Safety differs from technological reliability

The spokesman of Ministry of Railway reassured and comforted the public in the press conference after the the rare rear-end accident in Wenzhou killing 39 till now that he was still confident with the safety of China railway for the reliable technology. He repeated his confidence three times in 10 minutes, only greeted by an awkward silence on the stage. The silence was not targeted at the technology stuff, but his pretentious replacement of concepts between safety and technology reliability.

Although the official investigators have not confirmed if any anthropic factors caused the accident, the fact is for sure that several hi-tech railway safety devices simultaneously dysfunctioned. Hi-tech is not a user-friendly catholicon itself automatically leading human to better life. Ironically, the ruthlessness of technology can instantly be palpably devastating in the twinkling of an eye under a malfeasance management system.

Technological determinism is firmly convinced that technology development will necessarily make a better world for human. Two rounds of industrial revolutions and the latest information revolution further consolidate technology’s position as an ingrained gospel, which is more powerful to developing countries, given the humiliation they suffered from their inferiority to the colonial powers.

Chinese insatiable pursuit for cutting-edge technology, dating back to the Westernization Movement of late 1800s, is broadly preached as the fastest means for China’s rise. Institutionalized to a strong centralized authority, however, Chinese have been selectively blinded to the roles of market and power balance played during the birth and usage of these technologies in the advanced countries.

It was not until the reform and opening-up in late 1970s that Chinese didn’t start introducing efficient management model and administration paradigms, which invigorated the whole country immediately in following 1980s. However, fast economic growth became the most important criterion to evaluate officials’ performance later. Officials find it is easier and faster to interfere market with administrative actions than promoting the growth of modern management system and encouraging market competition. 

 The authority’s excessive involvement into economic activities is finally reflected in the Great-Leap-Forward style of introduction of investment and blinded crush for high technology since early 1990s, which are the two basic elements guaranteeing scientific, fast and sustainable development. Many originally matched effectual and professional management systems are replaced by rigid bureaucratic supervision after the technology is imported to China. 

The widespread technocrats in some crucial fields such as construction, traffic, aviation, power, telecoms and natural resources have long been assimilated by their peers as career bureaucrats in the fast lucrative economic development. Their expertise, their special advantage over the other stamp cadres, is gradually degenerating with the rise of their fatal conceit based on solid official ranks.

The bureaucratization of the management systems of these fields not only terminates healthy market competition, but also put the safety and efficiency of daily operations in danger, which results in malfeasance and corruptions in government departments and irreversible environmental disasters and loss of innocent lives in functional fields, such as the pathetic train rear-end.

There is a long way to go for Chinese authority to balance the quality and speed of development. The faster they do it, the less cost is incurred. Chinese have been accustomed to the theory better and faster development. But they have not learnt to live up with the ensued maladies yet. As long as the development is of long-tested quality and human-oriented, it is fast development indeed.

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