Could the current pollution disaster to the water source and water system of the 2 million+ population city of Harbin, China be China's 'Chernobal'? While it isn't as severe as Chernobal, to me this disaster in the way the Chinese government handled it, including how they controled the public knowlege there and outside the country, could cause changes into the future. It could force China's people and government to face the lack of proper safety and enviromental controls they have in their exploding industrial economy.
Major disasters, affecting so many people are very hard to hide in this age of the internet even in very authoritian countries and tend to weaken them. Chernobal also was so big, it couldn't be hidden either to the world or the citizens of the USSR, affecting the trust in the government that it became a factor in it's collaspe. Perhaps hopefully, the Chinese government may have to become more open, accept more regulation of industry, realize that hiding disasters are not in their or their citizens' best interests.
The source of this disaster, while nowhere as severe as that of Chernobal is still huge for that region. Two weeks ago, there was an explosion at a chemical plant up river from the city of Harbin. Hundereds of tons of highly toxic benzine, a substance well known to cause cancer, dumped into the river, mainly floating on the top of the river, contaminating the river severely. The river contamminated is the primary source for potable water for the city and region. The initial industrial accident was only bearly covered by the government controlled press, and the government tried to hide the severity and affects downriver. Eventually as the water system of the city of Harbin became so highly and dangerously polluted they had to face the reality with the people there to force them to get water from outside the system.