When I first read the headline from South China Morning Post I was somewhat confused, then I read the article I was in turn angry, embarrassed, and reflective. I am sure it will be fodder for late night comics and anti-China politicians.
I am pretty sure if the same reporter visited the track today, it will show the track back to oval, and heads probably already rolled up and down the chain of command for this embarrassing episode. Yet instead of burying it as old news I think Chinese government should use it as a teaching moment and to revive an old tradition. Instead of blaming it on old feudal tradition, of yes man following orders, of total lack of initiative and common sense, of going with the flow and passing the responsibility down the line, Chinese government can treat it as the same symptoms that generate corruption that Xi Jinping is fighting now on multiple fronts.
I am talking about the tradition Mao used, criticism/self criticism sessions. Of course some hearing me saying that will recoil in horror as conjuring images of the late stages of Cultural Revolution when it became ritualized and lost any relevance. When I was in Shanghai in the mid 50s, my uncle was an ordinary worker who joined the party and received a monthly publication for party members. He usually threw it aside and I usually picked it up and read it from front to back. Inside I recall were various misdeeds by various local party secretaries, critiquing their management styles, and how to be a good communist. Today with the party in crisis, I think it would do well to revive this practice, not forcing confession from everyone, but as a learning process for lessons to be drawn from Chou Yongkang or from the square track.