me you want me to link to a post of yours, just email me and I usually will do so. But no other commenter on this site does what you have been doing for weeks, i.e., posting comments in multiple threads, sometimes several in a single day, telling readers to go to your site. That is simply bad form. No one here does anything even close. Thanks for your understanding.

July 13, 2008 @ 12:17 am | Comment

Ever notice how if you say BUXI three times really fast, it starts to sound like my Chinese grandfather saying BULLSHIT? Go ahead, try it. I’m serious.

Tang Buxi and his idiot brotherhood of fifty-centers are apologists for a gang of thugs. Don’t kid yourselves – the CCP does not have the best interests of the Chinese people in mind. (“Serve the People” was never much more than a clever rhetorical device contrived by China’s ruling elite to hoodwink the multitudes. Not so much different from “Tax Relief” and “No Child Left Behind” in the U.S. – just more insidious. In fact, you might say that “F*ck the People” would have been a more accurate slogan.) To make matters worse, the CCP is very nearly unaccountable. CCP legitimacy rests on a foundation comprised of equal parts economic growth, nationalism, and threats of violence. This latest example of thuggery is just that – the latest example. (Ironically, as we saw recently in Weng’an, violent protest is perhaps the only reliable way that the Chinese people have to register their displeasure. Unfortunately, it seems that the CCP hasn’t learned much since 1989.)

The technocratic elite of the CCP go to bed in China and dream shiny, modern, autocratic dreams of Singapore writ large. Who can blame them? Sadly, however, much like the dream I once had in which my dissertation advisor turned into Pamela Anderson, these dreams are unlikely to come true. However knowledgeable and well-meaning these relative few cadres at the top are, one unalterable fact remains – China is run by a motley crue of town and county officials whose shared characteristics include poor problem solving skills, scant managerial experience, little exposure to the outside world, uneven educational backgrounds, lots of reasons to thumb their noses at the central government, and a disturbing willingness to resort to violence and wrongful imprisonment to get their way. The problem is vast and systemic and unlikely to change until there exists a system of meaningful checks and balances, genuine media and speech freedoms, an independent judiciary, and some degree of popular access to the mechanisms of political power.

Note: By all means, visit Tang Buxi’s blog. In recent days, he and his supporters have discussed such riveting topics as: the fanciest feast in Chinese history, the release of the new Fuloong personal computer, the relative merits of Chinese and American public buildings, and the failure of the Wall Street Journal to explain the Weng’an Incident to Tang Buxi’s satisfaction. Better yet, the guys at Tang Buxi’s blog have even discussed – in great length and detail – the admirable restraint that Chinese police have recently demonstrated in their dealings with the Chinese public. (This seems perfectly fair, doesn’t it? After all, the Chinese police are famous for their restraint. No Rodney King videos in the People’s Republic!) Great stuff, ideed. In fact, Tang Buxi makes China sound so damned great that it almost makes me regret that my ancestors ever left. Best of all, you can always count on Tang Buxi to give us the straight stuff on China. Tang Buxi’s blog provides a much needed safe haven from those perfidious nattering nabobs of negativity in the western media. Tang Buxi’s blog should consider “Fair & Balanced” as its motto. Oops. That one’s already taken.

July 13, 2008 @ 5:07 am | Comment

Hong’s comment deserves a post of its own. Thanks for that.

July 14, 2008 @ 2:19 am | Comment

1. I’ve been seeing a lot of comments about Ted Koppel and Discovery Channel recently, across several websites. Lousy grass-roots marketing on their part? Maybe.

2. Somewhat in response to Hong’s post, but you ever get the feeling that, yes, the problems are “vast and systematic” and that in being so, that precisely is the perfect excuse (or reason) for the central government to say “damn, we’re trying our best but it takes time, you Western bastards!!!” It’s one of those things that justifies itself, like a self-evident truth.

3. Tang, I think ecodelta hit the nail on the head with his response. The mere act of using such harsh suppressive measures against dissenting or critical voices ultimately paints the Chinese government as insecure. I would argue that the majority of normal Chinese put up with it NOT because they whole-heartedly agree that it is necessary for the maintenance of social harmony but because they still have plenty of other things to worry themselves over and they feel singularly helpless to change it. If you’ve been conditioned to feel small, you aren’t often conditioned to question or fight.

For the record, like many people, I fully recognize that the central government has been party to some of the more positive things in China. We just wish less people were hurt and will be hurt so long as they pilot the ship. We wish the same for other countries as we wish for China.

July 14, 2008 @ 3:49 am | Comment


Do you mean a post full of personal insults?

July 14, 2008 @ 4:41 am | Comment

Take away the first line, and where were the “personal insults”?

July 14, 2008 @ 10:32 am | Comment

How about the second line?

July 14, 2008 @ 10:57 am | Comment


brilliantly put

July 14, 2008 @ 3:21 pm | Comment


I agree with Kai, while major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzen, etc… are as modern as you can get, most of China are not yet developed. China’s industrialial revolution is still happening and there are major social, economical and political problems that it still have to overcome.

I also find it refreshing in Tang’s blog, having a more civilized discussion about China and about the propagandized subjects like what we see in the western media.

July 14, 2008 @ 9:33 pm | Comment

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