Archive for July 3rd, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Press Review: Scientific Development and Contradictions within Society

Huanqiu Shibao/Enorth — the following are excerpts (partly translations) of two articles, published on Sunday. The first one by Xinhua, and republished by Enorth (Tianjin); the second by Huanqiu Shibao, on the Beijing-Shanghai bullet train.  Huanqiu extensively quotes from foreign media. I have not seen or listened to the original foreign reviews, and therefore can’t tell if they were quoted literally – except this one, by the Daily Telegraph‘s Peter Foster.


The CCP’s General Office (中共中央办公厅) issued a notice requiring all departments and units to conscientiously study and implement the spirit of Comrade Hu Jintao’s important speech at the celebrations of the ninetieth anniversary of the CCP’s foundation (中共中央办公厅7月1日发出通知,要求各地区各部门各单位认真学习贯彻胡锦涛同志在庆祝中国共产党成立90周年大会上的重要讲话精神).

Hu’s speech, according to this article by Xinhua, (via Enorth) reiterated much of what Wu Bangguo, the National People’s Congress’ standing committee’s chairman and party secretary, stated on March 10 (see second part of this post). Classics such as 实事求是 (seeking truth in the facts) weren’t mentioned in my excerpt translation of Wu’s speech, but were still part of his speech (see original, page 2). However, the article doesn’t mention the worker-peasant alliance (as Wu did).

The notice (or circular) also calls on the departments and units to link theory and practice, thus implementing the development of society in accordance with the 12th five-year plan. The departments and units were told to thoroughly implement the concept of scientific development (深入贯彻落实科学发展观).

But not only the party’s general office, but foreigners, too, feel that they have a lot to learn, according to Huanqiu Shibao‘s review of the foreign press.

Titled “Foreign Media see Contemporary China from the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway [I’ll use the shorter translation bullet train further down – JR], and Say that China has Reason to be Proud” (外媒从京沪高铁看当代中国,  称中国有理由骄傲)*), Huanqiu writes:

The bullet train, the planning of which has been compared with America’s Apollo Moon mission, made its first routine trip yesterday afternoon. Reporters on board of the train which picked up to 300 kilometers per hour expressed their experience with a thumbs-up on souvenir photos. Two weeks earlier, they had still thrown questions at Ministry of Raiways officials which those found hard to counter. Just as the “Voice of America” reporter said, when you sit on this high-speed train “into the future”, you can fully feel that China is proud of it with good reason. (被比作美国“阿波罗”登月计划的京沪高铁昨天下午发出首趟运营列车。登上列车体验的记者们纷纷在300公里时速的显示屏前竖起大拇指拍照留念。两周前,他们还在新闻发布会上抛出令铁道部官员难以招架的质疑。正如“美国之音”记者所说,当你坐上这趟“面向未来”的高铁列车,就感觉到中国完全有理由为它骄傲。)

Of course, not every question about the operation of the railway line, high operation costs, or quality issues could yet be answered, but, Huanqiu quotes the Daily Telegraph, those who support the high-speed program were not in a minority, and do not doubt the country’s better future, as they saw miracles happen every day. While judgment differed within China’s debates themselves, the foreign media took a more positive view, writes Huanqiu, possibly drawing on their own Western countries’ experience with big rail and road projects.

The Irish Times’ correspondent is quoted with descriptions of the scenery outside the window, from the stylish white train, and his suggestion that after the display of national pride during the Olympic Games, the train was another epitome (缩影) of China’s development.

The Berliner Morgenpost is quoted as writing that while the latest Kung-fu movie by Jackie Chan was shown in the dining car, the train itself was actually Chinese kung-fu at work, overloading the Western eye with impressions. The Morgenpost is also quoted as drawing parallels between the train’s, and China’s economy’s performance.

And again the Daily Telegraph is quoted as commenting that on the day of the CCP’s ninetieth anniversary, the train certainly had an epochal meaning (具有划时代意义).

After these and other positive evaluations, the New York Times is quoted with – in turn – quoting Chinese media and citizens who were having doubts about the operational costs, ticket prices, quality issues or corruption cases, and even ridiculed the train.

Then the Wall Street Journal is quoted – the Apollo moon mission comparison (see above) apparently hails from them -, as also referring to the safety and costs issues. However, when reporters had set foot on the train, it was given the thumbs-up and were greatly surprised. A CNN reporter had said that on the bullet train, with twice the pace of America’s fastest counterpart, everything was very stable, and a Chinese friend had pointed at a coffee cup on the table, proudly pointing out that it didn’t wobble at all – 厉害吧 (lìhài ba)?

But the most flattering remark seems to come from from an American publication translated as  the “主考者” website, asking: “If China can do it, why can’t we?” While the American government had dedicated 800 million USD to high-speed train projects in its budget for 2012, China was planning to spend 40 billion during the coming five years.

And another American paper, translated as 邮政公报, is quoted as sighing (唏嘘) and asking:

Remember the great times of the 19th century rail construction across the continent? We used cheap Chinese labor to complete that project – will China need fourteen million unemployed Americans to build their railway? (美国《邮政公报》有些唏嘘地问道:还记得19世纪美国修建洲际铁路的好时候吗?我们甚至使用了廉价的中国劳工来完成该项工程,现在中国是否需要美国1400万失业者去帮助它建设高铁?)

America only did better, in terms of pace, when it cames of fast-food, a CNN article is quoted. KFC hamburgers were being served on the train.

Considerations by the Daily Telegraph that it may be Chinese companies who would repair the railroad from London to Leeds complete the description of international press reactions.

However, in its last paragraph, the article also quotes Jin Canrong (金灿荣) of the People’s University’s (or Renmin University’s) institute of international relations as saying that while innovation was currently highly appreciated in China, social criticism was much harsher. It was important to turn this criticism into a tool of supervision over the government’s work, but without criticizing merely for the sake of criticism itself (为骂而骂).

The connection between cherishing innovation on the one hand, and ever-more pointed contradictions within society (社会矛盾越来越尖锐) on the other, as drawn by Jin, may come across as rather strange in this context. But apparently, achievement is meant to be the glue that would keep the Chinese society together, contradictions notwithstanding. At the same time, the connection may also reflect an awareness that achievements alone won’t create the harmonious society aimed for by the CCP.

In a China Special in its June 25 edition, the Economist noted that**)

For all the chest-thumping, though, China’s leaders are more cautious than either their underlings or the state-controlled publishing industry. They avoid the term “China model” and do not publicly boast of a shengshi, even though they allow their media to talk of one. Indeed, they appear more nervous now than at any time for over a decade. They have massively increased spending on domestic security, which in this year’s budget has overtaken that on defence for the first time. The government has been reviving a Maoist system of neighbourhood surveillance by civilian volunteers. In the past few months the police have launched an all-out assault on civil society, arresting dozens of lawyers, NGO activists, bloggers and even artists. The Arab revolutions have spooked the leadership. From its perspective, the system looks vulnerable.

By Huanqiu standards, the bullet-train article doesn’t even come across as particularly chest-thumping.


*) Another sub-headline: 称中国有理由骄傲 问美国为何没做到 – [foreign correspondents] say that China has reason to be proud – ask why America didn’t manage [with similar success]
**) Economist, June 25, 2011, page 4 (Special)


Imperialism Thwarted, October 27, 2010
Lone Decisions, July 11, 2010


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