By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
February 4, 2008
Overnight our friends and colleagues in China sent us a deluge of reports all with a familiar ring: masses of Chinese people remain engulfed in snow, fog, troops holding them back and just a crush of humanity unable to move or make progress.
The snow emergency is now in its fourth week and a nation that now has been revealed as a place totally ill-equipped for a major snow “event,” as weathermen love to say in the U.S., is now using military armoured vehicles (“Tanks”) to pack down snow on freeways.
Troops are beeng used in formations two and three deep to create a wall of uniformed men to block surging crowds from their intended objective. But this tactic has not been foolproof. Last week a crowd broke through the wall of troops and crushed a man to death in the process.
Freezing storms have killed scores of people and left travelers stranded before the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival — the only opportunity many people have to take a holiday all
year — or perhaps years.
The poor, nomadic migrant workers in China, sometimes estimated at up to 100 million people or one-third the total population of the U.S., do not have but this one opportunity to return home each year. But our colleagues have spoken to dozens who have not been home for three or four years. These people have very limited human rights and no advantages in life.
And getting home for the Lunar New Year is deeply important. Paying respect to one’s parents and elder family in person at the start of the Lunar New Year makes one lucky all year. To miss the event can evoke ill will from the household gods for the entire year.
(AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Lunar New Year is a deeply significant cultural event without an analogy in the West — especially among the rural, under educated and poor.
chaired a second emergency Politburo meeting in a week on Sunday. Yet the communist leadership, despite its best effort and calling out over one million troops, simply does not have the experience or resources to effectively deal with a snow emergency of this magnitude.
“We have to be clear-minded that the inclement weather and severe disaster will continue to plague certain regions in the south,” said a statement issued after Sunday’s Politburo meeting. “Relief work will continue to face challenges, posing a tough task.”
Thesaid the weather was the coldest in 100 years in central and , going by the total number of consecutive days of average temperature less than 1 degree Celsius (33.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
But there is hope for milder days said the weather agency.
“The weather over the disaster-stricken regions is likely to turn better in the next several days, but it is still necessary to remain alert for possible low temperatures, frozen rain, snow, freezing and heavy fog,” it said in a statement.
The state controlled communist government is already in full “spin” mode saying that the economic impact of the snaow is limited and is likely to create new investment.
“There is no doubt that such a big economy will encounter various difficulties each year, but the Chinese economy is maintaining,” said Fan Gang, director of China’s National Institute of Economic Research.
The snow is likely to stimulate investment on items such as upgrading theor improving the transportation network for coal, Fan was quoted as saying.
AFP reported this:
“The economic situation has become complicated with the new factors cropping up,” said Wu Jinglian, an analyst at the State Council Development Research Centre, the central government’s think tank, according to the paper.
China’s economy, the world’s fourth-largest, grew by a blistering 11.4 percent in 2007, the highest level in 13 years.
Investment accounted for 4.3 of those 11.4 percentage points, more than the 2.7 percent accounted for by net exports, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
The World Bank Monday also predicted limited impact on the economy, as it lowered the 2008 growth forecast for China from 10.8 percent to 9.6 percent, not because of the snow, but because of the global slowdown.
“Natural disasters normally call for economic activity to repair the damage,” David Dollar, the head of the bank’s China office, told a briefing in.
Most of the impact of the storms — including rising food prices and a decline in industrial output over January and February — will turn out to be temporary,economists said.
There “could be some pick-up (later in the year) as investment takes place to solve the bottlenecks,” said Louis Kuijs, a senior economist with the bank.