An Astounding Article in 'Global Times'

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(See update below.) As soon as you can, try this link to an article on the site of the state-run and usually very nationalist Global Times newspaper in China. It is hard to believe that the story will stay up very long. (And if it does, that will say something surprising in itself.) Here is the way it looks as of around 9am Tuesday, March 20 China time - although I see from the dateline that it's been up for a while already:

FerrariCrash.png


Here's the reason this matters: it concerns a spectacularly horrible fatal car crash over the weekend in Beijing. At around 4 in the morning, a Ferrari driven at high speed along the Fourth Ring Road crashed and burned, killing its driver and seriously injuring two women in the car. The Chinese social-media-sphere has been full of speculation about who was in the car, how "connected" they might be, what kind of people (top officials' children?) end up with Ferraris, whether the story will be hushed up, and so on. In short, every exposed raw nerve created by the gaping economic and power inequalities of today's China was touched by this episode.

And for Global Times to say that the story is being hushed up! It is like Fox News undertaking an expose of Bush v. Gore or the business interests of Clarence Thomas's wife. This is at face value brave, possibly reckless, and without doubt extremely interesting. Here is a screen shot of the end of the story as of right now.  After the jump, a text version of what the story says. Thanks to BB in Beijing for spotting it. And I say, with none of the usual sarcasm, that I am very impressed by what this part of the Chinese state media has done in this case. (Seriously, read this story! It's amazing.)

Ferrari2.pngUPDATE: Some of my China-sophisticate friends say I am overreacting to this, and that an English-language story like this is meant strictly to play to foreign sensibilities. Perhaps, and perhaps I am quickly misreading these events. But -- if that is so, why are English-language broadcasts on CNN or BBC blacked out whenever they mention "sensitive" topics? Why do the English-language China Daily and Global Times usually present such a chipper "harmonious society" face? I don't know -- I'm just saying that this is different from what I am used to seeing as the for-foreign-consumption face of Chinese news, from the state-run media.

Here is the text of the Global Times story (emphasis added):

Ferrari crash information hushed up
By Deng Jingyin
Almost all online information about a car crash on Sunday, in which a man driving a Ferrari was killed and his two female passengers injured, has been deleted overnight, triggering suspicions as to the identity of the deceased driver.  



The crash, near Baofu Temple, Haidian district, in the early hours of Sunday  killed the driver, reported the Beijing Evening News on Sunday. The two women were hospitalized.



A black Ferrari, driven by a man from west to east along the North Fourth Ring Road access road, crashed into the wall on the southern side of Baofusi Bridge around 4:00 am, then smashed into the guardrail on the roadside.



According to pictures posted online of the aftermath of the crash, the Ferrari was ripped in half, with the front portion crushed and the engine in flames. 



The injured women were transferred to hospital by the Beijing Emergency Medical Center (BEMC).



"We received the call around 4:24 Sunday morning. One injured woman, 31 years old, sustained a head injury and a fractured right leg, and she was sent to the [nearby] 306th Hospital of PLA for treatment," the media officer surnamed Li from the BEMC told the Global Times yesterday, without giving any information about the other woman.



The Beijing News reported yesterday that the other injured woman, in her 20s, was sent to another hospital due to severe facial burns. 



Online speculation over the accident increased after police would not release details of the driver's identity, and subsequently, microblog postings were deleted from popular websites.  


Beijing Public Security Bureau refused to give any information about the crash, such as the cause of the accident and the progress of their investigation. 



The 306th Hospital told the Global Times they could not find any information about the injured woman. 



Sina deleted all microblog posts which mentioned the accident, and blocked online searches of the word "Ferrari." The Global Times also found that news reports about the crash were deleted from many web portals, such as Tencent's QQ online chat service.  



"They make such great efforts to wipe out the information, and it just proves that this young man must have a special background, maybe he's a high-ranking official's son," said a local resident who requested anonymity yesterday. 



Children of the wealthy and powerful families are known as China's rich or "second generation," a title earning them notoriety. Many media reports, revealing these children openly flout the law, have raised public debate over social conscience and the gap between the rich and poor.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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