Monday, February 04, 2008
China crisis: Fear of the crowd

The roar beats like storm gusts against my hotel window. It is the sound of human voices. If they are using words, they have lost any separate identity. It is simply the sound of a crowd, the elemental unit of Chinese history.

Like the police officers who sprawl in the lobby of this hotel opposite Guangzhou train station, I am tired. I know from standing among the people, for days and nights on end now, that they are also, individually, tired. Some are spent. They stagger, some supported by others, some in tears, as they proceed from barricade to crowded barricade in their journey towards the possibility of a train ride home.

But the crowd itself is perpetually refreshed.

As each new few thousand are released from one barricade, to run with their bags for a good position at the next barricade, the energy and the sound is as urgent as it was a week ago.

It is no wonder the Beijing authorities fear the crowd above everything. It was the masses that brought the communists to power. The government now is barely recognizable in its policies from those Maoist revolutionaries. But they understand the power of mass emotion.

So, they have produced a troop surge. 306,000 Chinese troops have been deployed, here, in southern China. That is nearly twice the total U.S. deployment in Iraq. The soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army are fighting what Beijing is rather sweetly calling “the war on wintry weather.”

The people crammed and crushed against barricades are perfectly ordinary people. After four years in China, I identify with them not quite as a native, but enough to understand as perfectly reasonable their desire to get back to be with their families for the Chinese New Year holiday.

The police and the soldiers seem genuinely interested in helping them, to ease their suffering. Again and again, I have seen these agents of state security racing beneath the feet of a thundering crowd to re-right a toppled pile of suitcases, to ease pregnant women and children and the frail and the simply over-emotional to a place of greater safety.

On Friday, a woman called Li Hongxia fell before the rushing crowd. By the time, she was lifted clear, she had been trampled by people powerless to avoid her. She died the next day in hospital. Li worked in a watch factory in Guandong. She was trying to get home to Hubei province.

But by the count I received a few hours ago, 483,000 people have made it onto trains. By the surf-like roar from the street outside, many many more are still anxious to try.


-- From CNN Correspondent Hugh Riminton in Guangzhou

What the heck are they all running to?
I am not sure what to make from the story line. Being in US for 20+ years, I've been struck by the stark contrast of two faces of America. One side of the faces, displayed by my neighbors and ordinary folks around me, is generous, warm, welcoming, enthusiastic, energetic, very helpful, and all of the decent characters you can ever find amongst human beings. The other side of the faces, displayed often by media and institution, is so cold and inhuman that use every opportunity to bash and show almost no sympathy toward others. This does not reflect too well on the media or institution and often leads to disastrous consequences (e.g., Iraq war) to US herself.

Please, this is a natural disaster. Have a little bit compasion, would you. Do you think deploying PLA, as you seem to imply, is just to "surpress" the mass? Those soldiers, believe or not, also suffer. They have to be there so that the fate of that poor lady will not be repeated. If the soldiers are not there to help and, yes, to control the mass, what could happen?

Keep in mind, this severe winter storm happens in the south where people rarely see snow in their entire life. They have absolutely no idea how to deal with it. As you probably recall, a few years ago, there was a winter storm in Texas. The sleet caused numerous deaths due to traffic accident and fall.

China is still a developing country. The so-called "Red Giant", as some of you at CNN put it, is full of human beings and full of human faces. Its infrastructure is primative and needs substantial development. From the perspective of rich country like US and rich people like Americans, it all seemed incomprehensible that a simple winter storm could cause so much damage and suffering in China. Afterall, we in US can send helicopters to airlift people. Of course, in the eyes of ordinary Chinese, the disastrous Katrina was also beyond their comprehension.
yeah,we also see the situation on TV.there are so many people.once a emergency happens,chaos comes.
The government should thinks it over.
But why did they all stay there in the cold? Why didn't they go back to where they live since the weather was so bad? They made a difficult situation so much worse...
Yes. you are right. China is rising, but it still lags behind developed countries like America. American media paint the danger of China in a subtle way, which makes Americans think that China is posing a huge threat to the U.S.. People who have not been to china will believe what they are seeing in TV and on the web. Look at pics placed on the Internet. They are so dated. China in Americans' idea is like a country on bike. In contrast, other reports are saying the surpressing conmmunist regiem. What's wrong with communnism??? If you have not been there, you should not be so judgemental. Chinese people are satisfied with their life.
I don't think people realize how completely and irreversibly our economy is intertwined with that of China. Virtually nothing of size is purchased in this country without parts or major components coming from China.

The Olympics are the first major test to see how far they've come and how far we've come in accepting their coming economic dominance.
Guangdong is probably the wealthiest province in China, a lot of Mandarin go there to get jobs from the Cantonese, but come New Years, everybody needs to get back to their village and see their family.
Think of the Bing Crosby song "I'll be home for Christmas."
What's not compassionate to write about the reality, and in a larger picture, to write about the human cost of China's economic "miracle." The CCP gained the power by inciting the peasants and now is trying to stay in power by exploiting them. Who is interested in their welfare?

Being through 6/4/1989, I have no doubt that the first order of biz for the army and the police is to maintain order. Any assistance is secondary.

Plus, compared with the media's criticism to the US gov. after Katrina, this reporting is rather tamed.
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