Train Crash Exacerbates Social Tensions in China

Recently two trains crashed together in Wenzhou when a lightning strike interrupted the system’s power supply. Essentially two trains crashed into each other while on a viaduct when a green signal failed to turn red. The accident caused six carriages to become derailed and four of them fell off the viaduct falling between 20 and 30 metres. 39 people are reported dead and almost 200 injured.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has already visited the the site promising compensation and justice for those injured and killed. He also promised to increase safety measures among China’s railways systems and promised to “severely” punish anyone who is found to have been acing irresponsibly.

“The country’s development is for the people, so the most important thing is people’s lives… No matter if it was a mechanical fault, a management problem, or a manufacturing problem, we must get to the bottom of this… If corruption was found behind this, we must handle it according to law and will not be soft.”
– Wen Jiabao

Chinese officials have already made compensation packages of $142,000 US dollars each available for the victims of the accident and their families. Thus far 10 families have accepted the offer. However, many have refused and have sought private legal counsel. Its believed that those seeking counsel will be launching a class-action lawsuit against the Chinese government.

Wen Jiabao has already publicly come out against such measures saying that law firms should not “unauthorisedly respond and handle the cases”.

There has been long standing allegations that corners were cut during the construction of high-speed rail network. It was built in record time with many construction experts saying that it was not built with as much safety in mind as was necessary. China has been overzealous in producing public transportation quickly.

Media coverage and criticism of the accident has been quite unusual. It has been discussed and debated quite publicly on state owned television and in print as well as radio. The social awareness of the incident is too large to deny, systemic corruption has been a problem for a long time. These deaths which may have been the result of such corruption has angered the population.

Social tension have already been quite high in the last two years since the global economic collapse. Rampant corruption, wide spread abuse by employers both in production and refusal to pay out wages has exacerbated the situation even more. Social unrest is already at a fever pitch with protests and police beatings a daily occurrence now among the countries’ tens of millions of unemployed.

The drive for China to build a technologically advanced face on its cities has been driven by its return to capitalism that began in the 1970s. The desire to get to most profitable conditions out for the profit making of a few wealthy elite has caused a severe lapse in safety measures. The drive for the profit of capitalism combined with the greed-based nature of corruption has lead to these deaths and many more in the past. This is the inevitable result of capitalism’s effect on the state.