Jeff Horwich: The global perspective, today from the area around Beijing– where six months-worth of rain fell over the weekend. The storm has reportedly killed 37 people; almost 60,000 are out of their homes. Anger is reportedly turning from Mother Nature to the government.
Jeremy Goldkorn runs Danwei.com — it’s a research firm that tracks media and Internet activity in China. He’s with me from Beijing. Hello, Jeremy.
Jeremy Goldkorn: Good to be here.
Horwich: Give me a sense of the scale of the damage.
Goldkorn: Well, 37 people have died according to official sources, and in the south part of the city, a number of houses and buildings have fallen over, in some cases killing people.
Horwich: We’re hearing some reports that Beijing infrastructure itself — the storm sewer system — maybe somehow contributed to the damage. Is that your impression as well?
Goldkorn: Well, what Chinese people are complaining about online is that although Beijing has had its share of really spectacular infrastructure projects you can see, the projects that aren’t easy to see aren’t properly funded. So there’s a lot of suspicion that sewage and water drainage have been neglected in the city.
Horwich: These would be the systems that would ordinarily funnel this water away to some place safe?
Goldkorn: That’s correct. They were just overwhelmed by the quantity of water in a very short period of time. So I think the infrastructure just wasn’t sufficiently advanced to cope with the amount of water.
Horwich: Certainly people are frustrated, they’re venting online — would you expect much, if any, real political fallout from the situation.
Goldkorn: If one looks at previous examples — for example, the fatal train crash almost exactly a year ago today — there were a few officials who lost their jobs; there has not been a transparent, systematic investigation into the disaster. And that one was, in some ways, much bigger news than this one; the death toll was about the same. So I don’t see any reason why it will be different this time.
Horwich: Jeremy Goldkorn runs Danwei.com, which tracks media and Internet activity in China. Thanks very much.
Goldkorn: Thank you.
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