Wednesday, February 11, 2009
It’s interesting that the folks at CCTV felt comfortable defying police orders in setting off their explosive fire-works. The role of newspapers in the West may be to “sell newspapers’, but there is no doubt that this kind of event sells, and the “who, what, where, when and why” would be relentlessly pursued and the story would ultimately get out in the open. As ineffective and venal as lawmaking is in the U.S., we have been generally pretty good about generating outrage and then enacting codes to protect public health and property in response to disasters. When we get in trouble, it’s invariably because a shroud of secrecy has been permitted (e.g. military abuses leading to environmental contamination, or unethical and unfair medical experiments on soldiers, industrial plants operating with inadequate supervision). The fact that CCTV is able to suppress the facts around this event, and suppress the event itself, will make it unlikely that sufficient light gets shed on the building code issues and law enforcement issues . . . to say nothing of establishing a free and independent press. It seems corruption and the arrogance of power are likely to go unchecked, and a learning opportunity will be wasted. It's not Tiannamen, or Tibet, but it does not suggest that China is developing in a positive direction.