It took only a fortnight of unexpected snowstorms to lay bare the weaknesses of the mainland's economic juggernaut that three decades of spectacular growth had done so well to hide. The economic and political consequences brought about by the snow and ice, which have ravaged the country since mid-month, could be much worse than those from the Sars outbreak of 2003 and catastrophic flooding in 1998, analysts say. 'The situation now is much more complicated [than in 2003 or 1998],' said Mao Shoulong , professor of public policy at Renmin University. 'What has appeared to be a natural disaster is, in essence, a massive failure of governance.' The worst snowfall faced by the mainland in decades has snapped power lines in southern and central regions, forced the closure of many factories, and brought the country's air, rail and road transport systems to their knees. 'Those are just symptoms, but they would prompt people to ask why unexpected snowfall can render the country, boasting 30 years of unprecedented economic growth, so fragile and hapless,' Professor Mao said. It was not just a shortage of coal at power plants, fixed electricity prices, or the closure of about 10,000 small, unsafe mines that had led to the dire situation, but the unfortunate confluence of those problems during a snowy holiday period, he said. It is hard to single out one party to blame, but the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) - the country's top economic planner - is feeling increasing heat for its apparent lack of vision. 'The NDRC is supposed to function as a small cabinet but once again, it has proved to be incompetent in crisis management,' said Hu Xingdou , a Beijing-based political scientist. The agency, already a big loser in the battle against decade-high inflation, was insisting yesterday that its firm cap on electricity prices was not linked to the current power crisis. But analysts said it had prevented power generators from passing along rising fuel costs, leading them to cut output. President Hu Jintao had to call an emergency meeting of the Politburo - the Communist Party's decision-making body - yesterday to come up with ways to pacify crowds at train stations around the country. The image of millions of stranded passengers sits badly with the leadership's official slogan of 'build a harmonious society'. It has become all too obvious that much of the revenue generated from the country's economic boom has not been reinvested in society or used to augment social development, Professor Hu said. The crisis also exposed Beijing's increasing loss of control over its provincial lieutenants, who became more flexible and independent-minded as their economies grew. 'Some local governments shut down small coal mines not to improve the sector's safety record or to clean up the environment,' Professor Hu said. 'They just didn't want to take responsibility for them.'