The New Yorker’s China correspondent Evan Osnos has an epic take this week on what happens when a country grows too fast for its own good.Over 9 pages, Osnos depicts the “mafiaization” of the state, which includes these incredible stats:
By 2007, the China scholar Minxin Pei found that nearly half of all Chinese provinces had sent their chief of transportation to jail for corruption. It was costing China three per cent of its gross domestic product; that would be two hundred billion dollars today—more than the national budget for education.
And the opportunities for graft “have only diversified,” Osnos writes. This summer, the Modern Chinese Dictionary, the national authority on language, added a new word: maiguan, “to buy a government promotion.”
Osnos also shows how Chinese are sick of their government’s blatant cover-ups.
Referring to a recent train crash that killed 40 and injured 192, Osnos reports that the government subsequently attempted to bury part of the train, which most Chinese took as a a cover-up attempt.
Here’s how Osnos tells it:
People demanded to know why a two-year-old survivor was found in the wreckage after rescuers had called off the search. A railway spokesman said it was “a miracle.” Critics jeered, calling his explanation an “insult to the intelligence of the Chinese people.” At one point, the authorities dug a hole and buried part of the ruined train, saying they needed firm ground for recovery efforts. When reporters accused them of trying to thwart an investigation, a hapless spokesman replied, “Whether or not you believe it, I believe it,” a phrase that took flight on the Internet as an emblem of the government’s vanishing credibility. (The train was exhumed. The spokesman was relieved of his duties and was last seen working in Poland.)
The whole piece is worth reading, as it also dives into what the country’s leadership shakeup will mean in curbing these kinds of events.