JIANLI, China — On the main Chinese state television network Thursday night, a news anchor read out pronouncements that President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party’s other six leaders had made at a meeting that day.
Efforts to rescue any survivors among the 345 people still missing from a capsized cruise ship on the Yangtze River in central China were to proceed with “urgency.” Officials were to “empathize with the suffering of family members” and “do a good job of placating them” to “maintain social stability.”
Though the leaders were seeking to project empathy, the words were typical stilted party talk, and the broadcast did not even show footage of the meeting. Other images, ones from the shipwreck site near the town of Jianli, revealed just as little — there was no sign of the more than 200 divers who officials say are searching for survivors, heavy machinery being put into place or experts testing the hull.
China’s economic boom has propelled the nation into the global spotlight. But crises like the one on the Yangtze this week reveal the party’s abiding reluctance to embrace transparency, even with people’s emotions at a fever pitch, and amid growing international scrutiny of one of Asia’s worst maritime disasters in decades.