Posted by Joel Martinsen on Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 9:49 AM
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 trainby 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.
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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The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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+ Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens (2007.09): SARFT puts the kibbosh on Korean historical dramas.
+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.