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The Milton Measure

Chinese Factory Explosions Expose Government Corruption

by Nathan Strauss on Friday, October 2nd, 2015

On August 12th, a chemical warehouse in Tianjin, approximately 70 miles from Beijing, exploded, killing 173 and injuring 800 people. Three weeks later, on August 31st, a similar explosion occurred in a warehouse in the city of Dongying, killing 5 and injuring more than 20. Both of these warehouses were handling dangerous and toxic materials; both warehouses were located less than a kilometer from large metropolitan areas, a direct violation Chinese law regarding hazardous chemicals.

Upon further examination of these recent explosions, many news outlets have revealed that the owner of the warehouse destroyed in the second explosion was the son of a former police chief. The chief later admitted to using his connections to get a permit for the warehouse, despite the fact that the warehouse was in clear violation of public safety regulations. The former police chief’s son had very limited experience with handling chemicals. The warehouse in Tianjin was storing 800 tons of ammonium nitrate, which is used in fertilizers, but is also a powerful explosive accelerant. Ammonium nitrate is used in 80% of all explosives in North America, and it is plausible that some of the ammonium nitrate in the warehouse would have been used as the propellant for airbags in cars here in the U.S. Furthermore, the warehouse stored calcium carbide and potassium nitrate in large quantities. Both of those chemicals are highly volatile, with the former being used in heavy-duty naval flares and the latter used along with ammonium nitrate in explosive devices. When the warehouse exploded, civilians miles away reported seeing a fireball erupt in the sky.

Essentially, a graduate of Ms. Zimmer’s or Mr. Tyler’s Chemistry class would probably have had the same (if not more) experience with chemicals as the manager of the warehouse did. These clear cases of corruption are just two of the many recent examples of Chinese officials’ irresponsibility that have negatively affected public safety. In 2008, an earthquake in the Sichuan province killed between 5,000 and 10,000 students. In the aftermath, many noted the schools were not built to adequate safety measures. The government launched an official probe, stating that those who cut corners on the buildings would be “severely punished,” yet nothing more resulted from the government inquiry.

In the past 10 years, there have been over 20 explosions and fires in chemical factories, leaving hundreds dead and thousands wounded. However, the most concerning aspect of the explosions is that almost all occurred near highly populated areas. James Dunn (II), believes that because “conglomerates are the government,” and can therefore operate with little fear of legal actions against them, China tends to “prioritize economic gain over safety regulations.”

Although China’s businesses have steadily become more independent of government official interference, many cases of corruption exist which often lead to tragedy. Three years ago, Xi Jinping promised the Chinese people that he would crack down on corruption. Now he must follow through on his promise. From 2012, when Jinping made that promise, to 2013, China went down 20 places on the Corruption Perceptions Index, a carefully calculated ranking of global corruption. If Chinese officials continue to sacrifice public safety for the sake of economic gain, it is only a matter of time before more tragedies occur.

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Posted by Nathan Strauss on Oct 2 2015. Filed under More Opinion, Opinion, Recent Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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