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Inside China: Carrier’s engineers worked to death

- - Thursday, June 13, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

At least 15 Chinese were worked to death in response to leaders' orders to finish refurbishing the Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier. A senior military engineer revealed the deaths in noting that the work was finished far ahead of schedule.

Wang Zhiguo, a systems engineer for the Liaoning project, disclosed the deaths in discussing statistics on the refurbishment in the May 31 online edition of China Youth Daily.

"The refurbishing project involved too much work to be done and we were given a very tight deadline, which caused the deaths of my colleagues," Mr. Wang said, expressing anguish over the loss.

He elaborated that the order came from Beijing that the carrier must be rebuilt in 30 months. But the home port for the carrier's Ukraine-built shell was at Dalian in frigid northeastern China.

"We encountered the coldest freeze in 50 years, and many civic engineering projects involving the refurbishment were greatly affected by the cold weather, wasting a lot of time," Mr. Wang said.

In the end, political leaders in Beijing refused to yield on extending the deadline, and all work was completed in 15 months.

The Liaoning was commissioned in September. Top leaders, including President Hu Jintao, attended the event and delivered commissar-style speeches.

The Liaoning was left to conduct tests and repairs. On Nov. 25, Luo Yang, the 51-year-old project manager in charge of the Liaoning's aviation capability, had a massive heart attack aboard the ship and died soon afterward. The Chinese Communist Party Central Committee made Mr. Luo a national martyr and a model worker to be emulated.

No other deaths resulting from excessive work were announced before Mr. Wang's interview.

China is known for making draconian demands on its people to achieve political objectives.

The most infamous was Mao Zedong's "great leap forward" during the late 1950s, when Mao demanded that the entire nation catch up to levels of industrial output with Great Britain within 15 years. As a result, at least 35 million people starved to death as the result of a man-made famine.

CHINA: JAPAN JEALOUS OF XI IN U.S.

The People's Daily, the official organ of the Communist Party, ridiculed Japan in a long article published in its June 11 overseas edition. The newspaper noted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's lukewarm reception by the Americans, comparing it to the red-carpet reception for Chinese President Xi Jinping by President Obama at last week's summit in California.

"Abe's visit to the U.S. received only a lunch reception; Japan is jealous of China-U.S. warm-up" was how the People's Daily subsidiary, Global Times, put it.

The article was written by a professor from China who is teaching at a Japanese university. It suggests that the Japanese are suffering from an "ally dilemma," indicating that its main ally, the United States, does not take Japan seriously.

"Japan is very curious about what was being talked about between the leaders of China and the U.S., because Tokyo is wondering whether the U.S. would sell out Japan as a diplomatic bargaining chip while dealing with China," the article says.

FALSE SPACE AGE

China's government appears to have falsified the age of a female astronaut in order to promote heroism and nationalism among its most valued age group.

On Tuesday, China launched the manned spacecraft Shenzhou-10 (Devine Vessel-10) to conduct docking maneuvers with its space station, the Tiangong-1 (Celestial Palace-1). One of three astronauts aboard the spacecraft is a female People's Liberation Army (PLA) air force officer named Maj. Wang Yaping, who is being promoted in state media as a model soldier for China's most productive and most talked-about demographic section, the "born after 1980 generation."

Maj. Wang has been dubbed as "the first born-after-1980 generation's female astronaut that flies into outer space." Her official biography, published by the tightly controlled news media, says she was born in January 1980.

The problem is that she was born in April 1978, disqualifying her as a member of the designated demographic group.

Last year, Maj. Wang was the alternate to China's first female astronaut, PLA air force Lt. Liu Yang, for the Shenzhou-9 mission. At the time, Maj. Wang was widely reported as having been born in April 1978 and was called a model soldier for the "born after 1970 generation."

State censors have been busy erasing all references to her real age from China's cyberspace.

Miles Yu's column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com and @Yu_miles.