Discussion of the Zhouqu Landslide on Boston.com

In the wake of a day of mourning this Sunday that everyone — well, almost everyone ((How fired do you think the People’s Daily editor responsible for that front page is right now? Our guess: very fired.)) — observed, a heated discussion of the mudslide has broken out on, of all places, Boston.com. As several people reported on Twitter yesterday, the comments thread of the site’s remarkable photo gallery has been essentially taken over by Chinese, who are using it as a public (uncensored) forum to discuss the disaster.

If you need it, check this post out (or this one) for a quick review of what the “Fifty Cents Party” [aka wu mao dang] is. As you will see, this is a very important term to understand when approaching this discussion.

We have translated some of their comments (a fair number of the comments are also written in English, so feel free to check those out as well):


Commenter 四川:

“A heavy rain was the cause of this disaster, so why are there once again so many fake foreign devils [Chinese acting like foreigners] cursing the government. You are not patriotic, you’re just speaking in farts.”

Commenter Anonymous:

“Some disasters are unavoidable; others are avoidable. In the eternal struggle between humans and nature, we must also protect ourselves against the kinds of officials who sit on high positions but do not look after the safety of the people. These kind of officials are monsters who create disasters themselves.”

Commenter Lesley Liu:

“As a Chinese, I cry for those who have died, and at the same time as I pray for blessings, I also very much admire our nation’s ruling Party. Really! Perhaps in the eyes of foreigners who don’t understand China, China is a one-Party authoritarian state, but aside from the CCP, who else could have helped us develop so quickly and shake off poverty and deliver such unprecedented growth? Who else can respond so quickly and throughly when their people are suffering? Also, the Chinese Communist Party really protects the rights and dignity of the Chinese people, and doesn’t allow any unfriendly forces to threaten its people. I’m so thankful and proud. My home province of Jilin was one of eight provinces hit by flooding, and our school was in a difficult spot by the riverside. I want to tell you that we are all fine, we have not been affected at all, we lack nothing, and many of our classmates have gone to the disaster areas to volunteer. China is not like you think she is. Only after coming here will you understand her.”

Commenter Anonymous:

“I’m a Party member, so what? Only the Party can put the entire force of the nation in motion to aid the victims; as for those thug traitors yelling here [on this website], you really make people angry, we must stand firm against these kinds of turncoat running dogs!!!”

Commenter kit:

“Are there people who organized to come here and say good things about the CCP? That’s very weird, this is an English website, what’s the point of saying this stuff in Chinese? If you want to compliment [the CCP] go back to the Strong Nation forums. You guys like having “lots of disasters” to reinvigorate the country, right, so there must be lots of hotheads at Strong Nation responding to this…”

Commenter china:

“Stupid cunt Fifty Cents Party members, take a break. And don’t try to connect everything with “the wheel” ((Slang for a certain cult that’s banned in China.)). You’re dogs the CCP raised, and would risk your lives to rush to their defense. It’s a shame netizens aren’t stupid, looking back on the history of extensive deforestation during the Great Leap Forward, it’s very easy to see that this disaster was caused by people. Lastly, I hope you Fifty Centers’ families get vaccinated, drink poison milk, eat sewage oil, and die playing hide-and-go-seek.”

Commenter 淡蓝色冰箱:

“In the face of disaster, let us be hand-in-hand, and share the same heart!”

Commenter zhao:

“If you call this a ‘natural disaster’, old man Nature is going to feel like he’s been wronged.”

Commenter Anonymous:

“Taiwanese people: fuck off.”

Commenter JOHN:

“The tragedy of China does not lie in government corruption. It lies in the way that Chinese look down on other Chinese! It lies in the fact that Chinese people do not trust in their own Party! Be a Chinese person, be a CCP member! I am very proud! I pride myself on [being a Party member]! I experienced the 5.12 earthquake! When you were eating and drinking happily! Who was it that led China through this disaster? Please do not say bad things about the CCP! I know how much the CCP cares for us, the masses! I hope the people of Zhouqu can rise up and create a beautiful hometown again. And I hope the dead rest in peace!”

Commenter weigan:

“There are many Fifty Cents Party members here, please pay attention to this.”

Commenter dgadga:

“What a bunch of stupid cunts, on here making a racket, you guys are the ones who should have been killed in a mudslide.”

Commenter athony lee:

“Notification to the “wheel” ((See the footnote above.)) members and overseas Chinese reactionaries here: If you did not cry on the memorial day, you are definitely not Chinese. I think those of you attacking the Party are definitely not Chinese. Why don’t you all get the fuck out of China, you aren’t Chinese. The process of China strengthening does not require non-Chinese people like you.”

Commenter 不是lun子:

“I came here to ask, didn’t the government know that there was the threat of mudslides here?”

Commenter jomi:

“The real Party members are on the scene in Gansu helping the relief effort. The people yelling here are just shameless idiots who think they’re Party bosses, scheming troublemakers, and disruptive FLG members.”

Clearly, Chinese netizens know how to make themselves right at home on American BBS servers. This is a good reminder that not all the political discourse on the internet is as intelligent and rational as most of the stuff we post.

The main question here, really, is whether this was a “man-made” disaster or not. I tend to believe massive deforestation could certainly be dangerous, but I am not an expert on mudslides, so we welcome your comments. Man-made, natural, or both?

0 thoughts on “Discussion of the Zhouqu Landslide on Boston.com”

  1. A lot of stupidity occurred in the 50s and 60s and even earlier when China’s leadership truly thought the Soviet Union was perfect in every way and tried to follow in its footsteps by building a lopsided economy composed of nothing but heavy industry.

    They’re slowing coming around now though.


  2. Apparently there have been a few warnings from experts in the last few years that the town should be moved, too- I have the link on my email at work, but it should be google-able if you’re curious.


  3. I see the Chinese Govt. have done extremely well in the rescue operations. I do not see the PLA entering the mudslide areas with AK-47.

    I saw the marines entering New Orleans after Katrina with M-16s.

    There are no negative news coming from Aljazeera, CNN, BBC or some bad press.

    Just look and comapare with the rescue operations in Pakistan.

    Overall, China have done very well with the rescue and relief operations.


  4. @ Interested
    From your article: “Li Aihui, the county’s construction bureau deputy director in charge of planning, lost his entire family when mud buried their homes in Yueyuan.”
    Ouch. Harsh way to learn a lesson.


  5. Pointing fingers is useless here. It is a combination of so many human and non-human factors and variables. This area is famous for mudslides and landslides. Much of that area is semi-arid and prone to flash floods. The hills are sparsely vegetated and when combined with deforestation, have few roots to stop erosion. The terrain is mostly deeply cut ravines and steep sided valleys. Between flash flood erosion and quickly saturated soil, it makes sense there would be many mudslides, landslides, flooding and river blockage. People built cities in places they shouldn’t build them. Trees are cut down and either not replanted or replanted only for economic gain rather than for stopping erosion. River channels are screwed with and dams change river dynamics. People weakn hillsides with construction, road cuts, mining, grazing and farming. There are few or no warning systems for these kinds of events. The government puts economics before anything else, jumping headlong into everything. That said, many places have made and continue to make the same mistakes. Read through old and not-so-old newspapers from the US and Japan and you’ll certainly find similar disasters although likely on a much smaller scale.


  6. For those interested: this is a good book on environment and politics in China during Mao’s regime.

    Mao’s War against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China.


  7. As the Chinese middle class grows and start to send more of their kids overseas, you will definitely see more Chinese people to defend their mother country in non-Chinese discussion forums. This would be especially true once they encounter and learn the concept of racism. There is no whiteman’s burden over yellow people but there should be.

    The crying of wumao infiltrating foreign websites is stupid. The whole point of wumaodong is to control and influence the Chinese population in heavily censored environment in China. The Chinese government consults with official foreign PR firms to influence the internal media, which charge alot more than wumao per message, and one would think are alot better at what they do.

    Seeing China bashers calling anyone and everyone who doesn’t share their hatred for China WuMao is a bit ironic, since these China bashers are not much different from the real wumao folks really. Most of the China bashers can’t think independently and repeats the same drivel over and over. When properly challenged all they can do is calling the other party wumao rather than offering any valid counter points.


  8. ” Yes, there was definitely no bad press about the US government’s response to Katrina! That is totally true! (This is sarcasm.)”

    Custer, the world does not look at America’s own domestic tragedies and then try to dictate America’s domestic policies. Yet you constantly have media pundits from Western presses who want to telling mostly the non-Chinese population how China should be run. That’s odd.


  9. Wow. That’s a lot of “anti-50 cent” comments.

    Maybe that’s closer to the percentage of anti-50 cent comments actually occurring in China itself, but minus the harmonizing.

    Is Boston.com blocked now?


  10. @ lolz: Yes, the people outside the US never try to dictate how the US should be run. Wait, WHAT? That happens all the time. Of course not after natural disasters; but it’s not like right after the Wenchuan earthquake a lot of US pundits went hard at China immediately either.

    Non-Chinese people telling China how it should be run is not odd, it’s normal. Read Chinese domestic media sometime; just yesterday the Global Times ran a piece about how a proposed bill in the US on internet security shouldn’t be passed because blah blah blah. Non-American people telling America how it should be run…not that unusual.


  11. The villagers have been deforesting nearby mountains for many years for economic gain, the landslide was going to happen sooner or later.

    And flood in the north that killed many more and literally flattened towns/villages got absolutely no attention from the media. My friend in Changchun got banned complaining this on QQ.


  12. Peteryang: The floods in the north did not kill “many more” people. In fact, from the numbers I saw, they didn’t even come close. I also saw numerous reports about them in the news and on TV…


  13. C:

    This friend of mine who lives in Changchun told that the flood only left very few towns untouched, and most of the affected areas were severely damaged, he didn’t however give the death toll but I could guess it was pretty bad.

    I have known him to be a very peaceful person but this time he freaked out whining that Zhouqu stole the attention and that the flood victims ought to have a fair share of relief.

    So I compared his version of the story and sporadic internet posting I glimpsed before deletion, with what the medias had to say, and I think it’s safe to conclude the medias largely downplayed the flood, most likely because the government didn’t want to look hypocritical helping one and ignoring the other.


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