Saturday, February 02, 2008

Staggering numbers

The mind reels with the massive numbers that characterize any statistic published in China. With one of the worst winter weather seasons on record, the Shanghai Daily has printed numbers to boggle the mind. Here's a sampling:

  • Between January 25 and Thursday, a total of 5.8 million passengers were stranded throughout the railway system.
  • Killer storms have battered 19 provinces over the last three weeks, forced 1.76 million people to relocate and knocked down 223,000 houses.
  • Around 1.07 million militia and army reservists were participating in the fight against the extreme weather. The PLA [People's Liberation Army] currently has 2.3 million troops.
  • The worst snowstorms in five decades have killed 60 people and caused a direct economic loss of 53.8 billion yuan (US$7.48 billion) as of 6pm yesterday [31 January 2008].
  • By 6pm yesterday [31 January 2008], a total of 2,859 trains were delayed and 397 trains were canceled, trapping more than 5.8 million travelers.
  • A record 178.6 million people are expected to ride the rails in coming weeks.
If you can't quite comprehend these numbers, let's put them another way. Over the Chinese New Year holiday, the equivalent of the entire population of Brazil, or more than half the population of the US will take the trains.

As of July 2003, the total size of the US armed services was 1.4 million. The PLA is nearly twice that size.

So when we read that 306,000 troops were sent out to deal with the snow situation in the south of China, we can only be thankful that China has the labor resources and strong leadership to deal with these staggering numbers.

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