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Beijing Snow Storms Spur Angry Debate

Posted by: Dexter Roberts on November 13, 2009

As north China shakes off its worst snow storms in more than five decades, leaving flights grounded, highways closed, and stranding tens of thousands, some tough questions are being asked. On blogs, in newspapers, and in conversation, Chinese are wondering why their national weather authorities didn’t warn them in advance, and why the government transportation officials weren’t better prepared for the latest storm Nov. 12, nor two earlier ones including the snow dump that pounded Beijing on Halloween night and into the early hours of Nov. 1. (Although particularly severe, China has experienced bad snow storms before too, including one that racked southern China almost two years ago.) “Our government should put major effort into disaster prevention and reduction. It needs to do its work in advance instead of waiting for the incident to happen and only then take passive measures to remedy [the situation],” wrote one netizen from Shandong province on website on Nov. 12.

The first storm paralyzed Beijing Capital Airport, with hundreds of flights cancelled, leaving thousands of upset passengers milling throughout the airport, trying to rebook flights, find their checked baggage, or get their fares refunded. I was there for over six hours before giving up on finding a free seat on a flight to Shanghai and returned home. (I ended up flying out the next morning at 8:00 am.) The same scenario was repeated Nov. 12 with the Beijing airport once more in chaos, while others in Shijiazhuang, Hebei, Taiyuan, Shanxi, and Zhengzhou, Henan, were shut outright. Highways again were closed down. “We ordinary people can come with only ordinary suggestions,” wrote one commentator in the China Daily Nov. 13. “It’s for the government officials to think and plan about the more intricate and complicated issue. And that is not a tough ask, given the advancement we have made in technology and communications,” the writer continued suggesting that television, Internet and mobile phone messaging, all could have been used to alert people about flight cancellations and warn them from taking to the highways. .

Also controversial: the widespread belief in Beijing that the government bears some responsibility for at least one of the big storms. And this is not just a crazy conspiracy theory either. The capital has a bureau actually called the Beijing Weather Modification Office. This organization gained a fame of sorts for their efforts to control precipitation during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. And the weather modification office “played a helping hand and “enhanced” the natural snowfall to ease drought conditions in the city, after it had gone more than 100 days without rain,” a spokesman said, according to the China Daily. Reportedly, 84 packages of silver iodide were fired into the clouds helping bring down the snow during Beijing’s first storm. “I believe it is not a question of improving government efficiency and cooperation among different departments, but a question of respecting the rights of the people. That should always be the basis of any government decision,” the China Daily piece editorialized Nov. 4.

Reader Comments


November 13, 2009 12:31 PM

Do u really think the govt cares what the people think?


November 14, 2009 3:14 PM

wow, slow news day for the eye on asia bloggers. it's always the chinese govt's fault. i guess they should just use their "authorian" powers and control the weather huh? stupid.

don't you idiots have anything real or important to write about. losers


November 14, 2009 3:46 PM

In China they do care about what the people think unlike a country wallowing in poverty calling themself the biggest democrasy.


November 14, 2009 7:28 PM

See, this is why you should not try to claim credit when the drought ends or weather goes favorably. You get blamed when it goes badly. If anyone could really manage the weather, there would not be any unplanned snowstorms would there?


November 15, 2009 12:39 AM

In China they do care what the people think unlike country wallowing in poverty calling themselves the biggest democrasy.


November 15, 2009 2:09 PM

Totally logical. Without democracy there is no way a country can deal with snow storms. Unlike in India, which is the world's largest and greatest democracy, we deal with this kind of snow storms every day. Millions of dalits have been employed for this purpose. Another clear evidence that after this economic crisis, India will be the only remaining super power in the world; Pax Americana will end and Pax India hereby begins, and will rule supreme in the world. Even the slum dwellers will be a content bunch in their much decorated huts, before they graduate to being millionaires. Jai Hind!


November 15, 2009 2:14 PM

I wonder whether this short time inconvenience will be talked differently next harvest time. In China, we have a saying that Great Snows foretell a Gigantic Harvest. Especially in North China here, we depend on wheat and corn and sorgium.


November 15, 2009 7:54 PM

if what you said that it's "worst snow storms in more than five decades", a big mess is expected in any country, let alone a huge city like Beijing and densely populated country like China. I think there was a big mess in central US in recent years due to snow storms.


November 19, 2009 2:51 AM

Fifty cents are swarming here ,haha. Don't be surprised,If there is any negative news on China(precisely the CPC government), these creatures will definitely turn up and defend their master and attack you bloggers.


November 19, 2009 3:00 AM

There is no true or false, right or wrong in their minds. There is only "politics". Any critics will be regarded as having "hidden political attempts", and threaten to their legitimacy and ruling power. This is the "rule" in China. Very few people outside China can be comprehensive of it.

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