A high-speed train crash in China unravels years of corruption in the building of the world’s most expensive public-works project:

“Prime Minister Wen Jiabao had no choice but to visit the crash site and vow to investigate. ‘If corruption was found behind this, we must handle it according to law, and we will not be lenient,’ he said. ‘Only in this way can we be fair to those who have died.’ People didn’t forget Wen’s pledge as the first deadline for the investigation came and went, and they continued to demand a fuller accounting. At last, in December, authorities released an unprecedented, detailed report. It acknowledged ‘serious design flaws,’ a ‘neglect of safety management,’ and problems in bidding and testing. It also blamed fifty-four people in government and industry, beginning with Great Leap Liu. The Minister’s name became a byword for ‘a broken system,’ as the muckraking magazine Caixin called the Railway Ministry, a testament to the political reality that, as Caixin put it, ‘since absolute power corrupts absolutely, the key to curbing graft is limiting power.’ When I spoke to an engineer who worked on the railway’s construction, he told me, ‘I can’t pinpoint which step was neglected or what didn’t get enough time, because the whole process was compressed, from beginning to end.’ He added, ‘There is an expression in Chinese: when you take too great a leap, you can tear your balls.’”