Chinese Blame Corruption for Failing Bridges


The acclaimed Yangmingtan bridge in the North Eastern Chinese city of Harbin hailed as a grand achievement by officials when it was opened in November last year has now become the scene of tragedy as an entrance ramp to the bridge collapsed last week, killing three people and injuring a further five.

The bridge cost nearly $300 million and covered a distance of nine miles. It’s construction was supposed to take three years but the Chinese managed to complete it in nearly half that time with many workers taking no holidays or going home in all that time.

While the Chinese government is blaming four trucks that were on the ramp at the time, saying they were overloaded, many people have assumed that it is government corruption to blame as this is just the latest of many infrastructure failures.

Countrywide Infrastructure Failures

This accident is just the latest in eight bridge collapses since 2011 and the Chinese people believe corruption is to blame.

After the collapse in Harbin, China’s most popular social network, Sina Weibo, saw over 2 million posts. One of which was from a student in Harbin, Zeo Niu. Niu said that corruption is the first thing to pop into the mind, “We don’t have to think about it, because it’s so common.”

Niu says that according to her uncle, who runs a construction company in central China, the use of substandard material while charging for high-quality goods is common practice. “This is very, very common. This is not news,” she said.

The opinion shared by Niu and other citizens may not be far off the mark. Zhu Lijia, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance in Beijing said that corruption has been a problem since the 1990s and bid rigging is the norm with no checks on the procurement process. “The bidding process is only a show,” he said.

The most infamous infrastructure failure occurred in 2008. After an earthquake struck the Sichuan province, 700 children were crushed to death after the collapse of a poorly built school.

While many people would refuse to talk to reporters because of fear over trouble with the local government, some believe that things need to be said as these infrastructure collapses are symptomatic of a deeper problem with China’s government.

China operates on a one-party system and a few Chinese people are starting to see this as a problem as it means there is no way to police the government. Others however believe that with time, the problems will solve themselves.

For Zeo Niu though the biggest issue about all these failures is the fact that no one will remember the people who were victims of the accidents. “It will be buried by another accident,” Niu said.

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