Bloody GDP

A disastrous high-speed train collision in the city of Wenzhou on July 23, 2011, which killed at least 39 people and injured more than 200 others, capped with tragedy two weeks of rising doubts in China about the safety of the country’s high-speed rail network. In the wake of the tragedy, as the government tried to keep public doubts from gathering speed. The Central Propaganda Department told media across the country to avoid hard questions and focus instead on “stories that are extremely moving, like people donating blood and taxi drivers refusing to accept fares.”
But anger swelled and million of Chinese vented their frustrations, asked hard questions and shared information through social media like Sina Weibo. Many Chinese media disregarded propaganda directives, doing harder-hitting coverage of the disaster. One repeated theme was whether safety concerns were recklessly overlooked as Chinese leaders sought quick results and high speeds. Finally, on July 28, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabo visited the scene of the July 23 collision and pledged to “punish those responsible.” An editorial on the front page of the Party’s official People’s Daily the same day said that “China wanted development, but did not want “bloody GDP”, or dai xie de GDP (带血的GDP). The editorial called for new and urgent measures and new laws and regulations to ensure greater safety across the country.

David Bandurski

Now Executive Director of the China Media Project, leading the project’s research and partnerships, David originally joined the project in Hong Kong in 2004. He is the author of Dragons in Diamond Village (Penguin), a book of reportage about urbanization and social activism in China, and co-editor of Investigative Journalism in China (HKU Press).