Saturday, July 30, 2011

China: The week that was

Wenzhou Train Crash

News out of China and internationally focused very much this week on the very fast train accident in Wenzhou
Zhejiang Provence. The accident occurred on Saturday July 23rd at around 8:30 pm when a bullet train collided into the back of a stalled train in Wenzhou, causing six carriages to derail, four of which fell off a 15-meter-high bridge.

In all, as of today, the death toll stands at 40 with another 200 injured. Victims have been promised the equivalent of US$142,000 in compensation, twice more than previous compensation deals. Unfortunately, most of the reporting, both within China and internationally, took the accident as an opportunity to point the finger at the government, exploring a myriad of scenarios and throwing accusations as to what and whom was to blame for the tragedy. I say unfortunately because although the accident needs a full and transparent investigation there were human beings who died and were injured. This seemed to be very much of secondary consideration to the blame game that went on.

The Chinese Communist Party and the central government have lost much face over this incident especially as it comes so close behind the over the top celebrations and self congratulations of the CCP's 90th anniversary.

Rest assured, however, that this severe loss of face will have very negative consequences for China.

The CCP has no other option, at this time, but to bow to the criticism and public outrage as expressed by Chinese citizens through the Internet, the international press and even from it's own news organs. Have no doubts however that the back room boys of the Party will not be taking it lightly and it will give further credence to the belief, among some, that the Party has become weak and therefore very vulnerable. With elections next year hardliners will now have an even greater influence than perhaps they already do.

If there is a lesson in this for the CCP and the government is that they now play in the real world and they had better pull together a very good team of 'Spin Doctors' because this is not the last time they will be needed.

Death of a Street Vendor

Other bad news which I have already blogged on here was the death of a one legged street vendor in Anshun City, Guazhou where it is alleged the vendor died as a result of the heavy handedness of the much despised Chennguan, China's urban management officers. Since that blog post one of the attending Chennguan has been detained, a euphemism for arrested, and the City's head of Urban law enforcement has been sacked.

The Chennguan are, for want of a better description somewhere between a Park Ranger and the Police. There main role in most big towns and cities is to enforce laws on illegal street vending, begging, loitering and the like. Their roles however are very poorly defined and their heavy handedness has many times resulted in serious injury and death. They are as more despised by the general population than the miscreants they continue to roust.

Saving The Children

Better news out of the week was the report on the freeing of 89 children and young adults who had been kidnapped by human trafficking rings. Some were only babies, most were females.

The government also released a report stating that 27,388 people had been rescued in 2009-2010, 3573 trafficking gangs busted and 22,550 arrested for human trafficking.

Maybe the tip of an iceberg but officials appear to be taking this issue very seriously, to their credit.

Kids and their toys....

Finally, for this week, because as the saying goes "there are a hundred untold stories in a big city' and there is not enough space to recount them here, is the story of the continuing meteoric rise of China exemplified by reports that China's refurbished, second hand, aircraft carrier is shortly due to be commissioned.

For some reason this has drawn a lot of attention in the west with people saying that it proves China's military intentions are to be the dominate force in Asia, that it is expansionist and ultimately a threat to US's hegemony in the region. Places like Australia, it has been reported, are supposedly fearful of this new Chinese development. I however, like the Philippines in this article, am not so concerned and  I think I can speak for the majority of average Australians that we really could not give two hoots.

This aircraft carrier is of little strategic importance much less a threat to all but the very smallest of countries in the region. If I was Fijian and it sailed into Suva I might be a tad concerned but otherwise it's importance lays solely in it's symbolism.

An aircraft carrier's strategic importance is in it's ability to project power and we see this in the United States Strategic Carrier Strike Groups. These CSG's power projection comes from a very impressive array of hardware and very professional manpower all developed over 60 years. A CSG would  normally include the following: 

  • 1 Aircraft carrier
  • 2 Guided missile destroyers
  • 2 anti aircraft warships 
  • 1-2 Anti submarine destroyers
  • 65 -70 aircraft
  • Several logistic ships and sometimes a 
  • submarine or even two.

That is what is needed in force projection and that takes generations of training and ongoing service and development to achieve

No the Chinese carrier is a symbol to it's people only at this stage and for a generation at least 

It is a symbol for the rest of the world of not that China is as a world economic and military power now, but what it could be.

Five Questions about China's aircraft carrier

Have a good week and may you, in opposition of the old Chinese curse, not "live in interesting times"