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Fireworks ban will kill a tradition

[ 2009-02-11 10:54]     字号 [] [] []  
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Fireworks ban will kill a tradition

Sparks from fireworks were suspected to have caused the fire that lasted six hours from Monday evening until the early hours of yesterday morning and nearly destroyed the newly built Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Beijing. The incident triggered a new round of argument in the Chinese capital in favor of prohibiting the practice of celebrating festivals with fireworks.

My instinctive reaction to the new idea is that it is like giving up eating because of choking.

Fireworks can bring fun to people; they can also cause fire. It is ridiculous to desert fireworks simply because we want to stop conflagration. Fire can be prevented so long as proper measures are taken. This logic applies to many other things that have two sides in consequence. For instance, paper-making can pollute the environment. We can ask the paper makers to treat their waste water to the level of minimum pollution and shut down those plants that failed to do so; we can also improve the technology of pollution control, but we cannot give up the making of paper.

Fireworks were once banned in Chinese cities for more than a decade. As a result, almost a whole generation of children was deprived of the fun of celebrating festivals in a colorful, glittering and cheerful way. They did not even know what fireworks were. Many people recalled that the Spring Festival holidays in those years were "without any atmosphere of the New Year's Day at all."

Chinese cities began to lift the ban the year before the last, which also witnessed the government's decision to declare two more traditional festivals as public holidays. Since then, many other traditional ways of celebrating festivals were resumed. The moves greatly enhanced Chinese people's, especially the younger generation's, sense of treasuring traditional culture. The significance of this fact needs no explanation, for any nation that rejects its own traditional culture will eventually be rejected by the world.

Fireworks ban will kill a tradition

The call for resumption of the fireworks ban also reminds me of what President Hu Jintao has criticized as "zheteng." In his speech at a conference marking the 30th anniversary of China's launch of the reform and opening-up drive, President Hu called for "bu zheteng," or "no more zheteng."

Though it is hard to find a precise English equivalent, "zheteng" literally means "senseless vacillation between alternatives," referring to the practice of repeatedly changing the development orientation of a certain cause or taking sudden moves that lead to troubles.

In recent years, we have witnessed many instances of zheteng. For example, the content of "education reform" has changed several times, ranging from "turning education into an (profit-making) industry" to "expanding enrollment of university students" to "practicing 'quality education' in schools." The problems brought along by these moves are manifest. Parents and students, who suffered the most from these problems, are the strongest opponents of zheteng in the field of education.

With regard to the issue of fireworks, I think we also need to stop "zheteng." All the problems of loud noises and injuries caused by fireworks are easy to settle. So long as the authorities are serious in monitoring and banning the production, trafficking and sale of powerful and dangerous kinds of fireworks, there is no need to give up this joyful way of celebrating our traditional festivals.

E-mail: liushinan@chinadaily.com.cn

About the author:

刘式南 高级编辑。1968年毕业于武汉华中师范学院(现华中师范大学)英文系。1982年毕业于北京体育学院(现北京体育大学)研究生院体育情报专业。1982年进入中国日报社,先后担任体育记者、时政记者、国际新闻编辑、要闻版责任编辑、发稿部主任、《上海英文星报》总编辑、《中国商业周刊》总编辑等职。现任《中国日报》总编辑助理及专栏作家。1997年获国务院“特殊贡献专家政府津贴”。2000年被中华全国新闻工作者协会授予“全国百佳新闻工作者”称号。2006年获中国新闻奖二等奖(编辑)。