How Much Corruption Can One Nation Handle?
China's Gilded Age Growing Pains
Evan Osnos' latest in the New Yorker has it all: the cronyism, coverup, and a society where hiding the evidence is increasingly difficult. You'll want to note the coverage of former railroad commissioner Liu Zhijun, the horrifying experience of the Cao family, and the growing signs of major internal conflict within China.
But this paragraph stuck out for me.
The Wenzhou collision and the downfall of Liu Zhijun have come to symbolize some of the essential risks facing the Communist Party. The crash struck at the middle-class men and women who have accepted the grand bargain of modern Chinese politics in the era after Socialism: allow the Party to reign unchallenged as long as it is reasonably competent. The crash violated the deal, and, for many, it became what Hurricane Katrina was to Americans: the iconic failure of government performance. It is a merciless judgment. Gerald Ollivier, a senior infrastructure specialist at the World Bank in Beijing, pointed out that trains in China are still by far one of the safest means of transportation. “If you think about it, the China high-speed railway must be transporting at least four hundred million people per year,” he said. “How many people have died on the China high-speed railway in the past four years? Forty people. This is the number of people who die in road accidents in China every five or six hours. So, in terms of safety, this is by far one of the safest ways of transportation. The accident this past year was certainly very tragic and should not have happened. But, compared to the alternative of moving people by car, it is safer by a factor of at least a hundred.” And yet, in China, people are more inclined to quote a very different statistic: in forty-seven years of service, high-speed trains in Japan have recorded just one fatality—a passenger caught in a closing door.