Global Times on the Wenzhou train crash, one year later

I was (am) always curious about the seemingly opposing forces at the Global times. Often I was amazed at how far they would go allowing commentators to criticize the CCP, even columns mocking China’s navy and arguing it was hardly ready to participate in any conflict in the South China Sea. So many examples like that. There was a 2009 op-ed praising Deng Yujiao, the karaoke waitress in Badong who stabbed a lascivious government official to death. And a lot more. These were balanced, of course, with xenophobic outbursts, sabre rattling and incredibly paranoid/irrational arguments about the West and the Western media. But still….I was amazed at what got past the censors at what the censors let through. But I never doubted that it was strategic. Nothing got through by accident. Give the people some space to vent, as long as they never cross the line, the fat red line between acceptable criticism and advocating for democracy or for greater freedom in Tibet or for referring to a massacre in 1989.

I wondered about this same thing tonight as I read this piece on the one-year anniversary of the Wenzhou train crash. It’s actually a damn good article; it’s real journalism. Paragraphs like these just pop out at me:

At the scene of the accident, wreaths for the deceased have been removed, memorial poems written on the viaduct pillar have been scrubbed off and there are no signs of the crash. Everything seems to show life has returned to normal. But the local villagers still remember the tragedy vividly.

“I will never forget that night, even now when there’s a thunderstorm and lightning, I am little worried about the viaduct, and worry that such accidents will happen again,” a local resident, who refused to disclose his full name, told the Global Times.

And then there’s this:

Although boasting one of the fastest high-speed trains in the world, the way the Ministry of Railways (MOR) disposed of the wreckage and delayed the results of an investigation into the crash sparked public fury and widespread doubt as to the wisdom of the massive investment in high-speed railways….

Though unwilling to discuss the past, Wang Jian still complained about the MOR. “After the memorial service, the MOR officials fled and have never contacted us ever since. The investigation result was delayed, and the complete name list of all the passengers on the trains has still never been released,” he said.

“The MOR did punish someone, but nobody was even jailed,” Wang complained.

This doesn’t sound like state-controlled propaganda. But maybe it is; maybe it’s doing exactly what the party wants it to do, placing the blame on a specific group of bunglers. I honestly don’t know. The one thing I always thought when I read articles like this, hypercritical of the government, was that it somehow fit within the approved party discourse — that the government was willing to let the media go this far and even encouraged it to do so in some instances, especially when reporting on corruption and local malfeasance.

Is this an example of opening up and greater freedom of the press? Or is it the same old propaganda, disguised as a watchdog media, that is actually planting exactly the stories the government wants it to? I wonder.

______________

Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 83 Comments

SK Cheung
I give comparisons in response to your question. You give comparisons just because the earth is round.

Wrong. You make implicit “comparisons” by suggesting China should democratize.

which in no way alters the fact that the CCP covers up, revises history, and denies inconvenient truths.

And your point is? If you are trying to suggest (as usual) that China’s political system needs to change because of this, I’ll just remind you that all governments in history have done the same.

It seems even an old decrepit CCP-butt-kissing dog can occasionally learn a new trick or two.

Which is another reason why the CCP is superior to Western “democracies” – their butt-kissing dogs are actually capable of learning outside of their programming.

July 29, 2012 @ 12:46 pm | Comment

“You make implicit “comparisons” by suggesting China should democratize.”
—what “implicit comparisons”? And I don’t suggest that “China should democratize”. I would like to see that CHinese people determine how they are governed, rather than having the CCP make that determination for them.

“And your point is?”
—it is precisely as stated. That “the CCP covers up, revises history, and denies inconvenient truths.” Pure. Simple.

“I’ll just remind you that all governments in history have done the same.”
—LOL. Yet more comparisons. You are certainly a fountain for comparisons.

“their butt-kissing dogs are actually capable of learning outside of their programming.”
—LOL again. The GT editor/butt-kissing dog can talk the talk. We actually can’t surmise what he’s learned until we see him walk the walk. If GT starts publishing inconvenient truths, then he might be on to something. Personally, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

“Which is another reason why the CCP is superior to Western “democracies””
—“another” reason? Was there an earlier/previous reason? LOL. I must’ve missed it. And you think the CCP “taught” him to stop denying inconvenient truths? Man, have I got some bridges that you’d love to buy.

July 29, 2012 @ 3:13 pm | Comment

SK Cheung
I would like to see that CHinese people determine how they are governed

In that case, keep hoping – because there is no country where the general public is in charge of decision making.

Was there an earlier/previous reason?

LOL. Yes, there were several listed above. LOL. – you know, infant and child mortality, death rates, life expectancy, scientific literacy, technological capabilities, defense, the economy, financial position, all things you don’t care about because they don’t serve your ideology. LOL.

LOL.

July 30, 2012 @ 11:41 am | Comment

Gimme a break dufus. I’m talking about determining how theyre governed, not day to day decision making. It seems you’ve yet to meet a straw man you didn’t like. But you’re right insofar as Chinese people get neither.

Yes, we’ve been through those things you listed before, all of which came courtesy of capitalism, and none of which requires authoritarianism.

July 31, 2012 @ 5:39 am | Comment

SK Cheung
all of which came courtesy of capitalism, and none of which requires authoritarianism.

Nope. There are plenty of democracies that can only ever dream of China’s growth.

Unless you want to talk about other reasons why the East Asian model used in Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and now China excelled when almost all others failed.

August 1, 2012 @ 6:54 am | Comment

SK Cheung
But you’re right insofar as Chinese people get neither.

“The people” don’t decide who gets into office. 51% of the people do. It’s little better than 10% as far as I’m concerned.

August 1, 2012 @ 6:55 am | Comment

““The people” don’t decide who gets into office. 51% of the people do.”
—which is already much better than China. Less than 6% of China’s population are CCP members, but clearly a far far smaller number have any input into who gets to be head honcho for the next 10 years.

And btw (this is so basic I’m surprised it needs to be said, then I remember who we’re dealing with), even for the hypothetical 49% who don’t get their wish, they at least had the opportunity for input.

“There are plenty of democracies that can only ever dream of China’s growth.”
—which is quite irrelevant to whether China needs authoritarianism. Again, from 1949 – 1979, authoritarianism + communism was useless. Switch to capitalism after that, and voila. The correlation to China’s rise is with capitalism, not authoritarianism in the least.

August 1, 2012 @ 8:13 am | Comment

SK Cheung
The correlation to China’s rise is with capitalism, not authoritarianism in the least.

Except China’s not nearly as capitalistic as you think it is.

August 1, 2012 @ 11:17 pm | Comment

“Except China’s not nearly as capitalistic as you think it is.”
—oh brother. More semantics. OK, well then China’s rise correlates with whatever name you want to affix to her version of a free-market system. I dunno, maybe go Deng and just say “opening up” or whatever floats your boat. What it doesn’t correlate with is authoritarianism.

August 2, 2012 @ 6:06 am | Comment

‘It’s little better than 10% as far as I’m concerned.’

Cookie, you are a comedy genius!

Not only is CPC membership low at 6%, but it’s lower than both the Republican and Democratic parties!

Furthermore, who ‘elects’ (rubber-stamps) the President in China?

The NPC (about 3000 members).

So the President is elected by about 0.000002 of the population!

Democracy isn’t perfect, but it’s better than that.

August 2, 2012 @ 7:40 pm | Comment

SK Cheung
OK, well then China’s rise correlates with whatever name you want to affix to her version of a free-market system

Huge portions of the Chinese economy are state controlled, unlike in most democracies where major industries (banking, media, resource) control the state. THAT’S the difference. The first decades of “reform and opening up” were nowhere NEAR free-market.

Xilin
So the President is elected by about 0.000002 of the population!

Democracy isn’t perfect, but it’s better than that.

You must not be familiar with a true democratic system. The typical person in a democracy has no power whatsoever. They gain influence if they’re rich or famous, otherwise their votes count for little at all.

August 3, 2012 @ 1:35 am | Comment

Cookie Monster, you are so funny.

I, being a typical person (I regret that I am neither rich nor famous), have no power beyond beyond voting for my choice of government.

Even if they don’t get in, they, as the opposition, will continue to represent me.

I could even run in an election if I wanted to!
I could even start my own party if I wanted to!

Whereas in China, 0.000002% of the population choose their president.

Cookie Monster, you are so so funny.

August 3, 2012 @ 2:14 am | Comment

Sure, SOE’s are of some significance. But SOE’s are not unique to, nor predicated upon, authoritarianism. In fact, in Canada there are all manner of Crown Corporations that are state-owned. Often, those corporations operate in a monopoly environment that the state controls.

But even that is beside the point. THe question moving forward is what, if any, aspects of the economy actually require authoritarianism. And the answer is none.

August 3, 2012 @ 2:38 am | Comment

I interrupt this latest CookieMonsterContradictionfest to bring tidings from London that TPD favorite Madame Miao is back, playing the same tiny little violin:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/02/swimmer-ye-shiwen-declining-superpowers

Great remark in the comment thread about “intellectual lassitude” that will save many of us the trouble of replying.

August 3, 2012 @ 4:58 am | Comment

Did someone mention SOEs. There goes Inter Milan down the u-turn as a quality team. I’m moving my support to Juventis even though they have had some envelope problems and their supporters are thugs.

August 3, 2012 @ 5:10 am | Comment

Madame Miao’s postings are far more lucid and significant than the mangled turds that roll out from your mouth, dear slim.

Xilin
Even if they don’t get in, they, as the opposition, will continue to represent me

Adorable.

I could even start my own party if I wanted to!

Are you kidding me?

Ok, be president tomorrow and I’ll eat my words. In fact be president within your lifetime.

SK Cheung
THe question moving forward is what, if any, aspects of the economy actually require authoritarianism. And the answer is none

And do any of them require “democracy”? The answer is no.

King Tubby
pretentious babble

We’re still not impressed.

August 3, 2012 @ 11:19 am | Comment

@CM. You must be addled on some North Korean party drug. Inter Milan. I’m concerned about the future of Western civilization.

What is this royal “we” puss? I’m the monarch around here.

Now, go out and get a life or I will have one on my servants manhandle you.

August 3, 2012 @ 1:05 pm | Comment

“And do any of them require “democracy”? The answer is no.”
—once again, you’ve managed to answer a question no one was asking. Brilliant. I’ve never suggested that China’s economy requires democracy, unlike dufusses like you who try to claim that China’s economy requires authoritarianism. So heck, let’s go with that. China’s economy would persevere under either “democracy” or the CCP. So tell me, what else does the CCP have to offer? More importantly, what else would be compelling enough for Chinese people to bother keeping her around. Admittedly, I’m not Chinese, so I’m not able to answer that question. The laughable part is that, protest as you will, neither are you. That would be a question for Chinese people, if only the CCP has the balls to ask it…which of course they don’t.

August 3, 2012 @ 4:57 pm | Comment

Cookie Monster,

‘Even if they don’t get in, they, as the opposition, will continue to represent me.’

Adorable.

– Thank you. Watch the House of Commons online and you’ll see the concerns of constituents read out and debated all the time there.

I could even start my own party if I wanted to!

Are you kidding me?

– No, Wikipedia ‘Minor parties in the United Kingdom.’

Ok, be president tomorrow and I’ll eat my words. In fact be president within your lifetime.

– So one dimensional. I am British: we have a Prime Minister. So, on this point I have to agree with you. I will most definately not become president in my lifetime.

On a happier note, DeWang (who I suspect, but would never accuse, of being Cookie Monster), the sage of Hidden Harmonies, is posting links to the Peking Duck again! What a gent.

(http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2012/08/curriculum-protest-in-hong-kong-a-sign-some-still-prefer-wearing-dirty-british-laundary/)

August 3, 2012 @ 5:29 pm | Comment

Oh, Cookie Monster, one more thing. I was wondering if you could offer any of your pearls of wisdom on this:

0.000002% of the Chinese population elect their president

(Perhaps you missed it in my previous posts!)

August 3, 2012 @ 5:31 pm | Comment

“Intellectual lassitude” says it all for the whole Chinese nationalist movement, Cookie Boy. In fairness, you’re a smart enough guy who’s simply too invested in a body of bad ideas, falsehoods and fallacies, and too proud to admit it, let alone to let go. You always end up on the bottom, through countless changes of handle from Ferin to Merp to Your Friend to Cookie Monster — because your schtick is transparently unchanged.

Reality is your biggest foe, even when SKC or others are not channeling it for you.

August 3, 2012 @ 8:19 pm | Comment

The harmony isn’t hidden – it’s parading all its mortifications online.

Btw, I like the word “some” in the link – stuff like some very few troublemakers, a tiny minority. The nomenclature looks familiar to me.

August 3, 2012 @ 8:53 pm | Comment

King Tubby
I’m the monarch around here.

They hand out crowns for syphilis?

SK Cheung
unlike dufusses like you who try to claim that China’s economy requires authoritarianism.

Vague as usual. China’s economy benefits from CCP rule. It would still function in a democracy, but not nearly as well.

More importantly, what else would be compelling enough for Chinese people to bother keeping her around.

Security and stability.

Xilin
0.000002% of the Chinese population elect their president

So? In democracies you get to choose one of two (or rarely three) crony figureheads hand-picked by oligarchs. Either that or your country simply doesn’t matter on the world stage.

Watch the House of Commons online and you’ll see the concerns of constituents read out and debated all the time there.

And read the history of Britain and you’ll see a history of the rich getting richer and pissing on the common man.

slim
In fairness, you’re a smart enough guy who’s simply too invested in a body of bad ideas, falsehoods and fallacies

Right, they’re bad ideas because you say so. I support my ideas with facts and reality, SK Cheung’s goal-post moving and arbitrary whining aside.

August 4, 2012 @ 5:28 am | Comment

Cookie Monster,

0.000002% of the Chinese population elect their president

So?

– Thanks for your insight.

As for your views on democracy, well, the point is I get to choose. I have my vote. If the government doesn’t perform well, then we can vote them out.

As regards the ‘world stage’…. I really couldn’t give a toss. A choice between democracy and ‘mattering on the world stage’ would be a no-brainer for me.

Just out of interest, do you live in China and are you a member of the Communist party or in the process of applying?

August 4, 2012 @ 6:09 am | Comment

“China’s economy benefits from CCP rule.”
—how, pray tell?

“Security and stability.”
—is that sufficient to keep the CCP around? Doubt it, but I’d let Chinese people decide. Is the CCP required to maintain security and stability? Doubt that too, but again I’d let Chinese people decide. It’s funny how CCP apologists like you think the CCP is doing this world of good, only you’re not confident enough to put that sentiment to the test. How precious.

“I support my ideas with facts and reality”
—seriously LOL.

To Xilin #74,
well said. Ol CM there lives in the US of A (as if there was any doubt) but he takes his verbiage and phrasing straight out of the CCP handbook, which is why we get gems like “crony figureheads hand-picked by oligarchs”. I mean, what normal human talks like that?

August 4, 2012 @ 8:10 am | Comment

To Xilin,
I don’t often read HH (in fact I avoid it like the plague), but when I do, it’s always good for a laugh. Looks like Dewang takes issue with Joyce Lau not parsing the curriculum itself in detail. One wonders how much detail he was expecting. Perhaps statements by Lau like “The new curriculum is similar to the so-called patriotic education taught in mainland China”, “The materials, including a handbook titled “The China Model,” describe the Communist Party as “progressive, selfless and united””, and “it glosses over major events like the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square crackdown” weren’t specific enough for ol’ Dewang-boy. I wonder how much Dewang has looked into said curriculum himself. THe irony is that he doesn’t come out in disagreement over Lau’s conclusion that the curriculum is tantamount to brainwashing, only that he disapproves of her method of arriving at said conclusion. Oh well, when you’re defending the angle that he’s stuck defending, one is often left reaching for straws and nit-picking at minutiae.

On a side note, that piece was sloppy. Dewang should re-acquaint himself with a spell checker.

And for irony, the comment by Ray was priceless. Apparently he takes heart in the fact that HK voters are being more pro-Beijing based on their voting patterns (the “silent majority”, he calls it). He also wishes to see HK and mainland CHina societies coming together. Hmm…whilst Chinese patriotism is rubbing off on HKers, I wonder if voting practices will rub off the other way. Ray, m’boy, be careful what you wish for.

August 4, 2012 @ 8:30 am | Comment

Xilin
the point is I get to choose.

No, you don’t. You get one of 25+ million shares of opinion, which amounts to absolutely nothing on the individual scale.

A choice between democracy and ‘mattering on the world stage’ would be a no-brainer for me.

That’s not the choice, my tosser-giving friend. Democracy simply breaks down with larger populations.

are you a member of the Communist party or in the process of applying?

Nope

SK Cheung
how, pray tell?

For one, the use of the iron fist to keep their bankers under control.

is that sufficient to keep the CCP around? Doubt it, but I’d let Chinese people decide.

Yes, and you’re not “letting the Chinese people” decide. You’re letting 51% of the people “decide”, which in reality means the banks, military and mass media.

I mean, what normal human talks like that?

It’s pretty clear that you’re not very smart, so you don’t have to brag about your credentials on that front. It’s not surprising that the group thinkers are so in love with the idea of their ilk running nations into the ground.

End of story, the CCP will step down when they see fit and at their pleasure. Anyone who disagrees will face tanks, machine guns – and nuclear weapons if they strike from outside. So for your sake, you’re going to have to come up with more convincing arguments other than “MY FEELINGS TELL ME SO!”

August 5, 2012 @ 2:42 am | Comment

SK Cheung
Ray, m’boy, be careful what you wish for.

Who talks like this? No one does except fobs trying too hard to pretend they are skilled with the English language.

August 5, 2012 @ 2:43 am | Comment

“the use of the iron fist to keep their bankers under control.”
—what “iron fist”? Again, words with no meaning. They set interest rates. They set regulations on capital requirements. Nothing that Chinese can’t do without the CCP. A society can certainly regulate banks while allowing personal and political freedom.

“You’re letting 51% of the people “decide””
—oh brother, such basic concepts that repeatedly elude you. Everyone of voting age who casts a vote is contributing to the decision. What you refer to is the group who end up getting their way. Democracy doesn’t mean everyone gets their way, but it means everyone can contribute to the final group decision/outcome. You should read a book or something, cuz you’re still fuzzy on basic points. It’s a lame point you try to make over and over, and at some point you should grow a brain.

“CCP will step down when they see fit and at their pleasure.”
—or when Chinese people have finally had enough, or if the CCP eventually has the luxury of stumbling upon an enlightened leader (especially after the dinosaurs and relics die off). But as I say, I’m happy to let Chinese people decide. I’m fairly certain they don’t need an overseas schmuck like you telling them what’s best for them.

“Who talks like this?”
—LOL. Even with the smack talk you show a disappointing lack of creativity and originality. Anyway, I have some South African and Australian friends. You do the math.

“which amounts to absolutely nothing on the individual scale.”
—but it does on a societal level.

“are you a member of the Communist party or in the process of applying?

Nope”
—oh but you should. You seem to have the perfect level of intelligence for them.

August 5, 2012 @ 5:42 am | Comment

Cookie,

You just don’t understand the British system Cookie. You have mentioned the CCP and how good they are at maintaining stability. Well, I’d say it’s too early to tell. On the scale of things, the CCP hasn’t been around that long and throughout it’s short history things haven’t been exactly stable.

If you want to look at stability of government try looking at the UK. The British Parliamentary monarchy is currently the most enduring political system in the world (forgive me for the hyperbole and sudden flush of patriotism, but we are hosting the olympics and we won a shitload of medals today).

The CCP has to maintain the massive rate of economic growth that has been achieved in China for the last 10 years and keep it up for another 20 years at least (some say 30). Chuck in a demographic ticking timebomb and you have a serious challenge to stability. If the CCP could maintain stability though these challenges (and the myriad others), I’d be impressed.

August 5, 2012 @ 7:00 am | Comment

SK Cheung
or when Chinese people have finally had enough

I don’t think so. One million troops, machine guns and tanks say the small minority of pissants who want to destabilize China are not going to be very successful.

Xilin
Well, I’d say it’s too early to tell.

Rather, history shows that democracies are extremely unstable and prone to implosion.

The British Parliamentary monarchy is currently the most enduring political system in the world

Right, and it didn’t stop you from committing barbarous acts in India, akin to giving them a permanent death rate worse than “Great Leap Forward” in its darkest years. It was 40-50 in India and 25 under Mao during the height of his worst years. You butchered at least 250 million people by that measure, and your argument illustrates just how evil democracies can be.

The CCP has to maintain the massive rate of economic growth that has been achieved in China for the last 10 years and keep it up for another 20 years at least (some say 30).

No, it doesn’t. It’s been slowing for quite some time and sadly for some China hasn’t imploded into chaos and civil war.

Chuck in a demographic ticking timebomb and you have a serious challenge to stability.

What demographic time bomb? The so-called gender imbalance that is erased by relative Chinese male monogamy? Too many old people? Chinese elderly are not parasites.

August 5, 2012 @ 8:28 am | Comment

“One million troops, machine guns and tanks”
—this is true. And the CCP has already demonstrated a willingness to use it against its own people. How nice. We know that when push comes to shove, to hell with Chinese people, the CCP is only interested in preserving its death grip on power. Of course, this assumes that the PLA will stand behind the CCP in perpetuity. Also, when I say “Chinese people have finally had enough”, it should be obvious to all but the most indoctrinated that it would not be “a small minority” at that point.

Alas, more tu quoques in response to Xilin in #81. You are a two-trick pony. It’s either tu quoques, or it’s irrelevant comparisons. Time to learn some new tricks, m’boy.

And what the hell is “relative Chinese male monogamy”? The gender imbalance is quite real. And the population pyramid is also getting fatter at the top and skinnier at the bottom after years of one-child policy. Though you are correct that retirees and pensioners in China cost less per capita than in some other countries, but that doesn’t mean China can escape a mathematical reality and the socio-economic costs that come with that.

August 5, 2012 @ 2:18 pm | Comment

I think this thread has gone on long enough. Thanks.

August 6, 2012 @ 1:52 am | Comment

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