Rail stocks dropped in China overnight on word that a 1,000 foot section of rail line in Hubei province collapsed after heavy rains. Reports in the Chinese media were contradictory; the official news agency Xinhua reported the collapse, but government websites, local reports and some officials denied that anything was going on.Reports of the crash were discussed on the active Chinese microblogging scene. (Microblog sites have strict length limits — like Twitter’s 140 characters. With the Chinese writing system, you can say more in 140 characters than in English; a Chinese tweet can be a paragraph in English.)According to the BBC the railway company is disputing reports of a collapse, claiming that the disruption “[I]s part of the process to rectify quality problems spotted on the embankment in pre-launch tests.” The denial isn’t getting much credence in China.Via Meadia has no eyes on the scene in Hubei; we don’t know if this was a massive embankment collapse brought on by shoddy construction or a normally scheduled maintenance event. But we do know that the gulf between rulers and ruled in China continues to grow; that corruption is leaching the trust out of Chinese society, and that grandiose national projects like high speed rail are being cut back or postponed as the country comes to grip with difficult new economic and social realities.Several years ago when I visited Shanghai, an excited local drove me out to see and admire the city’s shiny new international airport. On my most recent visit last fall, people wanted to grouse about the crash on the high speed rail line to Beijing and what they believed was a government cover up.Meanwhile, even as reports of shoddy construction and corruption continue to emerge, China has drastically cut back its spending on high speed rail: from 700 billion yuan two years ago to 460 billion last year and 400 billion in 2012.Main takeaway: China is changing, and not in ways that make it easier to govern.