High Speed Rail Tragedy in China Reveals Small Minds in the West

July 25, 2011

If you suspect China is under a biased Western microscope being watched for every hiccup, the answer is “absolutely” yes and the evidence is overwhelming, while most of the world – especially the United States – is often ignored for the same sins and flaws.

On Saturday, July 23, 2011, China had its first railroad accident of the year, and it was reported globally with much criticism.

The Los Angeles Times shouts, “Deadly Chinese bullet train crash spawns anger, safety concerns”, and then reports that at least 43 people were killed and at least 200 injured.

The LA Times only had a few comments from readers and all that I read were insulting and negative of China.

MSNBC’s headline said, 32 die in China high-speed train crash and reported, “The total power failure rendered useless an electronic safety system designed to warn following trains of stalled trains on the tracks up ahead, and automatically halt them before a collision can occur.”

Comments such as this one followed the piece in MSNBC, “Anytime the Chinese get hosed by their own doing I just can’t feel bad for them… Better them than anyone else getting screwed by their quality control and reverse engineering.”

However, to be fair to MSNBC’s audience, there were many comments attacking ones such as the example I copied.  It was a lively debate worth reading.

Yahoo News was much more critical of China than MSNBC by focusing on safety and previous train wrecks in China dredging up as much dirt as possible.

One comment of many said, “the traffic safety in china is a joke. a very big joke. they don’t care about people, they care about face, they only interested in propaganda and fighting the big imperialist empire. they struggle to show the communism is working. guess what, is not working. so next time when you reverse engineering something do it completely. ever heard of Line blocks ? and throw the CTCS down the toilet and flush. twice.”

What causes such cruel and often evil reactions such as these from the Western media and readers?

Is it resentment because China is fast catching up to the United States as a global economic superpower?

Is it ethnic/racial hate because they are Chinese?

Is it envy because the quality of life is improving in China while life in the West is crumbling and burdened by debt?

Is it because they have a government run by China’s Communist Party?

One example of the “always beat up China” syndrome is a flawed and misleading opinion piece written by Charles Lane for The Washington Post.

Charles Lane wrote, “China’s bullet-train experience shows what can go wrong when an unelected elite, influenced by corrupt opportunists, gives orders that all must follow — without the robust public discussion we would have in the states.”

I wonder if Lane would include the “robust public discussion” we had in the states leading up to the 2008 global financial crises caused by American and Western greed and corruption.

I wanted to put Charles Lane’s Washington Post opinion to the test and I Googled the “history of global train wrecks” and found a detailed history going back to the early 19th century.

To save time and space, I decided to compare rail accidents starting from 2007 for only two of the world’s largest democracies and China.

It should be mentioned that both India and China rely on trains to move people much more than the United States, so we should expect more injuries and deaths from rail accidents in those countries. For that reason, I will compare the number of rail accidents to see which country has the best safety record.

The lowest score wins.

In 2007, there were thirty-three rail accidents listed for the world, and the United States had nine (27% of the total) killing seven and injuring more than a hundred, while India had three accidents killing 80 and injuring twelve.

China (ruled by what Charles Lane calls the unelected elite) had two rail accidents killing four and injuring two.

Score: United States 9, India 3 and China 2

In 2008, there were thirty-four rail accidents listed for the world, and the United States had eight (24%) with twenty-nine deaths and almost 300 injured, while India had one rail accident with no deaths or injured listed.

China (ruled by what Charles Lane calls the unelected elite) had one rail accident killing seventy-two and injuring 416.

Score: United States 17, India 4 and China 3

In 2009, there were thirty-nine rail accidents listed for the world, and the united States had seven (18%) with seventeen killed and five injured, while India had four accidents with thirty-two killed and 280 injured.

China (ruled by what Charles Lane calls the unelected elite) had two rail accidents killing seven and injuring 280.

Score: United States 24, India 8 and China 5

In 2010, there were fifty rail accidents listed for the world, and the United States had three (6%) with 32 injured, while India had fourteen rail accidents with hundreds killed and injured.

China (ruled by what Charles Lane calls the unelected elite) had one rail accident killing nineteen and injuring 71.

Score: United States 27, India 22 and China 6

This year by July 23, 2011, twenty-one train accidents were listed for the world, and the United States had eight (35%) killing eleven and injuring eighteen, while India had five accidents killing seventy-one and injuring two.

China (ruled by what Charles Lane calls the unelected elite) had one rail accident with at least 35 dead and 200 injured.

Score: United States 35, India 27 and China 7

From 2007 to July 23, 2011, the world had 177 rail accidents. The United States had 20% of the total, India 15% and China 4%. Source: List of Rail Accidents (Wiki)

When I Googled “train accident in China 2011” there were 55 million hits. It seems that popular “bad news” about China spreads fast and then the Western blame game begins, which represents Charles Lane’s “robust public discussion” in a democracy.

A few more interesting facts  to know before judging China’s rail system is that the average number of people traveling daily by train in China is 2.4 million, and in 2008, 1.456 billion people travelled 772.8 billion kilometers by rail.

I’d say with confidence that the odds are very good that if you travel by rail in China, you will reach your destination on time and without an accident.

A follow up post appeared two days later as More on China’s July 2011 Rail Accident and/or discover more of Really Fast Trains in and from China or China On the Fast Track

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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