Last week’s widely-broadcasted explosions in the Chinese port city of Tianjin—home to more than 7.5 million people—were catastrophic, and the CCP is now dealing with popular blowback. Chinese premier Li Keqiang—who has been called the country’s “comforter in chief” for his habit of traveling to disaster locations—visited victims yesterday afternoon, but his visit took place four days after a tragedy that occurred no more than an hour away from Beijing. The people are not pleased with the government, and Chinese authorities are having trouble managing the PR fallout from the disaster. WSJ:
Censorship of traditional and social media is common in China after disasters and has actually been looser this time than in some other recent tragedies. Whereas China’s local newspapers turned into clones after the capsizing of a ship on the Yangtze River in June, Chinese media reports on the explosion in Tianjin’s Tanggu district have been more varied. Discussion of the topic has also been widespread on social media.
50 websites and 360 social media accounts were reportedly shuttered for spreading allegedly “irresponsible” rumors, including speculation that the exploded warehouse’s owner might be related to Party officials. Additional questions, like why a warehouse full of dangerous chemicals was located so close to residences, or whether there is any danger of contamination from chemicals spread by the massive explosions, or simply how many lives were lost in the tragedy, will also need to be handled in the coming days.
With China’s stock market slump still a live issue, Beijing will be hard pressed to minimize the damage done to its reputation for competence by this crisis.