Sinica Week of Floods

CNOOC building

This is the Sinica Week, a summary of the most important China stories from the last seven days. Sinica is a weekly podcast about current affairs in China, hosted by Kaiser Kuo and Danwei’s Jeremy Goldkorn.

On each week’s Sinica podcast, guests discuss and choose the top stories about China published in English over the past week. This week’s show is titled A Torrential Rainstorm and the main topic is the Beijing flood of July 21. Guests are Alexa Olesen, a long-time China watcher and journalist for the Associated Press, and Josh Chin who writes for the Wall Street Journal and leads the China Real Time Report.

Story of the week: The Beijing flood
The Beijing flood was clearly the story of the week. Bill Bishop’s blog carried an extensive summary of the reporting of the flood on the Monday after the deluge. The Wall Street Journal also summarized the situation after weekend in Anger Swells After Floods Kill At Least 37 in Beijing.

The juiciest story in terms of assigning blame for the death toll was published in the Shanghai DailyBeijing Drainage Group blames planners for flooding in which a spokesperson for the (state-owned) Beijing Drainage Group Co Ltd “said the pump stations serving 90 overpasses citywide that were built last century were based on the experience of the former Soviet Union, where more than half the country received less than 400 millimeters of rainfall each year”. So it’s fault of Soviet planners.

The article also mentions a Xinhua report that says “it was embarrassing that many ancient drainage systems still worked and that cities had to rely on these “antiques” to resist the floods,” citing the fact that many historic places such as Beihai Park, Tian’anmen Square and the Temple of Heaven, were not flooded because their Ming and Qing dynasty drainage systems worked.

When the Sinica podcast was recorded on Thursday night, the official death toll was still at 37. On Friday morning the official death toll was raised to 77.

Another story mentioned in the podcast is the consumer culture and business angle: there was a run on a keychain “survival” tool that is supposed to help people trapped in cars cut rough seat belts and smash glass.

See also Torrential Rain in Beijing Brings Out Best and Worst in China’s Capital, a summary of social media reactions to the floods on Tealeaf Nation, and the Global Times, introspective for a change: Beijing downpour exposes holes in modernization drive.

Violence against doctors
The second story selected was Heartless attacks in The Economist. Excerpt:

After a growing number of attacks on medical staff in China, doctors and nurses are finding hospitals increasingly unsafe. According to figures from the Ministry of Health, more than 17,000 “incidents” aimed at hospitals and their staff occurred in 2010, up from around 10,000 five years earlier.

See also Danwei: China’s hospitals up security in the face of rising patient-to-doctor violence.

CNOOC to buy Nexen for $15.1 billion
The third story selected was the headline above, in which Chinese oil company CNOOC is preparing to buy Canadian energy firm Nexen for USD15.1 billion which would be China’s largest investment in a listed foreign company. After the podcast was recorded, news emerged of alleged insider trading connected to the deal.

Other news stories mentioned by not selected
• On the Asia Society website, a story on the death of Ding Guanggen: China’s Propaganda Chief Leaves a Legacy of Control
• Bloomberg: China Shadow Bankers Go Online As Peer-To-Peer Sites Boom
• On Foreign Policy: Capital Blues in which a rather confused Vincent Gray, mayor of Washington, DC, says what he admires about Beijing.

Image above from CNOOC’s new global headquarters

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