Bridge engineer denies going too far

The Safest Bridge Ever, and a Little Bit on Jiang Zemin

Bridge engineer denies going too far

The Bridge

You know something is up when the headline in a Chinese paper is a denial. No, I’m not talking about Jiang Zemin, we’ll get to him in a minute. But first, let’s talk about this bridge that is totally safe and was in no way rushed to completion. You will want to read this article before continuing.

You may have heard that as part of the CCP’s 90th anniversary celebration, in addition to making a really terrible movie, China also built a giant fucking bridge.

Said bridge is, in fact, the world’s longest sea bridge, and is over 26 miles long. If that doesn’t prove that China is a glorious socialist paradise, I’m not sure what does.

And yet, nay-sayers (probably on the NED payroll) have maligned the bridge, saying it was rushed to completion in time for the anniversary! Why? Just because it doesn’t have finished guard rails, or any kind of lighting, and the bolts aren’t all properly fastened.

What these dissident, anti-China forces don’t understand is that a bridge’s guard rails and lighting aren’t part of the bridge, they’re separate projects to be completed at a later date (duh!). Plus, who cares? An expert at the Beijing Jiaotong University’s department of Bridge Engineering has already said that the unscrewed bolts would cause no problems, and as for the guard rails, the only way them being unfinished could cause a problem would be if someone hit them! And come on, what are the chances of anyone getting into an accident along a 26-mile-long, completely unlit stretch of road in China?

Bridges don’t need lighting, or guardrails, you idiots. What they need is a strong Communist Party. If you crash into the guard rails and go flying into the water and drown, remember that it’s probably your fault for not singing enough red songs.

Jiang’s Death?

Rumors have been flying for several days that Jiang Zemin is dead. Until noon today, the Chinese media stayed completely silent on the matter, while several Hong Kong, Taiwanese, and Japanese news stations all reported that Jiang had died. Then around noon today, Xinhua said this (this is the entire report, verbatim):

Recent reports of some overseas media organizations about Jiang Zemin’s death from illness are “pure rumor,” Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday, citing authoritative sources.

That seems to clear everything up, except that it doesn’t at all. First of all, no one seems to be able to find the Chinese-language Xinhua report (at least as of when I wrote this), which is odd. It’s also important, though, because you’ll notice the English phrasing doesn’t technically deny that Jiang is dead.

It seems pretty certain that at the very least, Jiang’s health is extremely poor. Whether he’s dead or not remains unclear. At this point, we can be sure that even if he is dead, the government will wait at least a few days before announcing it to avoid the embarrassment of having a CCP leader’s death get scooped by Hong Kongers, Taiwanese, and even the Japanese.

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0 thoughts on “The Safest Bridge Ever, and a Little Bit on Jiang Zemin”

  1. Just a quick query…why is it consistently seen as ok for blogs to use photographs with no attribution? If someone “stole” your written material without your consent you would surely be up in arms.

    Oddball…a frustrated photographer.

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  2. Whatever you say about the bridge, you have to know the comments will focus on Jiang’s “death”.

    My tuppence: go down to Tiananmen and drop a 40 on the curb, home-boy J-Zm is gravely ill at the very least.

    Delaying reporting his death out of a desire not to appear to have been scooped by the foreign media? I don’t see it, but then the CCP’s “logic” is often a wee-bit serpentine. My bet is that certain people were still relying to an extent on J-Zm’s patronage, and are trying to buy some time whilst they come up with a plan as to how they’re going to handle their patron’s exit from the scene.

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  3. I’m waiting for the next Xinhua report:

    “Recent reports of some overseas media organizations about Jiang Zemin’s death from illness are “pure rumor”… coincidentally, in other news, Jiang Zemin has just died.”

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  4. @ Oddball: In this case, there’s attribution in the article that I linked to repeatedly, and asked everyone to read before reading the rest of this post. But the real reason is laziness, and also the fact that most times, the place where a blogger finds a photo in the first place (very often, some random page found from Google images) generally doesn’t have any real attribution either. I think linking to another site that probably just stole the image too is a pretty pointless gesture, so I don’t bother, and tracking down the original photographer’s name if it’s not provided is pretty much impossible.

    For the record, though, I’d happily take down any photograph or image that I used if the photographer got in touch with me and asked me to.

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  5. Weirdest thing: not only is there (apparently) no original Chinese version of this denial, but threads translating the Xinhua report into Chinese are being censored. This suggests that he’s dead -it’s hard to think why they would be playing this double game of denying something to foreigners whilst stopping the spread of the denial at home otherwise.

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  6. This type of response speaks a ton about the political aging process. I was trying to think of an instance where art imitates Sino life, and the best I could come up with was a list of werewolf or vampire movies, since the Godfather he sleeps with the fishes references have been done to death.

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  7. fucking white trash!

    Editor’s note: This commenter has been banned, but I’m leaving this comment here as a reminder to everyone about our comments policy. You are entitled to express any opinion you like, but you are required to do it in accordance with our commenting rules. I think anyone with a brain can figure out how this comment violates several of those rules, so I won’t bother illustrating it. If you have questions about the comments policy, please feel free to ask.

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  8. I’m sorry Custer, but this is the very first time an article you’ve written has annoyed me. I understand your issues with the bridge, but do you think you might be able to tone down the snarkiness a bit? It’s a little overwhelming ^^;;;

    However, I do agree with your point about the bridge, I find it very bothersome that the CCP has rushed the bridge for the sake of something as petty as a “face” gesture. Call me optimistic, but I’m going to hope that the government will be smart enough to fix those problems without any delay.

    Maybe I’m just naive.

    Does anyone know what the bridges construction is like? Are we talking an extended version of the Golden Gate? Just a matter of curiosity.

    So far as Jiang Zemin’s death, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is dead. All he’s missing in his cavalcade is a cart full of dead fish to hide the smell of his corpse. I wonder if anyone will get the reference ;). I can’t remember, but does anyone know if there was any kind of major delay, or similar situation when (my personal hero) Deng Xiaoping passed away?

    Thanks for your patience guys~
    Peace!

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  9. “the bridge story was broke by none other than yours, CCTV!”

    To many people, when the Chinese media reports on negative news about China, then they are credible. However when Chinese media reports on anything positive then it’s propaganda. That’s just how it works.

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  10. The bridge was definitely rushed. Though I would reserve calling out the quality of the bridge until something bad happens due to the build quality.

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  11. @ jsyang: Yup, and it was also reported in the Global Times, which I linked to repeatedly. Never said it wasn’t.

    Additionally, you are hereby banned from posting at this site for a rather egregious violation of our comments policy. If you have any questions about what you did, or how it violates our policy, please feel free to contact me via email.

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  12. @ lolz: Not sure if you’re being cynical or not, but that really is how it works a lot of the time. Not that every positive story is propaganda — see, for example, the post just before this one — but a lot of them genuinely are. (And anyone who works for the Chinese media will gladly tell you that).

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  13. @ Cao Ah Man: Yes, I turned on the snark a little hard for this one. I did anticipate that would bother a few people (although I didn’t anticipate being called “fucking white trash” for it) and that’s why I included the stuff about Jiang as well. Anyway, rest assured, it’s not a permanent change in editorial tone, I was just feeling especially sarcastic last night.

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  14. @ C. Custer

    Ha, no worries I totally understand. While my opinions might lean more in the direction of lolz and Pugster (maybe more lolz- no offense pugster) I’ve always respected your dedication more to truth rather than any kind of agenda pushing. You’ve always had such a higher quality level of writing and engagement when it comes to China (especially compared to the Western vomit inducing media) and I must say this last post really threw me off xD. Still, you’re human too and are of course more than entitled to vent in whatever way you feel appropriate. 😉

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  15. I’m glad the editorial change of tone won’t be permanent….

    BTW following Oddball’s comment, its common practice if you can’t find any metadata on the image to cite URL it was retrieved from.

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  16. The bridge story was actually broken by a Weibo user (盐-很甜 on Sina, initial post here) who posted multiple photos of problem spots after noticing the issues during a drive across the bridge shortly after it opened. Like so many other weibo-sourced items these days, the microblogger was attacked for rumor-mongering, particularly because some photos showed three rails and others four rails (this turned out to be the case in the CCTV broadcast too). Local TV media was dismissive: in a report it aired on the photos, it consulted an official who called the problems minor, intentional, and easily resolvable; without even checking on the situation in person, it dismissed the microblogger’s concerns as amateur speculation. According to the microblogger (post), CCTV communicated by private message to verify the photos before dispatching a reporter to shoot its own segment.

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  17. I wouldn’t mind if the change in editorial tone was permanent. It’s difficult to remain journalistically serious when the world’s clumsiest PR machine tries to tell you that guard rails, lights and tightened nuts are not actually part of a bridge. It still brings a smile to my face reading it again!

    Snarkyness and sarcasm enjoyed thoroughly. Many thanks.

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  18. I absolutely don’t mind the tone of the article either. The facts warrant the tone, and those who complain about it seem to be doing so through a dislike of the facts communicated, not the tone.

    As a matter of fact, I find dislike of ‘snarkiness’ to be a very American thing, and one of the reasons many British people think that Americans don’t understand sarcasm. In Britain, so long as sarcasm is done well, it is appreciated.

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  19. “Ypu should wait until an accident happens before saying anything. That’s just common sense, no?”

    It would be very stupid to call someone a murderer if he hasn’t murdered anyone yet. In this case, I am not sure if some loose screws along 26 mile long project is indicative of a very large issue. Any large project has its share of defects. If there are ALOT of these these loose screws that would certainly be an issue, but I don’t know how many loose screws are there. Furthermore I don’t know how well other bridges are built to compare this bridge with to determine whether this bridge is any safer or less safe compared to others. Apparently for FORAP, common sense means to jump at conclusions.

    “Not that every positive story is propaganda — see, for example, the post just before this one — but a lot of them genuinely are.”

    I am afraid that a lot of people equate any positive news story about China with propaganda. Personally I find a dishonest that people who otherwise disparage Chinese media’s creditworthiness to use Chinese media for reference when they see it fitting their agenda. At the very least they should acknowledge that Chinese media reports truths as well as falsehoods.

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  20. If one understands the constraints under which the Chinese media operate, it’s easier to know where one can trust them and where one cannot or at least should apply a grain or bag of salt

    As party mouthpieces by definition, Xinhua, CCTV and The People’s Daily can be counted on to faithfully relay official views, policies, speeches and statistics. They at least tell you what authorities want the Chinese people and the wider world to know about a given subject and often they have monopoly access to officials and government agencies. In a lot of cases they are authoritative and accurate, if not complete. As in Chinese society, economic coverage is more free and open than that of politics. Foreign media stories very often reference official Chinese media, because the non-Chinese outlets have no real-time access to the authorities quoted therein. Sometimes officials or spokespeople pointedly tell foreign reporters to “read the relevant Xinhua report” before hanging up on them.

    Where Chinese outlets fall short, at least as seen from a Western point of view, is in telling or accurately relaying the other side of the story in cases where a party is in conflict with the PRC. That tends to mean all of the so-called “sensitive” issues, from Tibet to FLG to Google to the South China Sea and the RMB dispute. I believe much of the anger that spawned the anti-CNN movement of 2008 flowed from popular shock that other points of view on Tibet existed or that these views were given as much weight as the official PRC view.

    “Personally I find a (sic) dishonest that people who otherwise disparage Chinese media’s creditworthiness to use Chinese media for reference when they see it fitting their agenda.”

    This is a reasonable criticism, and also it is a recurring problem with Chinese nationalists of various types who like to attack, say, the NYT over its China coverage but love to quote its criticism of a given US policy or social problem.

    Western consumers of news are instinctively wary or dismissive of upbeat happy news of the type the Chinese media still pump out, although probably in lower ratios than in the past.

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  21. “It would be very stupid to call someone a murderer if he hasn’t murdered anyone yet. In this case, I am not sure if some loose screws along 26 mile long project is indicative of a very large issue. Any large project has its share of defects. If there are ALOT of these these loose screws that would certainly be an issue, but I don’t know how many loose screws are there. Furthermore I don’t know how well other bridges are built to compare this bridge with to determine whether this bridge is any safer or less safe compared to others. Apparently for FORAP, common sense means to jump at conclusions. “

    This is certainly your point of view, but I don’t think many people will share it. Having worked a bit as a labourer in the building industry when I was in university, I do not think any good site-manager or engineer allows such things to go unattended to.

    And anyway, this is not a case of a few screws being loose, but of a bridge being opened for business without any lights, and missing its railings, and the apparent reason for this being expedience. We saw this with the Commonwealth Games in Delhi last year, and we may see examples of it in London next year (although hopefully not, my brother-in-law is working on the logistics and Q/A for it) but for a bridge it is rather more serious.

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  22. @ lolz:

    It would be very stupid to call someone a murderer if he hasn’t murdered anyone yet. In this case, I am not sure if some loose screws along 26 mile long project is indicative of a very large issue. Any large project has its share of defects. If there are ALOT of these these loose screws that would certainly be an issue, but I don’t know how many loose screws are there. Furthermore I don’t know how well other bridges are built to compare this bridge with to determine whether this bridge is any safer or less safe compared to others. Apparently for FORAP, common sense means to jump at conclusions.

    Right, but no one is suggesting the bridge has murdered someone, they’re suggesting it has safety issues that COULD hurt someone. Maybe they won’t, but the prudent thing is to put them in anyway, not wait until after someone has died.

    A more fitting metaphor might be the air bags in a car. When you buy a car, you certainly don’t plan to crash it. Chances are, you never will need the air bags. And certainly, the car will operate perfectly fine on a day to day basis. But would you buy a car without air bags?

    No one is suggesting the bridge is going to collapse because of some loose screws. But they are suggesting that without lighting and proper guard rails, both the chances of an accident occurring and the stakes of an accident if it did occur on the bridge are higher. This isn’t jumping to conclusions; I think that anyone who knows how to drive a car would agree that lit roads are safer than unlit, and that guardrails are pretty important to have on a bridge.

    I am afraid that a lot of people equate any positive news story about China with propaganda. Personally I find a dishonest that people who otherwise disparage Chinese media’s creditworthiness to use Chinese media for reference when they see it fitting their agenda. At the very least they should acknowledge that Chinese media reports truths as well as falsehoods.

    Of course the Chinese media reports truths. Chinese journalists are just like journalists anywhere; if they are permitted to they will report anything that they can uncover. The problem is that they aren’t often permitted to (this is a source of great frustration among my friends who work at Chinese media outlets).

    However, I’m not sure the media system as a whole really deserves much praise for reporting the truth sometimes. When some things reported are the truth and others are lies, it’s difficult to determine which is which, and the value of the media as a whole is diminished.

    I don’t think it’s dishonest to use the Chinese media as a source in some cases and criticize them in others. The fact of the matter is that the Chinese media can be reliable, depending on the issue they’re reporting on, and in those cases, there’s no reason not to cite them. In other cases, when they’re clearly not being truthful, why not criticize them?

    I hear from people who share your views often this idea that one needs to either support something or oppose something entirely, and that there can’t be a middle ground. That’s nonsense. Of course it’s fair to accept the good and criticize the bad, whether we’re talking about the Chinese media or the US government or anything at all. It might seem mean to criticize something, and then turn around and use something from that same source to support an argument, but the Chinese media is not a person and, despite what the newspapers might say, it does not have feelings that can be hurt. I see absolutely no reason not to criticize the media when it’s done something wrong, and accept and use their reporting when it has been truthful.

    That’s not hypocritical, it’s just making the best use possible of something that’s imperfect, and in my case, you’ll notice that I do it, although to a lesser extent, with the Western media too.

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  23. “I absolutely don’t mind the tone of the article either. The facts warrant the tone, and those who complain about it seem to be doing so through a dislike of the facts communicated, not the tone.”

    @ FOARP

    I share Custer’s sentiments about both stories; they’re absurd, embarrassing, PR facepalms – but I don’t need sarcasm to tell me that. The tone of this article is unhelpful and isn’t conducive to casting a reasoned eye on developing issues that are likely more complicated than they first appear.

    Unless you’ve been in China for less than 5 mins then PR masochism should be a pretty tired source of comedy.

    Regardless, Custer has done a pretty decent job in the past and we’re all entitled to a blip now and then.

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  24. @ birghtgrey: I dunno, my take would be that if you’ve been in China more than 5 minutes and you aren’t at least occasionally amused by PR masochism, you’re probably so depressed you’ve killed yourself already….

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  25. Hardly Custer, of the full time Chinese I know all of them would be far more likely to read these latest botch ups with a long winded sigh rather than a hearty guffaw. I’m not saying wisecracks about propaganda aren’t fair game, but more often than not the ones who point and laugh loudest are the laowai observers usually smacking with self righteous schadenfreude.

    I know a PR botch up when I see one – my masters thesis was on PR, but this kind of blooper is too black for me to laugh at.

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  26. @brightgrey

    I can appreciate your desire for reasoned reporting – indeed it is sorely lacked in our world of info-tainment. However, can you not sense the slightest comical value of this situation? At the very least in a dark, even black, dystopian kind of way? I think it demands sarcasm and satire!

    “The bridge is finished, Sir!”

    “Well done! – err… what about that guard rail?”

    “oh… that’s not part of the bridge – neither are the lights.”

    “neither are the lights??”

    “no sir. The sun never sets on this bridge, sir”

    “Really? No night time? Excellent. Good job. Inflate the big red arch and open for traffic straight away!!”

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  27. @ brightgrey:

    It’s definitely dark humor, but I think the humor here lies in the fact that this case has come to light and since it was reported in state media, I can only assume that it’s in the process of being fixed. If that weren’t the case, then it would probably just be depressing. But I don’t think anyone will actually be killed on the bridge; my assumption — and perhaps I’m wrong — is that the state media are only allowed to cover this because they are going to fix the bridge.

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  28. “Unless you’ve been in China for less than 5 mins then PR masochism should be a pretty tired source of comedy.”

    I dunno. To me it seem to be the gift that just keeps giving, not unlike News International right now.

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  29. “I think the humor here lies in the fact that this case has come to light and since it was reported in state media”

    True enough it can be laughed maybe a little at more easily since it coming from the state owned media. I’d practically feel like congratulating them if it weren’t for that it seems more like preemptive evasion/damage control than fessing up.

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  30. I totally understand. There is no way, ever, not in a billion years, that the Chinese can be as technologically advanced as, well, let’s say, well you-know-who.

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