Wen Jiabao takes a phantom train


Premier Wen Jiabao recently conducted an inspection tour of a number of industrial installations in Hebei Province. On the 21st, the State Council released a lengthy report of his activities that formed the basis for news reports the following day.

The article's final sentence reported that during Wen's trip back to Beijing on the D18 EMU train, the premier spoke with ordinary passengers.

But as netizens discovered, there is no D18 train:

Wen Jiabao rides the nonexistent D18 train

by Ning Ming

On the afternoon of the 20th, Wen Jiabao took the D18 EMU train back to Beijing. During the trip, he personally interacted with the other riders, asking them specific questions about their lives and work.

Wen Jiabao was on an inspection tour of Hebei and returned from Tangshan to Beijing on the afternoon of the 20th by the so-called "D18 EMU train," and "during the trip, he personally interacted with the other riders, asking them specific questions about their lives and work." But the D18 EMU train is non-existent. If you search online timetables, you won't find this train. Or perhaps that train only existed on that one day and was added by the Ministry of Railways specifically for Wen. But then the train's passengers would probably have to have been workers in disguise.

There's nothing wrong with Wen Jiabao, as the head of government, riding a special train arranged by the Ministry of Railways; didn't Mao ride a special train all over the place back in the day? The issue is that the officials named the train D18 and then reported it in the mass media. To an unknowing audience, Wen was close to the people as he rode an ordinary passenger train, and "personally interacted with the other riders." Through this simple word-game, a few more points were added to Wen's image as someone who loves the people as his own children. Tsk, amazing. Truly amazing.

One detail here is that the train was given the route number D18. There are rules for naming train routes, and one general rule is that even numbers are given to trains going to Beijing, while those leaving Beijing are given odd numbers. D18 was named correctly, showing a bit of cleverness on the part of the propaganda department, or the painstaking effort of the Ministry of Railways. The Ministry evidently did its part in this instance of ass-kissing.

A few clarifications to my logic:

  1. At present, there are no EMU trains from Tangshan to Beijing.
  2. The Ministry of Railways can arrange special trains for national leaders. This is not the issue.
  3. What is suspicious is that in the official media reports, this train was given the name D18, which follows the normal naming rules for ordinary EMU trains, and Wen was said to have "personally interacted" with passengers.
  4. The attempt to profit from the situation can't help but raise my doubts.

Update 2

  1. A netizen pointed out that Wen may not have been returning to Beijing from Tianjin, but may have departed from Qinghuangdao. Were that the case, he may have ridden D28. That would make the D18 mentioned in the reports a reporter error.
  2. If that assumption is correct, then it is my mistake, and I should apologize to all netizens and to the Ministry of Railways. However, I would have thought Xinhua would take greater care in its reports on the activities of national leaders.
  3. Thank you to the netizens who are more careful than Xinhua and myself.

As of this morning, no correction has been issued regarding the original report. However, a number of blog and forum posts discussing the D18 train have mysteriously disappeared.

Another netizen discovered an actual D18 train: for the New Year travel rush in 2008, an additional EMU train from Harbin to Beijing on January 2 and 3 was given the designation D18.

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There are currently 14 Comments for Wen Jiabao takes a phantom train.

Comments on Wen Jiabao takes a phantom train

this is the most boring post, Joel, that i have ever read in my life.

You shouldn't have brought it up in the 1st place. BTW, it's such a bland piece of journalism.

When journalism goes awry.

This is brilliant use of Twitter. Just can't resist the title! I thought we were at the beginning to create the mythology of Chinese Area 51 and all we get is a reporter typo?

Sometimes reporter's typos in China are very revealing, such as when they show the age of Olympic gymnasts.

Who else remembers the controversy when He Kexin's age was reported to be 14 by Xinhua and China Daily, as well as 生活报, 法制晚报, and 北京晚报?

China said "Oh, sorry, just a typo" and the IOC decided to let He keep the gold medals.


To bad your link does not work and all other english lang. chinese news source discuss his visit to Tangshan and Qinghuangdao but nothing about taking the train back to Beijing. They do report that he "personally interacted with the others, asking them specific questions about their lives and work."

If he did take the train it very well might have been D28 not D18.

The western media or White House communications office has never made any mistakes right?

Just another westerner who knows nothing about China that loves to cram western thinking and lifestyle down its throat.

I've updated the post with screen-captures of the sources I used prior to their deletion.

The D28 for D18 possibility is noted in the text translated above. Even if it's a press office mistake, why not simply correct the error rather than deleting the online posts that point it out?

why not simply correct the error rather than deleting the online posts that point it out?


You are assuming that it is the same person or even the same department that can do both the deleting and correcting jobs. But there is no such person or department. They probably do not even cooperate on this trivial thing.

Wen is more like an actor than a premier, was he so childish as to get some truth from the passengers?
Show time!!!!!

Even if the train number is wrong, that doesn't mean that the reason it's wrong is in order to create a bogus quote in the newspaper about how Wen "personally interacted with the other riders, asking them specific questions about their lives and work." Of course, that type of ritualistic language is hard to stomach and it has a clear agenda. Perhaps all the questions about the train's real number are just excuses to bring up the hollowness of Wen's manufactured public image.

Looks like the popular Chinese blogger Roland Soong of EastSouthWestNorth does not agree that this is the most boring bland post cramming western thinking down China's throat.

Meanwhile I am hoping to meet Hu Jintao on the train to Henan and would like to ask his opinion of the government official in Zhengzhou (逯军)who photoshoplifted his hair and suit for the municipal government's website:

"The D28 for D18 possibility is noted in the text translated above. Even if it's a press office mistake, why not simply correct the error rather than deleting the online posts that point it out?"

--Because it's BORING to answer this and that and then more discussion and more analysis and a few more points and more and more...

--Besides, by correcting D18 to D28, to defend what? Oh, Mr. Wen is actually still a quite amiable person in the end, sigh...

"BORING" is not an excuse for poor journalism anway

Besides, Wen is really just a figurehead, his job is too look and act good, I think most mature Chinese know this inside. And he does a good job of it too.

D18 is a newly established service from BJ to a satellite city which happens to locate in Hebei Province...The service started this week, surely you wouldn’t see it on your old train schedules.

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