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China's own mine disaster

TEH ENG KOON/AFP/Getty Images

As with so much else, China does mine disasters on a colossal scale. The Utah collapse and rescue effort have been heart-rending, but they pale next to China's ongoing saga:

Anguished relatives of Chinese coal miners trapped in flooded shafts clashed with managers on Monday to demand information, but hopes for the 181 men faded after another day of efforts to pump the mines dry. The disaster in the eastern coastal province of Shandong is the latest to strike China's coal mines, which -- with over 2,000 people killed in the first seven months of this year along -- are the world's deadliest.

My gut feeling is that if the Chinese Communist Party is to face a serious challenge in the coming years, it will be because of something like this: a local disaster that ignites simmering tension about the inequities of China's breakneck development and official corruption. Chinese officialdom appears to be taking no chances:

Accounts in China's wholly state-owned media have been terse. On Monday, the main newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, the People's Daily, ran on its front page an Aug. 1 story about the successful rescue of 69 miners from a flooded mine in Henan province. A much shorter story on the trapped miners in Shandong ran on page 5. Television crews in Xintai were asked not to film and in turn were videotaped by security officials.

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