Not a good day for Tianjin

The honest city has had its fair share of catastrophes.

Back in the 1900s, when Britain was trying to support it’s tea addiction by becoming the world’s first organized narco-trafficker ( “the opium wars”), it joined with some other countries eager to make a profit out of a dirty trade, called them the Allied Powers, and used Tianjin as a staging post for an invasion of Beijing. Once reaching the capital, historical buildings were burnt and looted in what an American journalist of the time described as “the biggest looting since Pizarro”.

The British had first appeared in Tianjin in the middle of the 19th Century, sailing up from the south to hand a “letter of complaint” to the Chinese Emperor. That’s right, invade another country, then complain to their government when the locals actually fight back. Unequal military power led to the “Treaty of Tianjin” – which came to be known as one of the “unequal treaties”, as the Qing Emperor reluctantly ceded to all kinds of demands in the hope of stopping the trade in opium and the invasion of Chinese territory along the east coast.

The invasion took place amidst the general upheaval known as the “Boxer Rebellion” . The “boxers” are usually portrayed as “anti-Christian rabble” – when in fact, the movement was much more complex. From the beginnings of the opium trade, Christian missionaries were opening involved in trading in opium. One such missionary, James Innes, wrote in his diary “employed delivering (opium) briskly. No time to read my bible.” Another missionary, Karl Gutzlaff, was petitioned by opium trader Jardine, who wrote to him “the more profitable the expedition the better we shall be able to place at your disposal a sum which may be hereafter usefully employed in furthering the grand object you have in view”. (Lovell, p 27)

UnknownThe British public however weren’t so sure that the ‘grand object’ of spreading Christianity was best served by peddling narcotics on a massive scale. Residents of Manchester, England, wrote to the Queen stating their feelings of “shame and indignation” regarding an invasion of Canton and the murder of civilians that took pace.

With missionaries refusing to accept the legal process of the land they were occupying, taking land for building churches – and yes, trading in opium – its small wonder that local people resisted.

Julia Lovell comments that although the Boxer violence was explicable – though no less horrendous –

“Chinese immigrant populations in North America, Australia and Europe would suffer far more xenophobia than the Boxers meted out to Westerners’”. ( Lovell, p 279)

Tianjin was occupied for a year. Soldiers from Germany, Russia, Britain and Japan were brutal in their occupation – violent rapes, beheading elderly people for not handing over non-existent ‘treasure’ , leading a British Admiral ( source Wikipedia) to comment “Every Chinaman…was treated as a Boxer by the Russian and French troops, and the slaughter of men, women, and children in retaliation was revolting”

Russian troops storming the gates of Beijing 1900 – photo source Wikipedia

A century later, when I was living in Tianjin, I asked a taxi-driver what he thought about these countries now conducting businesses with offices in Tianjin. He replied

“we don’t mind, as long as they come in peace”, echoing the thoughts of an earlier Chinese official who had said

“Take away your missionaries and your opium and you will be welcome.”

Tangshan Hotel in the 1976 earthquake. Photo credit:

Skip forward 70 years, and Tianjin was to experience a huge earthquake which devastated the city. Tangshan is the portside area of Tianjin, and in 1976, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake caused massive damage and deaths. With a death toll officially estimated to be around a quarter of a million, and probably much more, the survivors were left mainly homeless.

The devastation was enormous – a year later, Tianjin still looked like it had been through “the worst bombings of world war 2” , according to a foreign correspondent.

A memorial to what has been called “probably the world’s worst earthquake” has been built in Tangshan. The names of many of the dead are enscribed on the wall.

Honouring the dead at the memorial wall for the victims of the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. Photo source :

The quake, however, was a “natural disaster”.

Back in the 21st Century, people all over the world gathered on August 5th and 6th, 2015, to take part in the yearly commemoration of the nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Such was the devastation in the worst war atrocity the world has seen, each year people gather to remember and intend “never again.”

HIroshima, after the bomb. Photo source gives an account of the 2015 remembrance activities, and the horrors of the original day.

One week later, in peacetime in Tianjin, two massive explosions occurred, once again causing death, maiming and destruction of property.

photo credit :

Near midnight on August 12th, two explosions caused fireballs to rocket into the air and at least 100 deaths and 700 injuries were recorded – in truth, the causalities are probably much higher. Three days later fires from the original explosion caused more blasts.

Military personel soon arrived to assess the damage and monitor cleanup. This included representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Tianjin people made homeless from the explosions gather in makeshift tents. Photo source :

International Atomic Energy? Isn’t that nuclear technology?

Hazardous chemicals –much too many of them – were indeed stored in buildings where the explosions took place . Sodium cynadide was one of the most lethal chemicals stored there – breathing the toxic gas can cause death. Certainly, the volume of the chemical stored in Tianjin was way beyond legal limits.

Many commentators – local residents and foreign journalists – have compared the devastation to that of a nuclear bomb.

Tianjin explosion. Photo source :

In researching for this post, I came across this article, which chilled me to the bone. No-one can verify the truth of the information in this article I am about to quote from. Here’s just three quotes:

“In these times of shaky financial foundations, it doesn’t take much to topple public faith and unleash a mass exodus away from currencies and markets. It’s also clear that the United States considers currency games to be acts of war while justifying “kinetic responses” to such events.

What’s a ‘kinetic response’?

“US. websites are now speculating that the Tianjin explosion was a U.S. space-based weapons test involving a “Rod of God” weapon dropped from orbit. “The [resulting] lake [crater] in China proves a 5 kiloton blast, possibly nuclear or possibly from a space based ‘rod from God’ weapon [was] deployed by the space plane


“August 11, 2015: China devalues the Yuan by 1.9%, sending “shockwaves” around the world and setting off a “devastating” impact to the U.S. economy.

August 12, 2015: Tianjin struck by Pentagon’s secret “Rod of God” weapon, a space-based top-secret kinetic weapon that can be dropped from high orbit to strike almost any land-based target. The weapon instantly destroys six city blocks on the edge of the city of Tianjin, sending a message to China that’s eerily similar to the message sent by the United States in the dropping of the world’s first atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. (Yes, the USA is willing to drop weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations. It has already done it twice!)  “

Read the rest for yourself here.

I hardly know what to think.

All I know, regardless of accidental chemical explosion in a building storing far too many hazardous chemicals, officials ignoring the fact that too many dangerous chemicals were stored in a place too close to residential areas,  or deliberate, unconciousable sabotage,

August 12, 2015 was not a good day for the good people of Tianjin.