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Flood emergency or show business?
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CHINA - Government officials in China usually place themselves on the center stage in any media report on flood emergency rescues in Mainland China. For example, state-run new agency reports will state, 'Leader x and x were at the front line fighting the floods and inspecting work,' or, 'The officials of province x acted astutely by appropriating X million yuan to build a flood levee.' Every year in China people struggle against the floods, yet the officials always manage to turn a bad thing into a “good” thing, and rescue efforts have turned into an opportunity for officials to gain political capital and advance to higher positions.

On the morning of September 11 a reporter with Xinhua News Agency witnessed a peculiar incident: the levee at the fork of Luowen River and Wei River, which had been successfully rebuilt on September 10, was broadcast to be rebuilt again on September 11. The purpose was to accommodate the schedule of local officials who sought to take credit for the work.

Xinhua News Agency reported that at 10 p.m. on September 10, over 1,000 soldiers and police officers were finally able to rebuild the levee at the fork of the two rivers after 10 hours of non-stop work. However, on the morning of September 11, the soldiers and police were called together again because the local government officials wanted to memorialize the event.

At 9 a.m., staff from the Weinan City Forestry Department began preparing the scene for the ceremony. They instructed the soldiers to put some sandbags in a place convenient for the officials to take. At 9:30, over 1000 soldiers and police officers waited in line on the bank of the Wei River. At 9:35, more than 10 cars full of people arrived.

The report says that because the “set up” of the scene took longer than expected, the ceremony had to be postponed from 10 a.m. to 11:21 a.m. Under decorative bright-red flags to create a more auspicious atmosphere, the soldiers symbolically put some sandbags on the already-closed levee. In a brief three minutes, city officials from Weinan announced, “Wenhe River levee was successfully closed!” Then the ceremony moved to the bank of the Wei River. The government officials were introduced first, then the officials read congratulatory telegraphs and gave a speech.

Although the entire process only took half an hour, some of the soldiers who had been working day and night were too tired to continue. The reporter witnessed soldiers in the back rows were sitting exhausted on the ground, with some haven fallen asleep.

Unlike other reports where the officials were praised, this Xinhua report did not disclose the names of the officials, although the reporter was there as an eyewitness to the incident.

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