By David Bandurski — As Premier Wen Jiabao winged off to China’s western Guizhou Province last month in a show of government action to deal with crippling snowstorms, he exclaimed that “only when the masses are reassured, can the country be at peace. Only when the country is at peace, can the leaders be relieved.”
Now, as Wen’s work report to the NPC comes off weak on “reflecting back”, or fansi (反思), with only the most anemic language about the need to “earnestly sum up our experiences and learn from them,” you can bet your bottom government leaders are, in the premier’s words, “RELIEVED.”
[ABOVE: Page A16 of today’s Southern Metropolis Daily runs two items back to back (at right) on denials of responsibility for last month’s chaos by a State Council official in charge of the Three Gorges dam project and by the governor of Guizhou Province.]
What was to be a time of hardnosed reflection is now, thanks in part to Wen’s weak posture, a time for tossing the political hot potato . . . This one will land, most probably, in the lap of Mother Nature.
In a Q&A session with reporters yesterday, Guizhou governor Lin Shulin (林树森) shrugged off all but the most minor of boo-boos. “On the question you asked about responsibility, these snowstorms were a natural disaster,” said Lin, “and aside from a few isolated cases of [officials] daring to be absent from their posts and neglecting their duties etc, cadres in Guizhou did a relatively good job, and there is no question of holding them to account.”
Over at the China Meterological Administration, which took some flack from media and Web users last week for not issuing adequate storm warnings and working more closely with other agencies, minister Zheng Guoguang (郑国光) said during a press conference yesterday that there was no reason for his office to apologize to the public.
“Why should the CMA apologize? This needs to be said clearly. What reason is there for the CMA to apologize?” Zheng Guoguang’s voice, soft at first, rose an octave as he turned on the reporter. “The present level of scientific and technological know-how being as it is, how many days ahead would you wish me to forecast?”
Even with state-of-the-art technologies, said Zheng, such freak events were impossible to predict: “What with global warming now, the climate has become very abnormal and may change at any moment.”
[ABOVE: Screenshot of today’s coverage of the statement by the head of the China Meteorological Administration via Dayoo.com]
In today’s edition of Southern Metropolis Daily , CPPCC member and vice-director of the Three Gorges Project Office, Gao Jinbang (高金榜), spoke to concerns that last month’s chaos might have owed in part to climate change induced by the massive dam project. [More on TG project and local drought]. [More from Times Online].
Gao said there was no link between the hydroelectric project and freak storms last month. Instead, he praised the project as a Chinese “dream come true,” at odds with China’s October admission of the project’s myriad problems.
In September last year we invited scores of news agencies, both domestic and overseas, to see the Three Gorges [project] first-hand. They all though it was great. The Three Gorges project is a dream of the Chinese people, and now the dream has come true. In this work report, Premier Wen Jiabao talks twice about the Three Gorges. The first reference is to development in the reservoir area and its contributions, the second is to the need for ensuring water quality in the area, which is an excellent point.
It’s a principle true enough in the rough-and-tumble world of CCP politics — if it doesn’t appear in an official report, it can’t be a real problem.
And why should anyone take responsibility? Such chaos, after all, is completely natural.
[Posted by David Bandurski, March 7, 2008, 4:30pm HK]