PLA - a high-speed accident waiting to happen?

Discussion in 'China' started by Daredevil, Oct 24, 2012.

  1. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2009
    Messages:
    11,613
    Likes Received:
    5,670
    If railways are this corrupt, what about PLA?


    Picture a vast Chinese state institution with around two million staff, comprising a baffling array of units and sub-departments all scattered across the country. Under the guise of a sweeping, rapid modernization plan this institution’s budget expands so quickly – to around $100 billion a year – that it is hard for anyone to keep track of how much is really being spent, or on what. All the while, the institution’s sprawling nature and its near-autonomy mean that it operates almost entirely without accountability or oversight: There is only the money, and the many pockets into which it disappears.

    We are of course talking about China’s Ministry of Railways. But we might as well be talking about the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The only difference is that the former is building a high-speed rail network, while the latter is building a high-performance military. Neither, perhaps, is doing a very good job of it.

    If you haven’t read Evan Osnos’s lurid account of the rampant corruption within the Railways Ministry in the New Yorker, then you’re missing out. What is really striking for a PLA watcher, however, is how easily the military could be substituted for the railways ministry throughout Osnos’s portrayal. He describes the ministry as a “state-within-a-state” that was effectively given a blank check by the central government, and which, with nothing to curb its behavior, misappropriated a mind-boggling amount of its allocation. But if anything, the PLA is even more autonomous than the Ministry of Railways, in which senior staff routinely skimmed off millions of dollars in kickbacks even as they did a lousy job of building their new rail network.

    Is corruption within the PLA as corrosive as it was within Liu Zhijun’s shaky railway empire? The first thing to note is that the headline budget of the PLA and the Ministry of Railways is very similar. This week the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) published its estimate of what China and other Asian countries spend on their militaries. In 2011 China spent somewhere between around $90 billion and $142 billion, the CSIS report calculates, and concludes the money was split fairly equally between personnel costs (34% of the total), operations and maintenance (33.7%), and defense investment (32.2%) in 2009, the latest year they did a breakdown of.

    This breakdown suggests that 100% of the PLA’s budget was diverted towards real requirements. But the parable of the railways strongly suggests that this cannot be right. How much of the PLA’s budget has been spent on retirement homes for generals in Florida, or funneled into private business ventures, or used to buy promotions? How much has been wasted on bogus capabilities that the military doesn’t really need, but whose purchase helped to line influential pockets? And how much has been spent on genuine capabilities, but capabilities whose price tag was hugely inflated so that highly-placed officials could skim off the surplus?

    We can only guess how much of the PLA’s budget has been squandered; but what we do know is that the organization has a serious corruption problem. The situation has become so severe, as disclosed by John Garnaut in April, that one of the PLA’s top generals, Liu Yuan, openly warned his colleagues at the General Logistics Department that the Chinese military was facing a life-and-death struggle against corruption. In fact, the PLA faces nothing short of destruction unless it puts an end to the corrupt culture that has become embedded within the PLA system, Liu was reported as saying.

    The top people at the Ministry of Railways wanted to get rich, while seeming to produce fast results. In the end, they were caught: Their high-speed trains did not work when really put to the test, and 40 people died as a result. China’s new military system remains largely untested. But if billions have been stolen by generals and contractors, instead of spent perfecting complex systems and operating procedures, then China’s military could in effect be a high-speed accident waiting to happen.

    As for those budget estimates, the Pentagon and others who assume that China spends a lot more on defense than it claims should maybe think again. Adjusted for wastage and corruption, actual PLA spending could be much lower than anyone realizes.
     
  2.  
  3. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2009
    Messages:
    11,613
    Likes Received:
    5,670
    Rotting From Within

    - By John Garnaut

    In many fields of international competition, China is less sanguine about its abilities than outsiders. Chinese leaders often remind Westerners that China is a developing country, with hundreds of millions of people living in poverty, an unbalanced economy, and high social tensions. What should most worry Beijing, and provide some comfort to those who fear Chinese military expansionism, is the state of corruption in the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

    True, the world underestimated how quickly a four-fold jump in Chinese military spending in the past decade would deliver an array of new weaponry to prevent the United States from interfering in a regional military conflict. Top American generals have worried publicly about "carrier-killer" ballistic missiles designed to destroy U.S. battle groups as far afield as the Philippines, Japan, and beyond. Last year, China tested a prototype stealth fighter and launched its maiden aircraft carrier, to augment new destroyers and nuclear submarines. What is unknown, however, is whether the Chinese military, an intensely secretive organisation only nominally accountable to civilian leaders, can develop the human software to effectively operate and integrate its new hardware.

    Judging from a recent series of scathing speeches by one of the PLA's top generals, details of which were obtained by Foreign Policy, it can't: The institution is riddled with corruption and professional decay, compromised by ties of patronage, and asphyxiated by the ever-greater effort required to impose political control. The speeches, one in late December and the other in mid-February, were given by Gen. Liu Yuan, the son of a former president of China and one of the PLA's rising stars; the speeches and Liu's actions suggest that the PLA might be the site of the next major struggle for control of the Communist Party, of the type that recently brought down former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai. Liu is the political commissar and the most powerful official of the PLA's General Logistics Department, which handles enormous contracts in land, housing, food, finance, and services for China's 2.3 million-strong military.

    "No country can defeat China," Liu told about 600 officers in his department in unscripted comments to an enlarged party meeting on the afternoon of Dec. 29, according to sources who have verified notes of his speech. "Only our own corruption can destroy us and cause our armed forces to be defeated without fighting." This searing indictment of the state of China's armed forces, coming from an acting full three-star general inside the PLA, has no known modern precedent.

    There is no way to independently verify Liu's withering assessment of the extent of corruption in the PLA, but he is well-positioned to make it. His professional experience includes a decade in the government of the central Chinese province of Henan and a decade in the paramilitary, taking him beyond narrow lines of command and patronage. His logistics department is integrated with all other arms of the Chinese military and his status as the descendant of a high-ranking leader, or princeling, enables privileged informal networks across military ranks and the civilian side of the party-state. Some Chinese and diplomatic PLA watchers believe Liu, the highest born of all the princelings now climbing into power, is on his way to the very top of China's military as a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) after the current leadership retires following this year's 18th Party Congress, the first large-scale transfer of power in a decade. It helps that he is a close friend of the princeling president-in-waiting, Xi Jinping.

    While Chinese leaders regard the United States as a likely future adversary, Liu is more worried about what the PLA, which hasn't seen significant combat since a militarily disastrous invasion of Vietnam in 1979, is doing to itself in times of peace. In his February speech, he described the army beset by a disease of "malignant individualism" where officers follow only orders that suit them, advance on the strength of their connections, and openly sell their services at "clearly marked prices."

    §

    The practice of buying promotions inside the military is now so widespread, Liu noted, that even outgoing President Hu Jintao, who also leads the military from his position atop the CMC, had vented his frustration. "When Chairman Hu severely criticised ‘buying and selling official posts,' can we sit idle?"

    Liu's revelations are not necessarily good news for China's would-be foes. Foreign government strategists are starting to worry that corruption and byzantine internal politics may amplify the known difficulties in communicating with the PLA and adroitly managing crisis situations. Despite the risks inherent in China's growing arsenal, expanding ambitions and spasmodically aggressive rhetoric and actions, military cooperation between the United States and China is almost nonexistent. Diplomats say American officials are given less access to PLA officers than colleagues from other Western embassies, who themselves are kept largely in the dark. Senior Western government officials have told me that U.S. military leaders have less knowledge of command systems, and far fewer avenues of communication, than they had with their Soviet counterparts during the Cold War. Michael Swaine, a China security expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes that the "fragmented and stove-piped structure" of the Chinese system means it has great trouble communicating even with itself, especially in crisis situations. He, like most other analysts, does not study corruption in the PLA because of the difficulty in measuring it.

    In some ways, though, it's hiding in plain sight. Outsiders can glimpse the enormous flow of military bribes and favours in luxury cars with military license plates on Changan Avenue, Beijing's main east-west thoroughfare, and parked around upmarket night clubs near the Workers' Stadium. Business people gravitate toward PLA officers because of the access and protection they bring. PLA veterans told me they are organising "rights protection" movements to protest their inadequate pensions, which they contrast with the luxury lifestyles they observe among serving officers. Retired officers have told me that promotions have become so valuable that it has become routine to pay the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to even be considered for many senior positions.

    The February address, the second and most detailed of Liu's corruption speeches, suggests the problems run much deeper than anecdotal evidence suggests. "Certain individuals exchange public money, public goods, public office and public affairs for personal gain, flouting the law and party codes of conduct, even resorting to verbal abuse and threats, clandestine plots and set ups," he said. "They physically attack loyal and upstanding officials, kidnap and blackmail party leaders, and drag in their superiors to act as human shields. They deploy all of the tricks of the mafia trade within the army itself." The way Liu describes it, the web of military cliques, factions, and internal knots of organized crime sounds more like the workings of warlord armies before the communist revolution than the rapidly modernizing force that is currently rattling China's neighbors.

    Chairman Mao spoke of "curing the disease to save the patient" in the times of discipline and austerity before the revolution. Perhaps because Liu was talking about the PLA -- where putrefaction appears more advanced than elsewhere in China's sclerotic bureaucracy -- he took the metaphor beyond its usual graphic limits. In his February speech, Liu recalled a childhood tale about a surgeon in Siberia who saved himself from acute appendicitis by using a mirror to guide a knife into his lower abdomen.

    "How many people on this earth are really able to operate on themselves?" he said, according to sources who verified the speech. "No matter if it is an individual or an organisation, to fix a problem when it arises requires this type of guts and nerve."

    Liu's legendary pedigree gives him license to do and say things that others cannot. He is the sole surviving son of former President Liu Shaoqi, who had been Mao's anointed successor for 20 years until Mao turned on him at the start of the Cultural Revolution. Arrested and publically beaten, the elder Liu died in 1969 in a cold concrete prison cell -- naked, emaciated, and caked in vomit and diarrhea. One of his brothers died when his head was forced onto a railway track; the other lost his sanity in jail and died shortly after his release. In 1979, Liu's mother was released after a decade in jail; his father was posthumously rehabilitated the next year in the lead up to a great show trial for the family's old assailants, including Mao's wife Jiang Qing. Liu Yuan and his friend Xi Jinping, who also suffered during the Cultural Revolution, resolved to be grassroots officials in the countryside and began ascending through government ranks.

    §

    When he talks of a "life-and-death" struggle to save the PLA and the Communist Party system his father helped create, few would doubt that Liu means it. What is less clear, however, is whether the PLA can simply remove its own rotten parts as if they were an infected appendix, and whether the divided and compromised civilian and military leadership, reeling over Bo Xilai's downfall, can provide so much as a scalpel to enable Liu do the surgical work.

    Liu's Dec. 29 "life-and-death" speech heralded what could become the biggest expose of PLA corruption since former president Jiang Zemin opened an investigation into the Yuanhua Group in 1999. In that scandal, widely covered in official media, Yuanhua used military connections to evade a staggering $6.3 billion in taxes by smuggling everything from cigarettes and luxury cars to fully laden oil tankers. The case brought down hundreds of provincial and military officials, including the head of a major PLA intelligence division. It also enabled Jiang to consolidate his grip on the military.

    The outside world caught another limited glimpse of military corruption in December 2005, when the deputy commander of the navy, Adm. Wang Shouye, was detained for unspecified "economic crimes." Official reports said he was brought down by a mistress, while Hong Kong's Asia Weekly said he kept five mistresses and stole almost 20 million dollars. At the time, the PLA Daily, the military's official newspaper of the PLA, said the PLA's two historic tasks were fighting wars and eradicating corruption, but no one took visible action on corruption for a further six years. The subject was pushed back out of sight and all that seems to have changed is that the sums have grown much bigger.

    In late January, Liu followed up his tough talk by ripping out one allegedly cancerous node, the deputy director of his Logistics Department, Gu Junshan, after a protracted internal struggle. Gu was the first military official of such a high rank to be toppled since Admiral Wang in 2005. A source with direct knowledge of the case described General Gu extorting county officials with threats of violence and buying his way up through the PLA hierarchy. The source, whose allegations could not be independently confirmed, said that Gu, together with friends, relatives, and patrons in and beyond the military, profited immensely from a property development in Shanghai, distributed hundreds of PLA-built villas in Beijing as gifts to his friends and allies, and generally ran his construction and infrastructure division like a mafia fiefdom. He lists a bewildering array of personal assets, beginning with Gu's own villa, which stands outside the usual military compounds behind a high wall next to Beijing's East Fourth Ring Road, called the General's Mansion.

    "Gu's problem is extraordinary big," said the source. He said Gu had arranged chartered flights for his domestic and international flights even when he had been a one-star major general, which is unheard of for someone of that rank. Gu could not be reached for comment.

    In February, official military websites and news agencies confirmed Gu's removal, but only in passive terms: "Gu Junshan no longer holds the position of deputy director of the General Logistics Department." The leadership, it seemed, was still battling over the fate of Gu and those who have protected him.

    The Department of Defense, which represents the PLA when dealing with foreign bodies, did not respond to faxed interview questions. But all Chinese observers interviewed for this article agreed that the PLA's corruption and discipline problems are growing worse. Military corruption is a more "imminent" threat to the PLA than the U.S. armed forces, said Zhu Feng, a professor international relations at Peking University. Others say the problems have multiplied in the decades after the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, as the formal PLA budget has climbed to $106 billion a year while civilian leaders are struggling to assert control.

    Chen Xiaolu, a princeling and former PLA colonel who has many powerful princeling friends including General Liu, declined to repeat the "terrible stories" about PLA corruption he hears from recently retired generals (except to confirm the broad thrust of stories about Gu Junshan, whom Liu deposed). Chen, the son of one of China's 10 great marshals and son-in-law of a legendary commander, Gen. Su Yu, runs a successful infrastructure investment firm, Standard International. He opted out of the government and military system after the Tiananmen massacres. He told me the 1989 bloodshed left a vacuum of purpose and integrity within the PLA, which money has rushed to fill. "The problem has really got out of hand in the last 20 years," he said. "After the June 4 movement, when 'opposing corruption' was the protestors' slogan, some of the officers no longer cared about anything. They just made money and broke all the rules."

    A second princeling who has recently retired from a ministerial-level position told me discipline and unity in the PLA has deteriorated in the past decade. He said an unprecedented leadership vacuum has opened up at the top of the military because President Hu never consolidated his grip, even after more than nine years at the helm of the Communist Party and seven years chairing the Central Military Commission. Unlike under Mao, Deng Xiaoping, and the latter years under Jiang Zemin, China no longer has a paramount leader who can hammer down authority at crucial junctures. "Gangs" of patronage and bribery are congealing together, he said, adding that "Corruption is the glue that keeps the whole system together, after the age of idealism."

    A third princeling, whose father once ran China's security apparatus, blames Jiang for sabotaging the last leadership transition in 2002 by refusing to relinquish control of the military. He said Jiang promoted dozens of generals who are, as he put it, either "henchmen" or "morons." The result is that nobody is really in control, he said.

    On the civilian side of the Communist Party, Bo's spectacular demise has punctured the conventional wisdom that China's power transitions are "institutionalised" and will flow smoothly. The Bo episode showed, once again, that there are no enforceable rules, nor independent arbiters to decide who governs the world's most populous nation and how they do it. Bo is now officially being investigated for "serious discipline violations" and his wife for murder.

    Liu's battle against PLA corruption has opened a new field of elite political struggle, adding uncertainty at a time when old patronage bonds are breaking down, a new generation of princelings led by Xi Jinping are taking power, and the princelings themselves are not united. Gu Junshan's case "reveals serious struggle between those already in power and the new forces in the PLA," said Chen Ziming, an independent political analyst in Beijing. "Princelings like Liu Yuan represent the new force but who are those in power now?"

    The official with direct knowledge of the Gu Junshan case told me that Liu succeeded in taking Gu down only after Liu had appealed personally to President Hu, who had three times issued instructions to handle it. The source said the first two orders had been blocked by Gu's key patron high in the hierarchy, whom the source did not name. "It was as if President Hu was making a show of his impotence," said the official.

    Several sources with indirect knowledge of the case said that Gu was removed late in January only after Hu took the highly irregular route of asking the party's civilian apparatus to do the job. "With Hu's direct instructions, they bypassed the PLA discipline inspection commission and asked the central discipline inspection commission," said Chen Ziming, the political analyst. "This means the case faced major resistance inside the PLA."

    Gu's networks and patrons in the Central Military Commission and beyond remain in place. The source with direct knowledge of the Gu case said that three of the top four members of the Central Military Commission expressed strong support for Liu Yuan's move against Gu; Xu Caihou, the fourth member of the CMC, and others, did not. Liu may have been alluding to this resistance in his speeches, when he spoke darkly of those who acted as "shields" and "umbrellas" for corrupt officers. He also spoke mysteriously of "hostile forces" who tried to use last year's uprisings in the Middle East "as a spear to attack our army" and sow "discord between the party and the army," suggesting another dimension of struggle.

    Other signs of PLA power struggles are bubbling to the surface. Three weeks ago, a Chinese defence attaché informed a foreign military academy that that another of the PLA's rising stars, Gen. Zhang Qinsheng, would not attend a conference because he had been "replaced" in his position as first deputy chief of the General Staff Department, the PLA's operational headquarters, according to a source at the academy. The information appeared to confirm swirling rumours at the time. Chinese defense officials then scrambled to tell foreign diplomats that there had been "a misunderstanding" and General Zhang's position was, in fact, secure. The false information of Zhang's demise was followed by false rumors of a military coup, which a surprising number of citizens thought to be credible.

    The PLA's top brass has responded to the rumours of a coup and the ongoing political struggle -- including in relation to the ongoing purge of Bo Xilai, who has military supporters -- by demanding unity and further isolating its officers from the outside world. "Whenever the party and country faces major issues, and reform and development reach a crucial juncture, struggle in the ideological arena becomes even more intense and complex," warned an editorial in the PLA Daily. Alluding to the recent chatter, the editorial also told soldiers to ignore rumours on the Internet. "We must pay close attention to the impact of the Internet, mobile phones and other new media on the thinking of officers and troops."

    The PLA has made huge efforts to politically indoctrinate its officers in order to ensure their loyalty, according to Chen, at the expense of parallel efforts to "professionalize." He does not believe the political campaigns are working. "Maybe one day they will not be willing to obey their higher authorities because they are corrupt," he said. "Maybe the young generation of officers don't want to serve anybody and just want to take their own advice."

    Meanwhile, Liu is generating enemies as he drives his corruption campaign deeper into entrenched networks of factions and patronage, and reveals his ideological views and political ambitions more openly. "Liu Yuan has gone mad," said the princeling who has recently retired from a ministerial position, and who is close to the Jiang family. Liu spent less than a decade in the PLA, and some officers resent being led by a man who lacks a professional military background, according to a source close to a rival princeling general. Others are suspicious of his personal ambition and believe his political comments have overstepped the boundaries of military discipline: Liu, like Bo, has suggested China should return to Mao-era ideals. Many see Liu's challenge to their financial and political interests as an existential threat.

    Already, Internet rumors have spread that Liu is battling cancer, which sources close to him deny (he has annual checkups after an earlier scare). Other rumors speak of business links between Liu's wife, a glamorous nurse named Wei Zhen, and Bo Xilai's wife, who is under investigation. Sources close to Liu says his wife does not engage in business.

    Liu knows what he's up against. "Those who work against corruption are out-competed by those who are corrupt," he said in his February speech. "Justice is under pressure and people fear retaliation while the scum congratulate each other on their great career prospects, get promoted and become rich."

    And many are relieved that someone is at least trying to arrest the rot. "He says the Communist Party is in crisis and has to change," Chen said of Liu. "Some people question his intentions. I say I don't care about intentions; I say if he's against corruption then I support him."

    There are signs Liu may be making progress. Although General Gu was not detained after his sacking, in recent weeks a formal investigation was finally approved, according to the official source close to the case. Last week the military director of Liu's department, who had supported his efforts to unseat Gu, was empowered to convene a new PLA-wide corruption-fighting audit committee. "Thoughts and actions must be united to the decisions and instructions made by Chairman Hu and the Central Military Commission," the military director, General Liao Xilong, said in official military media, adding to the chorus of calls for unity after recent upheavals.

    Liu's surgical work could alter the delicate balance of factional power involving President Hu, his predecessor Jiang, and his anointed successor Xi. If Liu succeeds, he could vault into the vice chair position of the CMC, officially reporting to his friend Xi Jinping when Xi becomes CMC chairman. Some observers believe Liu is enabling Hu to make his move to assert authority, as Jiang had done with the Yuanhua corruption investigation, also late in his own term. "The formation of the audit committee in the military finally signifies a decisive move by the current civilian leadership to assert more control over the military," said Victor Shih, a political scientist at Northwest University. "For a variety of reasons, it has taken Hu Jintao almost his entire administration to prepare for such a move."

    Few analysts believe the PLA can seriously tackle its own corruption problems without decisive intervention from the civilian leadership. Whether Hu or his likely successor Xi will have the political capital to spend remains an open question. And if the PLA is the malignant morass of theft, bribery, extortion and mistrust that Liu and other well-placed princelings say it is, then China's military offensive capabilities must be lower than many overseas strategists fear. "The impact of corruption on the PLA's war-fighting capabilities is likely to be serious," said Tai Ming Cheung, a China security expert at the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, San Diego.

    Behind the PLA's shiny exterior is a world where information is not trusted, major decisions require cumbersome bureaucratic consensus, and leaders fear their subordinates will evade responsibility or ignore directions. This entails a different array of risks than the ones that have troubled China's neighbors and the United States. And Liu, like several other active princelings, is not sure whether the PLA is capable of self-surgery in the age beyond ideals and strong leaders. "We are falling like a landslide!" Liu said in one of his speeches. "If there really was a war," he asked his subordinates, "who would listen to your commands or risk their life for you?"
     
  4. tony4562

    tony4562 Tihar Jail Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2009
    Messages:
    836
    Likes Received:
    49
    According to Transparency International which is regarded as the most authoritative source for information on corruption, China ranks at a miserable 75th whereas India ranks at a rotten 95th, both figures for 2011. Therefore, both countries suck, but India sucks just little bit more. Each year tens of thousands die on india's railway tracks which is without question the most dangerous railway network in the world. If I were an indian with some IQ, I would try very hard to refrain myself from making fun of another country's corruption or travel safety problems because compared to India pretty much any other country looks like paradise.

    -------------------------------------

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2009
    Messages:
    11,613
    Likes Received:
    5,670
    Who made fun? This is a fact the everyone has to know. Don't bring India into everything to deflect the topic. For India related things use Indian related threads, don't mix things. A warning for you to not tread that line on this thread. This is about China and keep it to that.
     
  6. Apollyon

    Apollyon Führer Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2011
    Messages:
    2,600
    Likes Received:
    2,380
    Location:
    आर्यावर्त
    China is Paradise built by SLAVE Chinese Labourers and built on Billion's of Dollars of Debt :laugh::rofl:

     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
    maomao likes this.
  7. Apollyon

    Apollyon Führer Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2011
    Messages:
    2,600
    Likes Received:
    2,380
    Location:
    आर्यावर्त
    No needed...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 25, 2012
  8. venkat

    venkat Regular Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2009
    Messages:
    904
    Likes Received:
    195
    Hello !!! go to your fu%%%ing CMF and have a look with all your superior IQ !!!!
     
  9. arkem8

    arkem8 Regular Member

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2010
    Messages:
    643
    Likes Received:
    814
    Seriously!! Just Shut Up! You 50c drones are so predictable and boring.
     
    spikey360 likes this.
  10. SADAKHUSH

    SADAKHUSH Senior Member Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2010
    Messages:
    1,802
    Likes Received:
    758
    Location:
    Winterland
    Any time an article appears on this forum exposing the real state of affairs in China it is the tendency of our Chinese forum members to drag India into discussion instead of looking within and ask their own Government for reform to put an end to wastage and abuse of power.

    Now about India, we know how terrible situation is. We in India under the RTI act (Right To Information) have been exposed numerous high profile scandals and more is to come. So my friend your citizens should stay united to put an end to the mess with in the country rather that compare each other. Let us work in our own countries to raise the standard where higher officials do not take advantage of their position in public service.
     
  11. nimo_cn

    nimo_cn Senior Member Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2009
    Messages:
    3,491
    Likes Received:
    592
    If you are worse, don't judge others.

    But we don't like to be judged by people from a country worse than China.

    ----------------------------------

    [​IMG]
     
  12. ice berg

    ice berg Senior Member Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2011
    Messages:
    2,145
    Likes Received:
    289
    It you cant put an end to waste, corruption and abuse of power in your democratic society, how you expect the chinese to put a stop on theirs? Just talk from you as always.

    ------------------------------------------

    [​IMG]
     
  13. satish007

    satish007 Senior Member Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2011
    Messages:
    1,458
    Likes Received:
    202
    Location:
    China
    Indian VS chinese threads are always attractive and should be welcome. chinese like coming here to find superiority.
    hopefull one day,badguy3000 and J90 able to come to US forum and post china vs us threads, Indian bhai also need catch up.
     
  14. roma

    roma NRI in Europe Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2009
    Messages:
    3,245
    Likes Received:
    1,858
    Dear Indian friends , why do we have to put up with all this ingratitude coming from a country where there is no freedom of speech ?
    it seems to me that when you are given some freedom , you then abuse it and forget you are guests on our forum ?

    if you are not satisfied - form their your own chicom forum , criticize india all you like !, and we cant be bothered !!
    but on this forum you are a foreign guest , learn to behave like one !

    well never mind - there is a very simple answer to all this
    we wanted to have a discussion among ourselves mostly indian , nri's and a few foreign friends - be it about india , china , russia or timbuktu or whatever .... and we dont mind some members from china ...but it seems we cant because they disrespect the fact that they are a guest and fail to behave like one l

    possible solutions :- (A) let chicoms post and ignore them - i had suggested an ignore button , but it may not be feasible
    (B) form dfi sub-group , invite those you prefer and discuss in closed group
    (C) start with open group in dfi open forum - if it starts getting too stupid with too many chicoms responding - then go into closed group format

    personally i might prefer to start one in terms of solution (B) and keep a lookout for possible invitees from the open forum - ........ let's see !

    would be nice to hear from other members especially LF and those who are on my friends list
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2012
  15. maomao

    maomao Veteran Hunter of Maleecha Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 7, 2010
    Messages:
    4,497
    Likes Received:
    4,141
    Very interesting video!!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
  16. satish007

    satish007 Senior Member Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2011
    Messages:
    1,458
    Likes Received:
    202
    Location:
    China
    really? thanks for the information.
     
  17. RedDragon

    RedDragon Regular Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2011
    Messages:
    536
    Likes Received:
    69
    We suck? You suck! Unfortunately both of them are true. And even more unfortunately, I can't see the trend to improve it in a very short time.
     
  18. satish007

    satish007 Senior Member Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 7, 2011
    Messages:
    1,458
    Likes Received:
    202
    Location:
    China
    sir, you should strong enough to keyboard fighting. it does not hurt.
    "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"? no idea who said it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2012
    amoy likes this.
  19. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2009
    Messages:
    43,118
    Likes Received:
    23,543
    Location:
    Somewhere
    BOSS RAIL
    The disaster that exposed the underside of the boom.

    BY EVAN OSNOS
    OCTOBER 22, 2012

    [​IMG]
    The crash at Wenzhou. The Rail Ministry had been determined to build seventy-five hundred miles of high-speed railway more quickly than anyone thought possible


    On the morning of July 23, 2011, passengers hurried across Beijing South Station at the final call to board bullet train D301, heading south on the world’s largest, fastest, and newest high-speed railway, the Harmony Express. It was bound for Fuzhou, fourteen hundred miles away.

    Beijing South Station is shaped like a flying saucer, its silvery vaulted ceiling illuminated by skylights. It contains as much steel as the Empire State Building and can handle two hundred and forty million people a year, thirty per cent more than New York’s Penn Station, the busiest stop in America. When Beijing South opened, in 2008, it was the largest station in Asia; then Shanghai stole the crown. In all, some three hundred new stations have been built or revitalized by China’s Railway Ministry, which has nearly as many employees as the civilian workforce of the United States government.

    When the passengers for D301 reached the platform, they encountered a vehicle that looked less like a train than a wingless jet: a tube of aluminum alloy, a quarter of a mile from end to end, containing sixteen carriages, painted in high-gloss white with blue racing stripes. The guests were ushered aboard by female attendants in Pan Am-style pillbox hats and pencil skirts; each attendant, according to regulations, had to be at least five feet five inches tall, and was trained to smile with exactly eight teeth visible. A twenty-year-old college student named Zhu Ping took her seat, then texted her roommate that she was about to “fly” home on the rails. “Even my laptop is running faster than usual,” she wrote.

    For the Cao family, in the sleeper section, riding in style was a mark of achievement. The parents had immigrated to Queens, New York, two decades earlier and worked their way up to stable jobs as custodians at LaGuardia Airport. They put two sons through college, became American citizens, and now found themselves back in China on a tour, posing for pictures in matching hats, standing ramrod straight beneath Mao’s portrait at Tiananmen Square. Their next stop would be a reunion with relatives in Fuzhou. This was the first vacation of their lives. Their son, Henry, who ran a camera-supply business in Colorado, was returning, for the first time, to a country that he had been raised to remember as poor.

    Until now, China’s trains had always been a symbol of backwardness. More than a century ago, when the Empress Dowager was given a miniature engine to bear her about the Imperial City, she found the “fire cart” so insulting to the natural order that she banished it and insisted that her carriage continue to be dragged by eunuchs. Chairman Mao crisscrossed the countryside with tracks, partly for military use, but travel for ordinary people remained a misery of delayed, overcrowded trains nicknamed for the soot-stained color of the carriages: “green skins” were the slowest, “red skins” scarcely better. Even after Japan pioneered high-speed trains, in the nineteen-fifties, and Europe followed suit, China lagged behind, with what the state press bemoaned as two inches of track per person—“less than the length of a cigarette".

    In 2003, China’s Minister of Railways, Liu Zhijun, took charge of plans to build seventy-five hundred miles of high-speed railway—more than could be found in the rest of the world combined. For anyone with experience on Chinese trains, it was hard to picture. “Back in 1995, if you had told me where China would be today, I would have thought you were stark raving mad,” Richard Di Bona, a British transportation consultant in Hong Kong, told me recently. With a total investment of more than two hundred and fifty billion dollars, the undertaking was to be the world’s most expensive public-works project since President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System, in the nineteen-fifties. To complete the first route by 2008, Minister Liu, whose ambition and flamboyance earned him the nickname Great Leap Liu, drove his crews and engineers to work in shifts around the clock, laying track, revising blueprints, and boring tunnels. “To achieve a great leap,” he liked to say, “a generation must be sacrificed.” (Some colleagues called him Lunatic Liu.) The state news service lionized an engineer named Xin Li, because he remained at his computer so long that he went partly blind in his left eye. (“I will keep working even without one eye,” he told a reporter.) When the first high-speed line débuted with a test run in June, 2008, it was seventy-five per cent over budget and relied heavily on German designs, but nobody dwelled on that during the ceremony. Cadres wept. When another line made its maiden run, Liu took a seat beside the conductor and said, “If anyone is going to die, I will be the first.”
    That autumn, to help ward off the global recession, Chinese leaders more than doubled spending on high-speed rail and upped the target to ten thousand miles of track by 2020, the equivalent of building America’s first transcontinental route five times over. China prepared to export its railway technology to Iran, Venezuela, and Turkey. It charted a freight line through the mountains of Colombia that would challenge the Panama Canal, and it signed on to build the “pilgrim express,” carrying the faithful between Medina and Mecca. In January, 2011, President Obama cited China’s railway boom in his State of the Union address as evidence that “our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped.” The next month, the governor of Florida, Rick Scott, blocked construction of America’s first high-speed train, by rejecting federal funds. Amtrak had unveiled a plan to reach speeds comparable to China’s by 2040.

    Train D301 sped south and east across emerald-green paddies toward the coast. To Henry Cao, who was seated beside a window in the last compartment of the second car, the train seemed to float, describing long elegant turns and shuddering now and then with the whump of a train going in the opposite direction. As the sun set, a summer storm was gathering, and Henry watched lightning flicker across the clouds. He stretched out on the fold-down bed in his carriage. At his feet, his mother sat upright. She had short, wavy hair, and wore a blue-and-white striped shirt. She’d lived nearly half her life in America, but she retained the habits of a Chinese traveller, and she carried more than ten thousand dollars in cash, as well as gifts of jade jewelry, in a fanny pack. Her husband sat across from her, with his iPhone. He captured a wobbly snapshot of the digital speedometer at the end of the carriage; it showed the kilometre equivalent of 188 m.p.h.

    Miles ahead, something unusual was happening. At 7:30 p.m., on the outskirts of the city of Wenzhou, lightning struck a heavy metal box beside the tracks. The box, the size of a washer-dryer, was part of a signal system that lets drivers and dispatchers know where trains are. Because tunnels block a radar signal, trains rely largely on hard-wired equipment like the box beside the track, which helps drivers and dispatchers talk to each other and controls a machinelike traffic signal, giving the drivers basic commands to stop and go. When lightning struck the box, it blew a fuse, which caused two catastrophic problems: it cut off communication and froze the signal on the color green.

    At a nearby station, a technician picked up garbled signals from the tracks and ordered repairmen into the storm to investigate; meanwhile, he reported the problem to a dispatcher in Shanghai named Zhang Hua. The train carrying the Cao family was still miles away, but D3115, also bound for Fuzhou, with a thousand and seventy-two people aboard, was ahead of D301. Zhang called D3115 to warn the driver that, because of the faulty signal, his train might shut down automatically. In that case, he should override and run it at a cautious speed until he reached a normal section again. As predicted, the computer brought the train to a halt, but when the driver tried to get it moving it wouldn’t start, despite repeated attempts. He called Shanghai six times in five minutes, but couldn’t get through. On his train, a passenger uploaded to the Web a picture of the carriage in darkness and asked, “What happened to this train after that crazy storm?? It’s running slower than a snail now. . . . Hope nothing is going to happen.”

    Zhang the dispatcher was juggling ten trains by now. Hearing nothing further from D3115, he may have figured that it had re-started and moved on. The train carrying the Cao family was already half an hour late, and at 8:24 p.m. Zhang cleared it to go ahead. Five minutes later, the driver of the first train finally succeeded in re-starting his engine and began to inch forward. When his train reached a normal section of track, it suddenly appeared on screens across the system, as if from nowhere, and a dispatcher saw what was about to happen. The train behind it had a green light and was charging down the track. The dispatcher alerted the driver: “D301, be careful! There’s a train in your zone. D3115 is ahead of you! Be careful, will you? The equipment—” The line cut off.

    The driver of D301, Pan Yiheng, was a thirty-eight-year-old railway man with a broad nose and wide-set eyes. In the final seconds, Pan pulled a hand-operated emergency brake. His train was high atop a slender viaduct across a flat valley, and immediately ahead of him was train D3115, moving so slowly that it might as well have been a wall.

    The collision impaled Pan on the brake handle, and it hurled Henry Cao into the air. His body tensed for impact. None came. Instead, he was falling—for how long he couldn’t tell. “I heard my mother’s voice shouting,” he told me later. “And then everything went black.” His carriage and two others peeled off the tracks, tumbling sixty-five feet to a field below. A fourth car, filled with passengers and spewing sparks, was left dangling vertically from the edge of the viaduct. Henry awoke in a hospital, where doctors removed his spleen and a kidney. He had shattered an ankle, broken his ribs, and suffered a brain injury. When he was alert enough to understand, he learned that his parents were dead. In the chaos of the rescue and recovery, his mother’s ten thousand dollars had also disappeared.

    The Wenzhou crash killed forty people and injured a hundred and ninety-two. For reasons both practical and symbolic, the government was desperate to get trains running again, and within twenty-four hours it declared the line back in business. The Department of Propaganda ordered editors to give the crash as little attention as possible. “Do not question, do not elaborate,” it warned, on an internal notice. When newspapers came out the next morning, China’s first high-speed train wreck was not on the front page.

    But, instead of moving on, the public wanted to know what had happened, and why. This was not a bus plunging off a road in a provincial outpost; it was dozens of men and women dying on one of the nation’s proudest achievements—in a newly wired age, when passengers had cell phones and witnesses and critics finally had the tools to humiliate the propagandists.

    People demanded to know why a two-year-old survivor was found in the wreckage after rescuers had called off the search. A railway spokesman said it was “a miracle.” Critics jeered, calling his explanation an “insult to the intelligence of the Chinese people.” At one point, the authorities dug a hole and buried part of the ruined train, saying they needed firm ground for recovery efforts. When reporters accused them of trying to thwart an investigation, a hapless spokesman replied, “Whether or not you believe it, I believe it,” a phrase that took flight on the Internet as an emblem of the government’s vanishing credibility. (The train was exhumed. The spokesman was relieved of his duties and was last seen working in Poland.)

    Within days, the state-owned company that produced the signal box apologized for mistakes in its design. But to many in China the focus on a single broken part overlooked the likely role of a deeper problem underlying China’s rise: a pervasive corruption and moral disregard that had already led to milk tainted by chemicals reaching the market, and shoddy bridges and highways built hastily in order to meet political targets. A host on state television, Qiu Qiming, became the unlikely voice of the moment when he broke away from his script to ask, on the air, “Can we drink a glass of milk that is safe? Can we stay in an apartment that will not fall apart? Can we travel roads in our cities that will not collapse?”

    Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had no choice but to visit the crash site and vow to investigate. “If corruption was found behind this, we must handle it according to law, and we will not be lenient,” he said. “Only in this way can we be fair to those who have died.” People didn’t forget Wen’s pledge as the first deadline for the investigation came and went, and they continued to demand a fuller accounting. At last, in December, authorities released an unprecedented, detailed report. It acknowledged “serious design flaws,” a “neglect of safety management,” and problems in bidding and testing. It also blamed fifty-four people in government and industry, beginning with Great Leap Liu. The Minister’s name became a byword for “a broken system,” as the muckraking magazine Caixin called the Railway Ministry, a testament to the political reality that, as Caixin put it, “since absolute power corrupts absolutely, the key to curbing graft is limiting power.” When I spoke to an engineer who worked on the railway’s construction, he told me, “I can’t pinpoint which step was neglected or what didn’t get enough time, because the whole process was compressed, from beginning to end.” He added, “There is an expression in Chinese: when you take too great a leap, you can tear your balls.”

    Scandal, of one kind or another, has become the backbeat to China’s rise. Never have the citizens of the People’s Republic learned so much about the perks of those who run it. The combination of wealth, technology, and epic indiscretion has pulled aside the curtain that once protected Communist Party leaders from scrutiny.

    That became clear in February, when a police chief fell out with his Party patron, Bo Xilai, and fled to the American Consulate, with a career’s worth of knowledge about murder and embezzlement at the highest ranks of the Party. The police chief, Wang Lijun, received no protection—he was tried as a defector and a taker of bribes—but his tales could not be untold: Bo Xilai, a political titan once destined for higher office, was expelled from the Party for taking “huge bribes,” abusing his power, and “other crimes”; his wife was tried and convicted of poisoning to death the family’s British fixer. Bo’s downfall also laid bare the myth of the humble public servant. At a time when his official salary was the equivalent of nineteen thousand dollars a year, his extended family acquired businesses worth more than a hundred million dollars, according to Bloomberg News. The Bo saga gave rise to other rumors, about other Party bosses, and though censors kept as much off the Web as they could, each new tale sounded less startling, less the exception than the rule. In September, overseas Chinese papers reported what Beijing gossips had been whispering for months: the son of a close aide to China’s President, accompanied in the predawn hours by two women in states of undress, had totalled a black Ferrari on an expressway in the capital. For the Party, as it prepared to anoint a new slate of leaders to run the country for the next ten years, the timing was excruciating.

    The Railroad Minister, Liu Zhijun, did not initially look like a prime candidate for a dramatic public disgrace. Bo Xilai was a Beijing Brahmin—the tall, camera-ready son of a Party boss. Liu was a farmer’s son, small and thin, with bad eyesight and an overbite. He grew up in the villages outside the city of Wuhan, and left school as a teen-ager for a job walking the tracks with a hammer and a gauge. He had an innate sense of the path to power. Good penmanship was a rare skill in the provinces, and Liu perfected his hand, becoming a trusted letter writer for bosses with limited education. He married into a politically connected family and was a Party member by age twenty-one. He was a tireless promoter of the railways and of himself, and he ascended swiftly, heading provincial bureaus on his way to the seat of power in Beijing. By 2003, as Railroad Minister, he commanded a bureaucratic empire second in scale and independence only to the military, with its own police force, courts, and judges and with billions of dollars at his disposal. His ministry, a state-within-a-state, was known in China as tie laoda: Boss Rail.
    Liu kept his hair in an untidy black comb-over and wore a style of square horn-rimmed spectacles so common among senior apparatchiks that they are known as “leader glasses.” A colleague of Liu’s, a railway staffer who worked closely with him, told me, “Ever since the revolution, most Chinese officials look alike. They have the same face, the same uniform, even the same personality. They work step by step, and they are content to sit back and wait for promotions. But Liu Zhijun was different.” If it was possible to invest a railway job with glamour, he was determined to do so. He liked to convene meetings after midnight and make ostentatious displays of his work habits. Even as he approached the highest ranks of power, he never stopped flattering his superiors. When President Hu Jintao was returning by train to Beijing one summer, Liu hustled up the platform so frantically to greet him that he nearly ran out of his loafers. “I shouted to him, ‘Minister Liu, your shoes! Don’t fall!’ ” the staffer recalled. “But he couldn’t be bothered. He just kept grinning and running.”

    Liu’s success benefitted his brother Liu Zhixiang, who joined the ministry and soared up through the ranks. He was wisecracking and volatile—the Joe Pesci character of the family. In January, 2005, he was detained for questioning about embezzlement, bribe-taking, and intentional harm regarding his role in arranging the killing of a contractor who sought to expose him. By then, he was vice-chief of the Wuhan railway bureau. (The victim was stabbed to death with a switchblade in front of his wife. According to an official legal journal, he had predicted in his will: “If I am killed, it will have been at the hand of corrupt official Liu Zhixiang.”) The Minister’s brother had arranged for himself such a healthy piece of ticket sales that he accumulated the equivalent of fifty million dollars in cash, real estate, jewelry, and art. When investigators caught him, he was living among mountains of money so large and unruly that the bills had begun to molder. (Storing cash is one of the most vexing challenges confronting corrupt Chinese officials, because the largest bill in circulation is a hundred-yuan note, worth about fifteen dollars.) He was convicted and received a death sentence that was suspended and later reduced to sixteen years. But, instead of serving his time in a facility for serious offenders, he was transferred to a hospital where he reportedly continued to conduct railway business by phone.

    Back in Beijing, Minister Liu surrounded himself with loyal associates. The capo di tutti capi was the chief deputy engineer Zhang Shuguang, who once arrived at a railway conference in a fur coat and a white scarf and liked to describe his approach to negotiations as a “clasped fist.” For much of his career, he ran the passenger-car division, which gave him control over colossal spending choices. “It was all up to a nod of his head,” Zang Qiji, a retired member of the Academy of Railway Sciences, told me. Zhang had little experience with science, but he aspired to credibility and attempted to secure membership in an élite academic society by having two professors write a book in his name. (He fell short of membership by a single vote.)

    Liu bet everything on high-speed railways. To preëmpt inflation in the cost of land and labor and materials, he preached haste above all. “We must seize the opportunity, build more railways, and build them fast,” he told a conference in 2009. Liu’s ambitions and Chinese authoritarianism were a volatile combination. The ministry was its own regulator, virtually unsupervised, and the Minister and his aides had no tolerance for dissenting voices. When professor Zhao Jian, of Beijing Transportation University, publicly objected to the pace of high-speed-rail construction, Liu summoned him and advised him to keep quiet. Zhao refused to back down, and the university president called him. “He told me not to continue to voice my opinions,” Zhao told me. The professor resisted, but his concerns were ignored—until the crash. “Then it was too late,” he said.

    The obsession with speed was all-encompassing. The system was growing so fast that almost everything a supplier produced found a buyer, regardless of quality. According to investigators, the signal that failed in the Wenzhou crash was developed over six months, beginning in June, 2007, by the state-owned China Railway Signal and Communication Corporation. The company had a staff of some thirteen hundred engineers, but it was overwhelmed by demands on its time, and crash investigators discovered that those in charge of the signal performed only a “lax” inspection, which “failed to discover grave flaws and major hidden dangers.” The office in charge was “chaotic,” a place where “files went missing.” Nevertheless, the signal passed inspection in 2008 and was installed across the country. When the industry gave out awards for new technology that year, the signal took first prize. But an engineer inside the company subsequently told me that he was not surprised to discover that the job had been rushed.

    There were other suspicious factors as well. In April, 2010, the chairman of Japan Central Railway, Yoshiyuki Kasai, said that China was building trains that drew heavily on Japanese designs. When Kawasaki Heavy Industries threatened to sue the Chinese for passing off its technology as their own, the Railway Ministry in Beijing dismissed the complaint as evidence of “a fragile state of mind and a lack of confidence.” Kasai also pointed out that China was operating the trains at speeds twenty-five per cent faster than those permitted in Japan. “Pushing it that close to the limit is something we would absolutely never do,” he told the London Financial Times.

    In the last days before the crash, the rush to build the railways added a final, lethal factor to the mix. In June, the government had staged the début of the most prominent line yet—Beijing to Shanghai—to coincide with the ninetieth anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. A full year had been slashed from the construction schedule, and the first weeks of the run were marred by delays and power failures. According to a manager in the ministry, high-speed-rail staff were warned that further delays would affect the size of their bonuses. On the night of July 23, 2011, when trains began to stack up, dispatchers and maintenance staff raced to repair the faulty signal and ignored the simplest solution: stop the trains and regain the signal. Wang Mengshu, a scholar in the Chinese Academy of Engineering who was deputy chief of the committee investigating the crash, told me, “The maintenance people weren’t familiar enough with their jobs, and they didn’t want to stop the train. They didn’t dare.”

    When the crash occurred, Great Leap Liu was no longer running the Railway Ministry. In August, 2010, the National Audit Office reviewed the books of a big state-owned company and came upon a sixteen-million-dollar “commission” to an intermediary in return for contracts on the high-speed rail. The intermediary turned out to be a woman named Ding Shumiao, who, perhaps more than anyone else, embodied the runaway riches created by China’s railway boom. Ding was an illiterate egg farmer in rural Shanxi—five feet ten, with broad shoulders and a foghorn of a voice. In the nineteen-eighties, after Deng Xiaoping launched the country toward the free market, she collected eggs from neighbors to sell in the county seat. That was illegal without a permit. The eggs were confiscated, and years later she still talked of her embarrassment. In time, she came to run a small, thriving restaurant, where she gave away food to powerful customers and exaggerated her own success. “If she has one yuan, she’ll say she has ten,” one of Ding’s longtime colleagues told me. “It makes her look more influential, and bit by bit people began to think that they could benefit from their friendship with her.

    Ding’s restaurant became a favorite with coal bosses and officials, and soon she was involved in coal trucking. Then she was “flipping carriages,” as it’s known in the railway business: working her connections to get cheap access to coveted freight routes and, according to Wang, the investigator, reselling the rights “for ten times what she paid.” She became friendly with Great Leap Liu around 2003, and, with her ties to the railway business, she prospered. Her company, Broad Union, signed joint ventures and supplied the ministry with train wheels, sound barriers, and more. In two years, Broad Union’s assets grew tenfold, to the equivalent of six hundred and eighty million dollars in 2010, according to China’s Xinhua news service.

    Ding’s given name, Shumiao, betrayed her rural roots, so she changed it to Yuxin, at the suggestion of her feng-shui adviser. She was easy to lampoon—Daft Mrs. Ding, people called her—but she had a genius for cultivating business relationships. A longtime colleague told me, “When I tried to teach her how to analyze the market, how to run the company, she said, ‘I don’t need to understand this.’ ” Caixin chronicled her audacious social ascent. To gain foreign contacts, she backed a club “for international diplomats,” which managed to attract a visit in 2010 by Britain’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Her lavish receptions drew members of the Politburo. She joined the lower house of the provincial legislature, and made so many charitable gifts that in 2010 she ranked No. 6 on the Forbes China list of philanthropists.

    Ding was detained in January, 2011, suspected of taking kickbacks totalling sixty-seven million dollars, according to the Global Times. (The ministry also accused her of working her connections to get Liu’s brother transferred from jail to a hospital.)
    Like many others, Ding knew something that government auditors uncovered only later: China’s most famous public-works project was an ecosystem almost perfectly hospitable to corruption—opaque, unsupervised, and overflowing with cash, especially after the government announced a stimulus to mitigate the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis. It boosted funding for railway projects to more than a hundred billion dollars in 2010. In some cases, the bidding period was truncated from five days to thirteen hours. In others, the bids were mere theatre, because construction had already begun. Cash was known to vanish: in one instance, seventy-eight million dollars that had been set aside to compensate people whose homes had been demolished to make way for railroad tracks disappeared. Middlemen expected cuts of between one and six per cent. “If a project is four and a half billion, the middleman is taking home two hundred million,” Wang said. “And, of course, nobody says a word.”

    One of the most common rackets was illegal subcontracting. A single contract could be divvied up and sold for kickbacks, then sold again and again, until it reached the bottom of a food chain of labor, where the workers were cheap and unskilled. (The practice is hardly unique to the railways: in 2010, a rookie welder employed by an illegal subcontractor was working on a dormitory in Shanghai when he dropped his torch and set the building on fire; fifty-eight people died.) In November, 2011, a former cook with no engineering experience was found to be building a high-speed railway bridge using a crew of unskilled migrant laborers who substituted crushed stones for cement in the foundation. In railway circles, the practice of substituting cheap materials for real ones was common enough to rate its own expression: touliang huanzhu—robbing the beams to put in the pillars.

    With so many kickbacks changing hands, it isn’t surprising that parts of the railway went wildly over budget. A station in Guangzhou slated to be built for three hundred and sixteen million dollars ended up costing seven times that. The ministry was so large that bureaucrats would create fictional departments and run up expenses for them. Procurement was a prime opportunity for graft. The ministry spent nearly three million dollars on a five-minute promotional video that went largely unseen. The video led investigators to the ministry’s deputy propaganda chief, a woman whose home contained a million and a half dollars in cash and the deeds to nine houses; her husband, who also worked for the ministry, was found to have a collection of gift cards—a discreet alternative to cash bribes. Other government agencies also had serious financial problems—out of fifty, auditors found problems with forty-nine—but the scale of plunder in the railway world was in a class by itself. Liao Ran, an Asia specialist at Transparency International, told the International Herald Tribune that China’s high-speed railway was shaping up to be “the biggest single financial scandal not just in China, but perhaps in the world.”

    In most countries, the effects of kleptocracy are easy to predict: economists have calculated that for every point that a nation’s corruption rises on a scale of one to ten, its economic growth drops by one per cent. (Think Haiti under François Duvalier or Zaire under Mobutu.) But the exceptions are important. In Japan and Korea, corruption accompanied the nation’s rise, not its collapse. There is no more conspicuous case than the United States. When promoters of the first transcontinental railroad were found to have secretly paid themselves to build it—the 1872 scandal known as Credit Mobilier—the scale of plunder was described by the press as “the most damaging exhibition of official and private villainy and corruption ever laid bare to the gaze of the world.” Between 1866 and 1873, the country put down thirty-five thousand miles of track, minting enormous fortunes but also, as Mark Twain put it, displaying “shameful corruption.” (Twain’s novel “The Gilded Age,” written with Charles Dudley Warner, gave the era its name.) The excesses of the railroad boom led to the Panic of 1873 and subsequent financial crises, before political pressure to curb abuses gained momentum during the Progressive Era.

    In China, as in the United States, corruption and growth flourished together. In the nineteen-eighties, a carton of Double Happiness cigarettes was enough to secure a job transfer or the ration coupon for a washing machine. But in 1992 China began to free up the distribution of land and factories for private use, and the corruption boom was under way. According to the sinologist Andrew Wedeman, in a single year the average sum recovered in corruption cases more than tripled, to six thousand dollars. Cartons of Double Happiness gave way to Hermès bags, sports cars, and tuition for children studying abroad. The larger the deal, the higher the cadre needed to approve it, and bribes moved straight up the ranks.

    A writer I know named Hu Gang, a small, meticulous man of fifty, happened to be one of those doing the bribing. He was running an auction house, a business in which a single signature from a judge bestows the right to auction off buildings, land, and other assets and collect a hefty commission. Everyone seemed to be in on the take, Hu said. “So, I began to think, If they can do it, why can’t I?” Hu was a natural; he bribed judges—first with cigarettes, then banquets, then trips to massage parlors. He followed certain rules of his own: never bribe a stranger; time cash gifts for the fall, when tuition bills come around. Before long, he was juggling relationships with so many judges that he had to make three trips to the massage parlor in a single day. After five years, he had a nest egg worth a million and a half dollars. Then he was picked up in a routine crackdown and served a year in jail.

    Officials and businessmen looked out for each other by organizing themselves into “protective umbrellas,” a step in what Chinese scholars have termed the “mafiazation” of the state. By 2007, the China scholar Minxin Pei found that nearly half of all Chinese provinces had sent their chief of transportation to jail for corruption. It was costing China three per cent of its gross domestic product; that would be two hundred billion dollars today—more than the national budget for education. Since then, the opportunities to steal have only diversified. This summer, the Modern Chinese Dictionary, the national authority on language, added a new word: maiguan, “to buy a government promotion.”

    Today, the scale of temptation for members of China’s government is unlike anything encountered in the West. According to Bloomberg News, the richest seventy members of China’s national legislature gained more wealth in one year—2011—than the combined net worth of the United States President, his Cabinet, all the members of Congress, and the Justices of the Supreme Court. Bloomberg went a step further, and reported, in June, that the extended family of China’s incoming President, Xi Jinping, has tens of millions of dollars in real-estate and financial assets. The government has since blocked the Bloomberg Web site.
    There are two basic views of how corruption will affect China’s future. The optimistic scenario is that it is part of the ambitious transition from Socialism to a free market, with highways and trains that inspire envy even in the developed world. In July, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, told a reporter, “The Chinese are more successful because in their country only three people make the decision. In our country, three thousand people do.”
    The other view holds that the compact between the people and their leaders is fraying, that the ruling class is scrambling to get what it can in the final years of frenzied growth, and that the Party will be no more capable of reforming itself from within than the Soviets were. Last year, the central bank accidentally posted an internal report estimating that, since 1990, eighteen thousand corrupt officials have fled the country, having stolen a hundred and twenty billion dollars—a sum large enough to buy Disney or Amazon. The government has vowed that officials will forgo luxury cigarettes and shark’s-fin soup, but vigilant Chinese bloggers continue to post photographs of cadres wearing luxury watches and police departments with Maseratis and Porsches painted blue and white. Even Wen Jiabao, the Prime Minister, who will leave the Politburo next month, declared that corruption was “the biggest danger facing the ruling party”—a threat that, left unchecked, could “terminate the political regime.”

    In February, 2011, five months before the train crash, the Party finally moved on Liu Zhijun. According to Wang Mengshu, investigators concluded that Liu was preparing to use his illegal gains to bribe his way onto the Party Central Committee and, eventually, the Politburo. “He told Ding Shumiao, ‘Set aside four hundred million for me. I’m going to need to spread some money around,’ ” Wang told me. Four hundred million yuan is about sixty-four million dollars. Liu actually managed to pull out nearly thirteen million, Wang said. “The central government was worried that if he really succeeded in giving out four hundred million in bribes he would essentially have bought a government position. That’s why he was arrested.”

    Liu was expelled from the Party the following May, for “severe violations of discipline” and “primary leadership responsibilities for the serious corruption problem within the railway system.” An account in the state press alleged that Liu took a four-per-cent kickback on railway deals; another said he netted a hundred and fifty-two million dollars in bribes. He was the highest-ranking official to be arrested for corruption in five years. But it was Liu’s private life that caught people by surprise. The ministry accused him of “sexual misconduct,” and the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao reported that he had eighteen mistresses. His friend Ding was said to have helped him line up actresses from a television show in which she invested. Chinese officials are routinely discovered in multiple sins of the flesh, prompting President Hu Jintao to give a speech a few years ago warning comrades against the “many temptations of power, wealth, and beautiful women.” But the image of a gallivanting Great Leap Liu, and the sheer logistics of keeping eighteen mistresses, made him into a punch line. When I asked Liu’s colleague if the mistress story was true, he replied, “What is your definition of a mistress?”

    By the time Liu was deposed, at least eight other senior officials had been removed and placed under investigation, including Zhang, Liu’s bombastic aide. Local media reported that Zhang, on an annual salary of less than five thousand dollars, acquired a luxury home near Los Angeles, stirring speculation that he had been preparing to join the exodus of officials who take their fortunes abroad. (In recent years, corrupt cadres who send their families overseas have become known in Chinese as “naked officials.”)

    In the months that I spent talking to people about the rise and fall of Liu Zhijun, his story seemed to confound both his enemies and his friends. His rivals acknowledged that, unlike many corrupt officials, Liu had actually achieved something in office, and produced a railway system that, if the problems can be repaired, will ultimately benefit the nation. And his defenders found themselves awkwardly saying that he was doing nothing that his peers were not. Liu’s colleague, an affable former military man, told me that at a certain point corruption became difficult for Liu to avoid: “Inside the system today, if you don’t take bribes you have to get out. There’s no way you can stay. If three of us are in one department, and you are the only one who doesn’t take a bribe, are the two of us ever going to feel safe?”
    Not long ago, I met a subcontractor for the railway, and I asked if things had been cleaned up since Liu’s downfall. He let out a humorless laugh. “They made a show of it, but it’s still the same rules,” he said. “They caught Ding Shumiao, but she’s just one person. There are many, many Ding Shumiaos.” Li Xue, as I’ll call him, is fifty-four, with a growl of a voice and a face weathered by life outdoors, but he was funny and relaxed when we met, and I liked him immediately. He’d spent his career blasting railroad tunnels—assembling crews, punching holes through mountains, and then moving on to the next job. He is a grandfather now, and proud of all that the country has built in his lifetime: “America always criticizes us for human rights,” he said. “It’s our weakness. But construction is our strength. We put people together fast. The bosses don’t have to listen to anybody but themselves.”

    One weekend, Li invited me out to his latest job, in the rocky hills of Hebei Province, a few hours’ drive from Beijing. Over lunch, he talked wistfully about what he called a “golden age” a few years ago, when costs were lower and officials didn’t know how much they could earn on the side. “The bribes we pay now keep growing,” he said. “We’re the ones who get squeezed.”

    We got into his black Audi sedan and climbed a road up into the hills, where we turned onto a rutted muddy track lined with cornfields and brick farmhouses. I asked if he enjoyed the wining and dining that comes with building tunnels. He shook his head. “It’s exhausting,” he said, and explained the taxonomy of bribes. “There’s the head of the department, and then the managers and the ones who run the warehouses. You’ve got to take care of them just like praying to the Buddha—you don’t pray, you run into trouble.” The hardest days were groundbreakings, when everyone who showed up expected a cut. “It costs us a fortune,” he said. Recently, he had turned over the entertainment duties to a younger colleague. “He really excels at it,” he said.

    We reached a plateau, with excavators and bulldozers, and parked outside a tunnel into the hillside. Li introduced me to the explosives chief, a thin man in his twenties, with a coxcomb of spiky hair. I asked where he’d learned his trade. “Self-taught,” he said.

    Li spat into the mud and handed me a hard hat. Inside, the tunnel was cool and dark, about thirty feet high, with a smooth ceiling, faintly lit by work lights along the edges. Li had dug ten tunnels in his life, and this would be the longest—two miles end to end.

    After a while, we reached a group of eight workers in cotton shoes, hard hats, and military-surplus uniforms. They were wrestling a heavy iron frame into a side door in the tunnel. They groaned and heaved and slipped in the mud, in a scene illuminated by a single light bulb. It could have been 1912, instead of 2012. Li said that ten days earlier he had run into a problem: he hadn’t been paid by the subcontractor overseeing the tunnel, and now he had to lay off workers and stop digging. The Railway Ministry wasn’t as flush as it once was, and less money was trickling down to him.

    “I’m thinking of quitting,” he said. “It’s getting harder and harder to make a profit. We get paid next to nothing, and now we can’t even get paid. Why should I keep doing it?” We walked on, and I could see my breath in the wan lights along the wall. Deep inside the tunnel, we could no longer hear the clanging of the workers near the entrance. Li seemed distracted. “The officials are getting greedier and greedier,” he said. “In the past, whenever we were working on a tunnel, the local officials visited the site. Now they just stay in their big, beautiful office and collect their money.”

    Over our heads, the finished ceiling gave out, and mud and darkness lay ahead. For a second, all was silent, except for the sound of rushing water somewhere up ahead. “We have to stop,” Li said. “It’s dangerous past this point.”

    Several weeks after the Wenzhou crash, the Railway Ministry announced a series of steps in the name of safety: it recalled fifty-four bullet trains, to test sensors that could cause trains to stop unnecessarily; it halted construction of new lines; and it ordered trains to slow down from a top speed of 217 m.p.h. to 186 m.p.h. But before long the railway boom resumed, and the first anniversary of the Wenzhou crash was tightly managed. The state press was ordered not to visit the scene, and survivors were warned to keep their mouths shut. When one of them, a man in his twenties named Deng Qian, tried to visit the site that day, he was tailed by police, who videotaped his movements. “Their message to me was clear: I am now their enemy, their threat,” he told me. “I think they will keep an eye on us forever.”
    Henry Cao was struggling. He had spent five months in a Chinese hospital, recovering from broken bones, neurological damage, and the loss of his kidney and spleen. He could stay awake for only a few hours at a time, and he was easily confused. After returning to his family in Colorado, he had to close his camera-supply business. “I actually feel like I want to die,” he told me. “What’s the point of living when everything you tried to work for . . .” The government offered his family two hundred and eighty-four thousand dollars for his parents’ deaths, and another eighty-five thousand for his own injuries. In August, he and his brother Leo flew to China to retrieve their parents’ bodies. They asked to have a memorial in the ancestral village in Fujian, but the government forbade it; the parents were buried in a cemetery on Long Island.

    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.

    China’s recent scandals seem to have hastened a moment of truth: the new Politburo will take office next month knowing that the people are not as content as before with what they have gained from the country’s rise. Over a generation, the Party has raised five hundred million citizens from poverty, and constructed a physical and economic world previously inconceivable. Yet people see no shortage of reasons to demand better: Beijing spends more today on domestic security, protecting the state from a daily parade of public grievances and unrest, than it does on foreign defense. Despite the efforts of the censors, Chinese people can go online and read that their leaders eat uncontaminated vegetables grown at remote, guarded farms, and breathe air that has been scrubbed by filters. The fall of Bo Xilai and Great Leap Liu dramatized the culture of entitlement run amok. For years, Liu and Bo dedicated themselves to enhancing their own prospects along with those of the nation. They lost their sense of proportion, and the question is whether their government has, too.

    Liu Zhijun will go on trial. The date is a state secret, but the verdict is not. Ninety-eight per cent of Chinese trials end in conviction, and yet the most reliable predictor of Liu’s fate is that the Party has already embarked on one of its most enduring rituals. Just as technicians once airbrushed political casualties out of the archives and portraits, censors took to the Web last year to excise years’ worth of glowing news reports and documentaries that hailed Liu’s accomplishments, leaving behind only squibs about his arrest. Great Leap Liu has been expunged so thoroughly from the history of China’s achievements that you might never have known he existed. ♦


    Read more How a High-Speed Rail Disaster Exposed China’s Corruption : The New Yorker
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2012
    sesha_maruthi27 likes this.
  20. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2009
    Messages:
    43,118
    Likes Received:
    23,543
    Location:
    Somewhere
    Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.
    Sun Tzu
     
  21. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2009
    Messages:
    43,118
    Likes Received:
    23,543
    Location:
    Somewhere
    Lessons learnt.

    It is better to have slow train disasters than a massive foul up with high speed with devastating consequences!

    That is more devastating for those who are shivering in delight to showcase their Nation as the next wonder of the world!
     

Share This Page