(external - login to view) No reports of foreign casualties
A local resident, surnamed Zhang, on Wednesday goes down on his knees to pray for the victims of Monday's deadly fire,which claimed 53 lives, in Shanghai. [Gao Erqiang/China Daily]
SHANGHAI - Foreign consulates in the city on Wednesday confirmed that they have received no reports of any non-Chinese casualties in the fire that gutted a downtown residential building, killing at least 53 people, on Monday.
"Two French nationals who reside in the building were out at work when the fire started. They're either staying in a friend's apartment or a hotel for the moment. We're trying to help them with insurance as most of their valued properties were lost," said a French deputy consul general in Shanghai, who refused to be named.
In addition, officials with the Japanese consulate in Shanghai dismissed the claim that a Japanese citizen died in the fire.
According to an updated list posted at noon on Wednesday by the Shanghai municipal bureau of civil affairs at the No 2 Amateur Sports School in Jing'an district, which is now being used as a temporary shelter, 43 people are still missing and 70 people injured in the fire remain hospitalized. Among them, 15 are critical.
A construction plan, which had been approved by local urban planning authorities, suggested rigid polyurethane foam, an insulant to improve a building's energy efficiency, was being pasted on the surface of the fire-stricken building and two nearby 28-story residential buildings when the fire struck.
However, the material, though combustible, would not add to the severity of a fire, according to experts.
As of Wednesday night, a row of reception stands, which are supposed to receive and assist the survivors of the fire as well as relatives or friends of those who passed away in the tragedy, have been placed in the dance room of the No 2 Amateur Sports School.
Workers with insurance companies are actively helping people in claiming compensation.
As of 5 pm on Wednesday, a charity fund raised for the victims and those who suffered in the fire had already received 4.47 million yuan ($672,700), according to the statistics of Shanghai Charity Foundation.
Rise of the middle class
Society will be more stable when one third of the Chinese population has material means to become social backbone
Many scholars and individuals are showing concern about what kind of social structure will bring the best stability.
According to sociological theories, a modern society can be divided into four ranks: the wealthy, the middle class, labor and the disadvantaged. The middle class creates the ladder between the well-to-do and the poverty-stricken, thus easing the antagonism between them, by granting those at the bottom the hope of rising to a higher level.
Generally speaking, in a modern society, the middle class contains 60 to 70 percent of the population, leaving about 15 to 20 percent at either end of the ladder. Such a large middle class ensures stability for a society.
How do we define the middle class? There are three standards: material wealth, job status and self-identity.
Concerning material wealth, a middle income, sufficient to maintain a comfortable but not luxurious lifestyle, is the first pursuit of the middle class. In the present social situations, a typical middle-class family tends to own a car and a house, together with certain financial products.
The xiaokang (literally moderate prosperity) standard introduced by the government is essentially the Chinese version of the middle class. Sufficient wealth accumulation is the first prerequisite to be xiaokang.
Job status is another essential. In this society, a salary is still the most important income source for most individuals; therefore a stable job is the pursuit.
With the rise of knowledge capital, intellectuals and technicians are taking more pride in gaining a position through their knowledge or technical skills.
Self-identity is also indispensable. Being middle class means having access to a decent and relatively comfortable life and having the will to strive forward. This is beneficial to both the people and society.
During the past 30 years, a middle class has come into being in China. According to Professor Lu Xueyi of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 23 percent of the population belong to the middle class; five years ago it was 18 percent. He estimates that the number will increase by 1 percent every year. If that growth rate can be maintained the middle class could reach 40 percent of the population by 2020.
However, that will not be achieved without problems. Ever since reform and opening-up in late 1970s, our changes in social structure have lagged 15 years behind economic development; that's the origin of many of our social problems.
The middle class, with a strong sense of social responsibility, should be the backbone of society. The awareness of being a responsible citizen offers strong support for society. However, the middle class in China is still immature in this respect and society needs them to meet their social obligations.
Of course, the rise of the middle class in any society is in dire need of rational support from the government. On their road to industrialization and modernization, many developed countries offered support or subsidy to blue-collar workers, helping them to own and accumulate capital. After World War II, many countries also used the policy "houses for residents", which proved very successful.
Owning a house has long been considered a prerequisite of entering the middle class, and when more and more people find it hard to reach this standard, it is impossible for them to remain silent.
The present tendency of economic growth is unfriendly to many people, especially to the supporting pillar of industry - migrant workers, whose number has reached 200 million. We hope the "inclusive growth" in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) will solve these problems.
Three decades ago, Deng Xiaoping said: "Let one part of the people get rich first." Today might we make a similar statement for the 12th Five-Year Plan period - let one third of the Chinese people become middle class first.
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Chinese city to buy fire truck with powerful hose
XI'AN - A northwest China city will soon purchase a fire truck with a powerful hose from a Finnish company to extinguish fires in high-rise buildings, an official said Wednesday.
The government of Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, made the decision early this year and expects to sign a contract with the company this week, Jia Xihai, an officer with the city's fire-fighting force said.
Shanghai fire teaches a lesson (external - login to view)
8 detained over massive high-rise fire (external - login to view)
Shanghai mourns high-rise fire victims (external - login to view)
Thorough investigation on cause of Shanghai fire (external - login to view)
Jia revealed the plan to buy the fire truck after a deadly fire engulfed a 28-story residential building in Shanghai on Monday. At least 53 people perished in the tragedy. The fire truck will cost about 25 million yuan ($3.76 million). It is able to shoot water up to a height of 101 meters -- the highest for any fire truck in the world.
It will be put into use in Xi'an in April 2011, Jia said.
Fire truck hoses in Xi'an currently shoot water up to a height of 53 meters.
Experts said China's fire-fighting capacity in many cities is inadequate for fires higher than 60 meters above the ground.
The Xi'an municipal government will spend 450 million yuan on a number of fire-control projects. The projects include the purchase of a German-made surveillance vehicle and the construction of seven fire stations.
The surveillance vehicle will cost about 13 million yuan. It is equipped with an unmanned infrared camera that transmits video from the scene back to headquarters.
The Shanghai blaze, which authorities have blamed on unlicensed welders, has exposed safety loopholes in China's fire-control systems, including the use of flammable materials in scaffolding and inadequate fire-fighting facilities. Police have detained eight people in connection to the fire.