Qīn’ài de Běijīng–Message From an Angry Global Citizen

Dear Beijing,

I couldn’t help but notice there was another natural disaster. Another one with a pretty bad death toll attached. But these things don’t happen but once every couple hundred years or so, right? Doesn’t it seem like it’s just another day’s worth of incoming reports on supposedly historic disaster-events?

Another major flood rocked China’s capital the last week of July, taking with it 37 Beijingers—up to two dozen confirmed dead by floods in a month. These reports tend to feel like white noise after a while, but it’s hard to help noticing just how often these events occur in what is now a wealthy, micro-managed, and militarily savvy nation.

I’d like to take a moment to pause the soundtrack of governmental white noise and ask: Beijing, is this really the “face” what you want to present to the world? Is it possible that you think there are enough brand new cars, tall buildings, and money in the fore to hide what’s likely the problem here—a desperate lack of modernized basic infrastructure and government officials who care to notice?

So the month of July was pretty tough, I know, and these events are considered rare and historic, right Beijing? So how has the rest of the year been up to now? Let’s have a look:

6/28/12 Mudslide in Sichuan- 40 missing

6/25/12 Floods in Guangxi, Zhuang, and Mongolia- 450,000 displaced

6/2/12 Sinkhole in Guangxi- 800 evacuated

5/22/12 Floods in Guizhou- 6 killed, 600 more evacuated

5/3/12 Flooding in Heilongjiang Province- 10 missing

5/2/12 Landslide in Shennongjia- 300 evacuated

That seems like a lot of affected people, any government record keeper would suppose. Even your official Xinhua News had to take note of this trend, estimating that more than 5.5 million people have been affected this year by natural disasters in the Southwest region alone from January to June.

After the famous 8.0 magnitude quake in Sichuan Province back in 2008, the one that killed over 80,000 people, you would think your agencies would be better prepared in terms of prevention—like Vice Premier Hui Liangyu promised—and yet more and more people die or get displaced each month, and your shabby infrastructure remains in place.

So what’s up, Beijing? Before disaster strikes, on the face of things it doesn’t look like your citizens are being well protected. We know, you tried really hard to make things nice for the rest of us world citizens for the 2008 Olympics (that Bird’s Nest was a real work of art) but even that was a scramble. You had to get subways built, demonstrators tamed, and air pollution diminished, and you spent about $40 billion in preparation for the games and the international attention they would draw.

Was there much funding diverted to upgrading the soviet-era drainage system to help prevent some of the most basic problems for a busy city, such as flooded streets, arrested businesses, and stranded motorists? That doesn’t paint the most advanced and modern of images.

So, did you save enough face by your 2008 presentation to distract from the fact that millions of your citizens’ and visitors’ lives are disrupted or taken almost every month? For this observer, the numbers are ugly, and the answer is no. I implore you to take notice and take care.


One Concerned Global Citizen
Image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/