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Chieh-Ting Yeh

Translation: A Blogger's Sober Thoughts on the Qidong Protests

The following is a translation of a post shared via Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, by Shanghai blogger @桔子树小窝  on the recent large-scale protests in Qidong, China.  According to Hong Kong University’s Weiboscope, which tracks Weibo posts popular with influential users, the text was the most-retweeted image of July 29. It was reposted over 25,000 times and received over 6,000 comments before being deleted by censors. @桔子树小窝 wrote in response, “I’m angry! What did I say anyway? What are they doing up in the middle of the night deleting tweets? Even Party newspapers stressed the importance of disclosing accurate facts. You guys are worse than the Party.” 

A T-shirt opposing the pipeline project. Via Weibo

I write this for our comrades who don’t get what’s going on with Qidong, Nantong, the Nantong Pipeline Project, and the Oji Paper Company.

When I realize that people either start jumping for joy or start slamming people left and right, I felt hopeless for our times.

All right. If you already know what’s going on, then don’t bother reading the rest.

  1. Qidong is a “county-level city” (县级市) and Nantong is a “prefectural-level city” (地级市). Qidong is part of Nantong.
  2. The full name of the Nantong Pipeline Project is “Nantong Large-Scale Regulated Wastewater to Ocean Basic Infrastructure Project.” The pipeline is designed to drain pre-treated, regulated wastewater from Jiangsu Oji Paper Plant into the sea. Why do this? Because the ocean is better at processing and cleaning itself than rivers. So under the right conditions, wastewater goes into the ocean and not the river. (Of course, ideally there should be no wastewater to begin with.)
  3. Oji Paper Co., or more precisely, Jiangsu Oji Paper Manufacturing Company, is a joint venture by Oji Paper Kabushiki Kaisha of Japan and the Nantong City Economic and Technology Development Zone Company. The plant went online in October of 2010, and dumps 150,000 tons of wastewater per day.

Now we’ve got that sorted out, let me talk about what happened in Qidong.

Basically, the long and short of it is that Nantong doesn’t want Oji Paper to dump its wastewater into the Yangtze River, so they want to build a pipeline to drain the wastewater into the sea. But the people of Qidong are unhappy that wastewater from some other part of the province is going into their backyard.

So the Qidong residents “went for a walk” (散步, an euphemism for street protests). As a result, Nantong shelved the pipeline. Please note that the pipeline is now shelved, but the factory remains open. So as of now…the factory continues to pump wastewater into the river, as usual.

Honestly, I think the Qidong people have a right to be upset. You know, they don’t get any of the benefits from the factory, but they get all the dirty wastewater? If I were from Qidong I would be upset too.

But for those of you in Nantong or Shanghai, I don’t know what you’re smiling about. The wastewater either goes into the sea or into the river. If you really agree that this waste is disgusting, you had a chance to redirect it somewhere else, but not anymore.

Furthermore, after sorting through the facts, you can understand why the Nantong government was so willing to concede to the people’s demands. It was really just an unnecessary environmental improvement project. If you don’t like it, then we just won’t do it.

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Chieh-Ting Yeh

Chieh-Ting Yeh was born in Taiwan but grew up in New York and Boston. He was active in Taiwanese American student circles and was part of the Harvard Asia Law Society. When he is not thinking about the relationship between Taiwan and China, he cooks and watches epic Japanese dramas. He is currently based in Silicon Valley.
  • http://twitter.com/alanatpaterra Alan Engel

    In Japan, this kind of project would have been delayed for years by the need for development officials to get approval of the affected communities, but compromises needed for it would likely result in its being built.

  • http://twitter.com/alanatpaterra Alan Engel

    In Japan, this kind of project would have been delayed for years by the need for development officials to get approval of the affected communities, but compromises needed for it would likely result in its being built.

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