General chaos

Tempers fray on Beijing roads

General chaos

Enough to drive you crazy?

Mid-Autumn festival is traditionally a time for eating, drinking, matchmaking and moon-gazing. Held on the 15th day of each lunar cycle, this year it fell on Monday.

Those who wanted to catch an auspicious glimpse of the moon were left disappointed. The skies of northern China, normally clear at this time of year, were stormy after a prolonged rainy season.

On Thursday and Friday of last week, the heavy rain and pre-festival traffic also brought many of Beijing’s roads to a standstill. Media said the traffic was worse than the same period last year, with 146 roads choked off completely during evening rush hour on Thursday.

The gridlock caused many drivers to vent their frustration, and likewise saw many netizens question the Economist Intelligence Unit’s recent finding that Beijing was China’s most liveable city.

“How can such small rain be enough to screw up the entire city’s traffic? How can this kind of city be judged China’s most liveable?” netizen Lanyezi fumed on his weibo account on Thursday.

Netizens also lashed out at people trying to deliver mooncakes –– pastries stuffed with lotus seeds and red bean paste. The cakes are traditionally exchanged between family members but in recent years it has become increasingly common to send deluxe versions as gifts to clients and government officials.

Many of those entering the capital were said to have descended on Beijing from out of town to deliver their culinary presents, thereby worsening the jams. Anger was then vented online that these mooncake gifts (some given in boxes containing gold ingots) are just another symptom of a system increasingly driven by corruption (for more on this gift-giving culture, see WiC120).

One travel website posted that traffic had got so bad on Thursday that buses were running way behind schedule and one man claimed on weibo to have spent two and a half hours in a taxi on a ride which would normally take 30 minutes.

But while the storm over Beijing traffic was only of interest to local residents, another vehicle-related story got the whole country talking – so much so that micro-blogging websites are thought to have begun censoring posts on the subject.

Last Tuesday evening , the 15 year-old son of one of China’s best known singers of revolutionary songs drove his souped-up BMW into the back of another car. In the argument that ensued, he then assaulted its two passengers.

Witnesses to the attack, which happened at the gate of an upmarket residential community in north western Beijing, reported that Li Tianyi and another, older boy, shouted “Who dares call the police?” several times before trying to run away.

Pictures of car, sporting a parking pass to the Great Hall of the People, quickly spread across the internet, feeding into existing outrage at the behaviour of some of the children of China’s rich and powerful – they are called fuerdai and guanerdai in Chinese

The state newspapers also covered the story with the Global Times warning that Li Tianyi’s behaviour had the power to threaten China’s social order, and also that his father, Li Shuangjiang bore some responsibility for his actions.

“This is not an exaggeration,” the newspaper warned.

“As past lessons involving children of privilege abusing their power have shown us, such small events can often ignite greater public dissatisfaction, threatening the very foundations of the government.”

In October last year, the son of an influential police officer in Hebei province knocked over two students, killing one.

As he fled the scene he reportedly shouted “Sue me if you dare. My dad is Li Gang.”

Since then the phrase “My dad is Li Gang” has become synonymous with corruption, arrogance and the sense of self-privilege among elites and their family members.

On Thursday, Li Shaungjiang – who holds the rank of general in the People’s Liberation Army (solely for his singing abilities, mind you) – made a highly-public hospital trip to apologise to the injured couple, and admit to parenting failures in how he’d raised his son.

Since then, it seems, weibo posts relating to the initial event have disappeared.

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