The Shanghai subway accident has reignited concerns over China’s transportation infrastructure, in particular the involvement of a company called Casco, which supplied the signalling systems for a number of subway systems in China.
I wrote before about Internet memes following the Wenzhou train collision. It’s no surprise that this incident has spawned another wave of Internet jokes.
Top: “Subway, railway, highway, way way to die.”
Bottom: “Officer, announcer, investigater [sic], word word to lie.”
A commenter suggested that the top scroll for this couplet should be: “Welcome to China.”
I stepped on the train ready to die. I knew, rationally, that an accident was unlikely—thousands of passenger trains run everyday and recently the government had lowered the maximum speed on the fastest commutes and recalled a number of trains on the Beijing-Shanghai route over safety concerns. Still, my mind focused on the recent… malfunctions of the Chinese railway system.
The train pulled out of the station into a clear Beijing morning. As we got rolling, I played through various worst-case scenarios.
Niels Bohr once said, “Some subjects are so serious that one can only joke about them.” Certainly, humor is one way in which the Chinese public have chosen to deal with the Wenzhou train collision. I recently wrote an article for ChinaGeeks about the dual catchphrases uttered by ministry of railways spokesman Wang Yongping at a press conference after the Wenzhou train collision. His two phrases—”This is a miracle,” and, “Whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.”—have been co-opted by the Chinese public and raised to the apotheosis of humor: the Internet meme. But these Internet memes do more than poke fun at the governement—they prolong the public memory of the incident and undermine the government’s credibility.
Yesterday was the seventh day after the Wenzhou railway crash that claimed dozens of lives and rocked the Weibo micro-blogging universe. The seventh day after a death in China is called touqi (头七) and is an important milestone of mourning. All across China, instead of paying respects to the lives lost on July 23, netizens were venting their fury at a system hellbent on burying all the facts under a mountain of oppression and obfuscation.