Posts tagged ‘trains’

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Weeks before June 4 – Role Allocations

« An explanation of this 1989 series

» Previous post in this series

I won’t be able to describe Wu Renhua‘s entire document on the 1989 movement, at least not during this spring. I never planned to achieve such an ambitious goal anyway, but in the process of reading and roughly regiving the document’s content, I do feel some regret that I don’t have as much time for this as I would like to have. It might be a different story if I was more familiar with the weeks when a civil society in Beijing seemed to develop, and all the people and organizations involved. But in fact, the series on this blog is a process of making myself more familiar with the weeks prior to what we often narrow down to that one bloody night in June, 1989.

Wu’s document is a who-is-who, and a collection of locations in Beijing. Rather than trying to go through every day recorded in his tweeted today-in-history collection, I’m adding to a project, as suggested by C. A. Yeung a few weeks ago.

This also means that I may be dwelling on events in early May 1989 even in a few weeks, when the actual day in the year 2012 will be June 4. And in that case, I will simply continue this series with the events in May 1989, as described by Wu, in another batch of posts next year.

But at least every few days, I will keep adding posts to this series, until June.

We must restitute to past generations what they once possessed, just as every present tense is in its possession: the abundance of a possible future, the uncertainty, the freedom, the finiteness, the inconsistency (…), Thomas Nipperdey, a German historian, once wrote.

That’s what commemoration is probably about. Before the bloodbath and the great dispair, there had been weeks of frustration, hope, and self-determination. If history came out of the gun barrels (as certain people appear to suggest), there would be nothing to read, nothing to remember, and nothing to expect.


Main Link: 八九天安门事件大记 (Major Daily Events, Tiananmen 1989), by Wu Renhua.

Sunday, April 23, 1989

In the morning, Zhao Ziyang meets with Hu Qili and Rui Xingwen, and emphasizes his three opinions on how to handle the students’ protests, and that “the news-related public opinion must be in accordance with the guiding principle of correct reporting”. In the afternoon, he leaves for North Korea by special train, as scheduled. Li Peng, Qiao Shi, and Tian Jiyun, see him off at Beijing Train Station. At about 14 h, the People’s University Doctoral Candidates’ Declaration emerges. It states full support for the Seven Demands, and all patriotic movements from all students and people of all walks of life in society; calls a complete student (and doctorate candidates’) strike; demands the resignation of the collective leadership’s and collective mistaken decision-makers’ collective resignations [or be obliged to resign] (Li-Peng language), later referred to as “collective responsibility” (Li-Peng language); strongly demands all cadres in the party, government and army who are older than 75 to resign; to oppose violence, to protect human rights, and the military forces should not take part and interfere in state affairs; CCP activities should not be paoid for by the state; and censorship to be removed, press freedom be established, and private press, radio and television be allowed; anti-corruption commissions be established, corruption on all party levels be investigated and removed, and business activities of cadres’ relatives be examined, and the results be reported to the public. Science and Technology Daily, under deputy chief editor Sun Changjiang (孙长江), is the first press publication to break into the censored field of covering the movement’s activities, which is commended by the students and from all walks of life. A number of young professors at the University of Science and Technology Beijing (北京科技大学) and other universities announce a strike; some university posters call for a general university strike or for “we won’t attend class unless we achieve our goals”, and some call for a nation-wide general strike. Between ten a.m. and around eight p.m. or after, students at Beijing University and Tsinghua University unsuccessfully try to take control of their respective universities’ broadcasting stations. Shen Tong (沈彤)1) takes a different approach – he runs a broadcasting system of his own from his dormitory, near the San Jiao Di (explanation for San Jiao Di here, underneath the list of the seven demands). Liu Gang (刘刚) is an organizer of a Universities’ Interim Committee (高校临时委员会), to be renamed Independent (or autonomous) Federation of Students from Universities in Beijing (北京市高等院校学生自治联合会), at which delegates of a number of Beijing Universities – if not all universities – are to participate. In the afternoon, Liu and Dai Zizhong (龚自忠) sees Wu Renhua at Wu’s place at the University of Political Science and Law. Wu hasn’t known them personally before. Liu asks Wu to attend the students’ assembly scheduled for that evening, at Yuanmingyuan or Yuanming Park2). Wu Renhua declines, because participation in the Yuanmingyuan assembly or meeting wouldn’t correspond with his role as a professor. If he played such a role, this would also provide a handle for the authorities. Liu Gang, in search for a candidate to chair the conference, approaches Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) [the student who hit his own head with his megaphone, during Guo Haifeng’s, Zhang Zhiyong’s and Zhou Yongjun’s kneeling petition at the entrance of the Great Hall of the People a day earlier], but Pu doesn’t believe that he has the abilities it takes to become chairman. Probably more crucially, he points out that his parents by adoption, who live in a rural area, are relatively old people who depend on him3).

The Yuanmingyuan conference meets in the evening, with delegates from Beiing’s twenty-one university. Each university dispatches ten delegates. Zhou Yongjun (周勇军),  of the University of Political Science and Law, and one of the three kneeling petitioners on the previous day, is elected chairman. Wang Dan, Wu’er Kaixi, Ma Shaofang, and Zang Kai (臧凯) become standing-commission members.

According to what are believed to be Li Peng’s diaries, the CCP Politbureau Standing Committee holds a meeting at eleven a.m.. Li Tieying, in his capactiy as national education commission’s director, calls Li Peng to inform him that the mood at all universities in Beijing is very emotional, that student strikes are brewing, and that he hopes that Zhao listens to / reads the reports. Beijing Municipal Party secretary Li Ximing calls Zhao Ziyang on the phone and asks him to put his trip to North Korea off. Zhao tells the national education commission’s director Li Tieying see this post, footnote 3 that he had already authorized Li Peng to chair the standing commission’s work and to report to him.



1) According to this online story, Shen was extremely lucky after the Tian An Men crackdown:

Fortunately for Shen, he had already been accepted to Brandeis University and had been issued a passport to study in the U.S. Six days after Tiananmen he went undisguised to the airport and boarded a flight for the United States though the state security police had put him on their most wanted list. Some have taken this as a sign that even many in China’s military had secretly been in sympathy with the democracy movement.

2) Yuanmingyuan or Yuanming Park (the Gardens of Perfect Brightness, 圆明园) belongs to Beijing’s Haidian District. It is also referred to as the Old Summer Palace. The actual palace was destroyed in the Second Opium War.

3) Wu Renhua writes in his document that he doesn’t remember having warned Pu Zhiqiang against chairing the Yuanming Park meeting in principle, but he does remember that he did warn Pu to mind his safety, for the sake of his adoptive parents.



» April 23, 1989, Under the Jacaranda, April 23, 2012


Continued here »

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Train No. K-904: a Spring Festival Carol

A China National Radio (中国广播网, CNR) story, but in JR‘s own words).

Main Link:

The train in question left from Xiamen (Fujian Province), with the destination of Taiyuan (Shanxi Province). And when a girl named Zhang Yaya (张娅娅), a Hubei Normal University student on her way home to Jincheng, southeastern Shanxi Province, suddenly didn’t find her suitcase anymore, a suitcase with a notebook and lots of relevant academic papers in it. A young man had left the train earlier and in a haste, other passengers said, and had apparently mistaken her suitcase for his own, as the two pieces of luggage looked very similar to each other. With help from other passengers, who had seen the young man leave the train, and a People’s Policeman’s cumbersome travels of four days and three nights through three provinces (Shanxi, Henan, and Hubei), the two suitcases were restored to their actual owners, who felt unspeakable relief (感叹“不可思议”), and felt the warmth of travelling home all the more (更是感受到了回家路上的温暖).

To address the reservations an insignificant minority of mean-hearted readers might have about this story, People’s Police inspector Li Hao (李浩) informs us that the young man’s suitcase contained some good stuff, too, and that if he had meant to steal Ms Zhang’s suitcase, he’d have placed an empty suitcase next to hers. The left suitcase’s contents also helped the police to find its owner, in Shiyan (十堰市), Hubei Province.

All the lucky travellers knew was that the policeman’s surname was Li, because he had only said that he was from the People’s Police, and that his family name was Li.

Fortunately, the press took care of the missing information, i. e. Mr. Li’s given name, Li Hao). Young people can be so careless these days (just JR’s personal opinion).



» Dragon (Zodiac), Wikipedia (as of Jan 19, 2012)
» Everything they possess, ChinaHush, Jan 12, 2012
» In Praise of the Times and the People, Nov 14, 2011


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Did Imported Components lead to Wenzhou Train Crash?

Chinese media speculated early on – before all unauthorized coverage  was banned by the propaganda department – that the  7.23 Wenzhou bullet train collision was possibly caused by the signal system. A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article on Monday seems to point into the same direction, and says that China used foreign technology in its bullet-train signal systems which local engineers couldn’t fully understand, according to a review of corporate documents and interviews with more than a dozen rail executives inside and outside China.

However, the authors add that the precise cause of the crash remained uncertain, and that the signaling assembly hadn’t necessarily played a role.

Ask that Black Box behind me

"Ask that Black Box behind me" (click photo)

The WSJ authors mention both the Chinese supplier, and the inclusion of Hitachi technology which had been supplied as a “black box” by the Japanese company, for fear that it could be reverse-engineered in China otherwise. The Chinese manufacturer and the railway ministry reportedly didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Friday, August 5, 2011

People’s Daily: So Many Innocent People

In Western countries, journalists are sometimes confused about the role of their moral code when it collides with their duties. The contradictions have become even more apparent with the development of technology. The greedy Western media, whose social responsibility has gradually vanished thanks to the connivance of so-called freedom of information, is simply not superior at all given it has infringed on the privacy of so many innocent people.

Ding Gang, People’s Daily / Global Times, August 3, 2011



» Wenzhou Censorship, “a Wide-Spread Sense of Depression”, July 31, 2011


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hong Kong Journalists Association criticizes alleged Wenzhou Coverage Restrictions

The Hong Kong Journalists Association has urged mainland authorities to stop interfering in media coverage of last week’s fatal high-speed train crash in Wenzhou. Association chairwoman Mak Yin-ting said some mainland journalists have told her of directives issued to them by the government, restricting their reports to the accounts given by the state-run Xinhua news agency. Several newspapers on the mainland were also forced to pull planned lead stories about the tragedy. Ms Mak said China’s curb on press freedoms is not acceptable.

RTHK News, July 30, 2011

The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) has criticized the central propaganda department for issuing restrictions on coverage of the Wenzhou rear-end railway accident, and demanded the withdrawal [of the restrictions].

Before, widespread internet news had said that the central propaganda department had issued the third restriction since the accident occured, obliging more than 100 publications of Saturday (July 30) to withdraw or rivise their coverage overnight.


The HKJA said that according to its understanding, the central propaganda department had decreed that media in all regions, including their subsidiaries’ publications and websites, should rapidly lower the temperature (迅速降温) of their coverage concerning the accident.

BBC Chinese Website, July 30, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

“Unusual Criticism”, and People’s Daily’s Take on the Wenzhou Bullet Train Crash

People’s Daily Online (人民网), on Tuesday, published an article about the train crash on a viaduct near Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, on July 23, where a CRH2 bullet train (also referred to as D301 train) rear-ended a CRH1-046B (also referred to as D3115) train which had been halted there by loss of power, attributed to a lightning strike.

Main Link:
Links within the following blockquotes were inserted during translation, and aren’t part of the original.

39 people died, and about 200 got injured – rear-end collision! This happens more commonly in car-driving accidents, but it can even happen to technologically advanced trains. How exactly did the particularly serious accident happen? People sincerely hope that the causes of the accident can be identified soon, so that lessons can be learned.

Why did the train control system fail?

The train control system measures the speed, the train’s location between the points of departure and arrival, and automatically prevents rear-end collisions, and collisions. Why didn’t it perform its functions in this accident?

The article then explains in more detail how the train control system is expected to work, and continues:

But this advanced control system failed in this accident. “I’m puzzled about this rear-end accident!”, said 40-year-old D301 train passenger Li Yanting (李研婷)1). She and four others had gotten onto the train in Tianjin on July 23, at perhaps 8.10 h, to tour Yandangshan Mountain. It was rainy during the trip, the train went smoothly, but with a lot of stop and go (时常走走停停). The D301 train isn’t scheduled to stop at Yongjia Railway Station, but theirs stopped there anyway, for several minutes.

At about 20.24, having gotten the departure signal, the train moved on again, now at a clearly faster speed. At that moment, the D3115 train was travelling not far ahead, and its speed was clearly slower than the D301’s. The distance between them kept narrowing, but nobody – neither the passengers, nor the driver(s), and not even the background control and signal center – noticed that.

It had been reported that the control system’s failure, too, had been caused by a  lightning strike, writes People’s Daily. But if so, did that mean that every train would need to be stopped in case of a lightning storm?

The article then quotes ministry of railways spokesman Wang Yongping (王勇平) as saying that “under normal circumstances, this kind of rear-end shouldn’t happen, but it just did happen” (按照正常的情况,列车不应该发生这样的追尾,但它就是发生了……), and that the state council had arranged an accident investigation team which would conscientiously and meticulously investigate the causes of the accident, and that the ministry of railways would actively support the investigation (国务院已经组织事故调查组,将会认真地、严肃地、细致地把事故原因查清楚,铁道部会积极地配合事故调查).

Passengers are quoted as asking why train drivers wouldn’t communicate by phone, even if the signal system failed. When a train lost power, wouldn’t its driver send a dispatch to the coordination center? People were “full of doubts on these issues” (人们对这些问题充满了疑惑), writes People’s Daily. Two passengers remembered that the D3115 had left Yongjia station at a pace of some 20 km/h2), ten minutes prior to the D301 train at a pace of around 100 km/h. With correct coordination, and a departure-time difference of ten minutes between the two trains, the D301 should have had sufficient time to stop [before crashing into the D3115]. According to the reporter’s information, the ministry’s and local Shanghai coordination center were monitoring real-time, and should have issued emergency instructions from the first moment3).

The article points out that on July 25 at about 6 a.m., traffic had resumed with some seventy trains on that day. There had been public concerns about the resumption’s appropriateness, given that there was no finished report on the accident, writes People’s Daily.

The article avoids to refer to the two CRH trains as “Harmony” trains (和谐号). Referrals to that politically-charged term – harmony is a hallmark of party and state chairman Hu Jintao‘s political philosophy – don’t seem to be an absolute “No” on People’s Daily’s website, but only seem to occur on the forums.

Japan’s Asahi Shimbun reports that

[w]hile the Hexie name and CRH letters indicating the train was part of the high-speed railway system were visible at first, the loading shovels crushed the car to erase such labels.

The Asahi report also suggests that a hole had been digged to bury the front car of the bullet train that had rear-ended the other.

Police officials would not confirm that the train car had been buried. But a number of railway sources said it was only natural to bury anything that could not be removed from the accident site,

writes Asahi Shimbun.
Jinghua Shibao (Beijing Times), a paper affiliated with People’s Daily, had published an editorial on July 24 (prior to the above one by People’s Daily itself) which amounted to unusual criticism of the government.



1) D301 would be the CRH2 train that rear-ended the halted CRH1-046B (or D3115 ) train.
2)This seems to refer to two passengers, each of who were on the D3115 and the D301 train respectively.
3) “from the first moment would be my translation of 在第一时间.



» 铁道部发言人称2岁半女孩获救是生命奇迹, (video), July 24, 2011
» Phrasebook: xiāng tí bìng lùn, July 11, 2011
» Scientific Development and Contradictions, July 3, 2011
» Imperialism Thwarted on all Fronts, October 27, 2010


» Interrogating the Party, The Economist, July 25, 2011


Monday, July 11, 2011

Phrasebook: xiāng tí bìng lùn

1. China Daily Translation

The Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway and Japan’s Shinkansen line cannot be mentioned in the same breath, as many of the technological indicators used by China’s high-speed railways are far better than those used in Japan’s Shinkansen.

Wang Yongping (王勇平), Chinese ministry of railways spokesman, in a Xinhua interview (quoted by China Daily and Xinhua‘s English website), reacting to Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. threatening to take action if China files for patents on high-speed trains made using Japanese technologies.

Translator's Choice

Translator's Choice

2. JR’s Translation (Xinhua-based)

What would spell “pirating” Japan’s Shinkansen? This is somewhat showy. One can say that you can’t put the Shinkansen and the Beijing-Shanghai bullet train on a par*). No matter if speed or the degree of convenience is the issue, no matter if the technology above or underneath the rails is the issue, all the differences are big.

*) Both Baidu‘s dictionary and the Concise English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary, by A. P. Cowie, Zhu Yuan et al, Beijing 1986, 1997, leave the English choice for xiāng tí bìng lùn (相提并论) to the translator: “to mention (or be mentioned) in the same breath”, and “to put (or place) on a par”. Google Translate suggests “not on comparable levels”.

In the Shinkansen context, I find “on a par” somewhat less offensive than “in the same breath”.


China masters German Train Technology, Deutsche Welle, April 28, 2006


Xinhua introduces Wang Yongping as the ministry of railways’ deputy director of the political department, and director of the propaganda (or publicity) department, as well as a ministry spokesman.


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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