Just Read This

I hope you are all playing nice as I don’t have time to serve as Net Nanny. But I wanted you all to see this uplifting IHT article about how “ordinary” Chinese citizens have mobilized to help quake victims:

Hao Lin had already lied to his wife about his destination, hopped a plane to Chengdu, borrowed a bike and pedaled through the countryside in shorts and leather loafers by the time he reached this ravaged farming village. A psychologist, Hao had come to offer free counseling to earthquake survivors.

He had company. A busload of volunteers in matching red hats was bumping along the village’s rutted dirt road. Employees from a private company in Chengdu were cleaning up a town around the bend. Other volunteers from around China had already delivered food, water and sympathy.

“I haven’t done this before,” said Hao, 36, as he straddled his mountain bike on Saturday evening. “Ordinary people now understand how to take action on their own.”

From the moment the earthquake struck on May 12, the Chinese government dispatched soldiers, police officers and rescue workers in the type of mass mobilization expected of the ruling Communist Party. But an unexpected mobilization, prompted partly by unusually vigorous and dramatic coverage of the disaster in the state-run news media, has come from outside official channels. Thousands of Chinese have streamed into the quake region or donated record sums of money in a striking and unscripted public response.

This is a hopeful piece about the blossoming of civil society in China. It points to the vital role of journalists (professional and civilian) in raising public awareness of both the scope of the disaster and the conditions in China’s countryside.

Maybe it’s time to put that 麻 木 stereotype to bed.

HT to Shanghai Slim.


Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 98 Comments

The response to the wenchuan earthquake will be more indicative of China’s coming out than the olympic games ever could be. They made a mistake in not allowing more search and rescue teams from other nations in sooner to save those trapped under the rubble. Tibetan riots in March, Earthquake in May. Earthquake cleanup will occupy June news cycle. That leaves July to make it through before the glorious games in August. What will they do with the angry parents to keep shoddy school contruction scandal from entering the media cycle in June and July? Maybe they can keep them busy with rebuilding efforts to distract them from thinking about their loss.

May 23, 2008 @ 4:17 am | Comment

Again-what the devil was going on when those whites were airlifted out of the Panda reserve? Under the process of triage, these Westerners were not in a particularly dangerous situation compared to thousands of other Chinese. Many Chinese victims were left unattended – but these whites got their own helicopter ride?

This is one thing area in which I have a huge problem with the Chinese government.

Also why does such a blatant display of discrimination against Chinese go unnoticed by commentators such as our friend Stuar here?

May 23, 2008 @ 5:41 am | Comment

“….Don’t get me started.”

😉 ;-P

May 23, 2008 @ 5:42 am | Comment

Okay, I wrote in big letters at the top of this post to play nice.

Cut it out. All of you. No personal insults, no stupid generalizations (I know that’s a lot to ask).

It’s one thing to point out the questionable decision-making around airlifting the Westerners out of the panda reserve. Entirely another to make stupid statements beginning, “All Westerners…” “All Chinese…”

I swear to god the comment quality on this blog has gone way down. I’m really sick of it. I could write some of your comments for you, they are so predictable.

May 23, 2008 @ 5:58 am | Comment


I’m hoping for a reply to posts 26 & 28 above.

Since I posted I’ve seen news reports that up until 12 May China had donated more (5.3 million USD) to the Myanmar cyclone relief effort than any other single country. Moreover, the first foreign aid to arrive in Myanmar was from China, viz 0.5 million USD worth by plane on 7 May. (An aid ship from India docked on the same day.)

It was of course on 12 May that the Sichuan earthquake occurred, since when China has been a net recipient of international disaster relief aid. Not surprisingly there seem to be no reports of further donations from China to Myanmar after that date & the figure of 5.3 million USD has now been overtaken by the contributions from the UK, USA, Australia & Japan, (at least). I’ll be the first to admit that googling the Internet in this way hardly constitutes valid research but it was the best I could do at the time.

Therefore I’m asking you again whether you yourself have access to more reliable information to substantiate your comments on “how little” China did to help Myanmar & that China “hasn’t done crap”. I agree that 5.3 million USD isn’t much in this context but it seems to be more than any other country gave up until the date of the Sichuan earthquake, since when there are good reasons why China may not have been able to do more.

I do hope you can find time to reply.

May 23, 2008 @ 7:35 am | Comment

Okay. I just nuked a bunch of comments. Sorry if I went overboard but I am really sick of the constant name-calling, whining and stupidity.

If you can’t make your points without over-generalizing and racist statements, don’t make them.

May 23, 2008 @ 8:48 am | Comment

And actually, Richard didn’t do that, I (OtherLisa) did. Still am figuring out this system so any admin action will come up under his name.

I really don’t care if you say stupid things about China or stupid things about America or France or whatever – if they are stupid, I’m deleting them. When Richard comes back he can decide what should stay and what should go.

Oh, and another pet peeve – stupid insecure comments about who gets whose women. Give me a freakin’ break. It’s not womenkind’s fault if you aren’t getting some. Maybe try not spending so much time on a blog and get out there and meet people. Could help.

Eco, I deleted one of your comments not because it was offensive but because it didn’t make any sense by the time I burned the others.

May 23, 2008 @ 8:52 am | Comment


Btw I’m still curious about the PLA “colonial force” that you imply was already present in Myanmar in pre-cyclone days. How did you hear about these guys? Do you know which PLA units they belong to?

Are you by any chance referring to the naval radar & SIGINT base on one of the Coco islands in the Bay of Bengal? But that’s more than 300km from the mainland where the cyclone struck. And how could a few naval signals personnel on a tiny, remote island leased to China & (as far as I know) without any permanent Burmese inhabitants possibly be described as a “colonial force”? Even the very existence of the base is disputed.

Or is there a Chinese military base in Myanmar that the rest of the world doesn’t know about? Do you have access to privileged information on such matters?

Anyway, according to xinhuanet (I know, I know), the Chinese relief aid to Myanmar included compressed food, tents & blankets. There is no mention of military advisors.

May 23, 2008 @ 8:59 am | Comment

Richard —

kudos to ya on the new look! It’s fantastic! And I think you should take a moment and tell us how it works. I’m slowly moving over to WordPress in my own domain and finding its greater functionality a challenge.

The Duck looks GREAT!


May 23, 2008 @ 9:17 am | Comment


“The Duck looks GREAT!”

U Got The Look!


May 23, 2008 @ 11:45 am | Comment

@Everyone – I’ll stay out of the debate, but wanted to say cheers for the kind words about the design. For anyone that’s interested, I’ve posted about it here.

@Lisa & Michael Turton – Contact me (ryan zai thehumanaught dian com – take that spambots!). Lisa, I’ll help you sort out how to make sure you can moderate under your own name and Michael, I’ve made that exact transition – you’ll not regret it. Cooking oatmeal is easier than filet mignon, but the latter is definitely much more worth the effort.

Now I’m hungry.

May 23, 2008 @ 12:25 pm | Comment

“Eco, I deleted one of your comments”

Ok. Collateral damage 😉

May 23, 2008 @ 1:28 pm | Comment

“U Got The Look!”

Ha ha ha. That was a good one!

May 23, 2008 @ 2:35 pm | Comment

Ryan, thanks. I am going out of town in a couple of days but I will email you before then. I honestly haven’t even tried to puzzle it out yet.

May 23, 2008 @ 3:15 pm | Comment

ferin wrote:

“No one likes a moaner who isn’t satisfied with all the special treatment they get.”

Sonderbehandlung is a German word meaning “special treatment”. “Special treatment” was the Nazi code name for the physical extermination of people.

May 23, 2008 @ 10:49 pm | Comment


Apologies. I’ve just noticed that you did indeed reply to my earlier posts.

May 24, 2008 @ 12:26 am | Comment



The disaster victims in Sichuan and the protestors in Lhasa appear to have a common enemy. How will CCP handle the PR for this? Seems likely they will employ killing the chicken to frighten the monkeys strategy, by executing a select group in sichuan unfortunate to not be adequately protected at high levels and with a trail to pocketing money from the school contruction funds.

Seems it will be difficult to prevent discussion of common ground between the victims of sichuan and the tibetans in the TAR. Wonder how this will play in the blogosphere and the media in china.

May 24, 2008 @ 1:57 am | Comment


I too wonder how much of the 5.3 million USD of aid from China has actually arrived in Myanmar. My understanding from press reports is that the initial 1million USD of emergency aid definitely was delivered, via 3 airlifts from 7 May onwards. The fate of the subsequent 4.3 million is less clear. If some or all of it was planned to be sent after 12 May it would not be surprising if delivery ofsome or all of it has been suspended, given that since the Sichuan earthquake China has had its own huge disaster relief effort to supply & fund.

I believe that the first delivery of aid from the US did not take place until 12 May. Before that date the US had pledged less than China & had delivered nothing at all. (Of course there were widely reported obstacles to getting aid through.)

My impression is that during the initial post-cyclone period up until 12 May China not only pledged but also delivered more humanitarian aid to Myanmar than any other country. Moreover, China was the first country (or one of the first) to succeed in getting any aid through (on 7 May).

Since 12 May the amount of aid given by China, (admittedly small in absolute terms), has been dwarfed by pledges from other countries. However, the adequacy or otherwise of China’s contribution to the Myanmar relief aid effort can be fairly judged only on the basis of her known contribution up until the date of the earthquake.

On this basis, therefore, when you point to “how little China did to help Myanmar”, it begs the question: “how little in comparison with whom?” And, when you comment that China “hasn’t done crap”, should you not also acknowledge that all the other countries of the world including the US seemingly did even worse? Who, up until the earthquake hit, did any better?

I admit that my conclusions are based on incomplete & possibly imperfect evidence. But I would respectfully ask whether your dismissive comments on China’s aid effort in Myanmar were based on any evidence at all?

If you do have access to evidence that is better & to the contrary, please share it. I’m not so much disagreeing with you as questioning the way in which you arrive at your opinions.

May 24, 2008 @ 2:47 am | Comment

china delivered a plane load of aid to the Generals in Rangoon in a shown of support for the military junta in burma. it is not clear if any of the “aid” was actually delivered to any victim of the cyclone.

other nations relief efforts were and are hindered by the generals. issues included making sure the western relief workers are not attacked by burmese military. providing adequate safeguards that food is not just left to rot at the airport. providing adequate safeguards that the food and other materials are not stolen by the military in rangoon and elsewhere in burma or distributed to people based on political considerations instead of need.

the earthquake victims in sichuan, the cyclone victims in the irrawady, and the protestors in tibet now all have something in common.

how many chinese children died under the rubble because china refused to allow search and rescue teams from non-asian countries into sichuan in the critical first 3 days of the catastrophe?

May 24, 2008 @ 3:24 am | Comment

how many chinese children died under the rubble because china refused to allow search and rescue teams from non-asian countries into sichuan in the critical first 3 days of the catastrophe?

How many Chinese children have died because foreign companies dump crap into their water?

There were problems with logistics.. they let neighboring countries in first because they were the closest.

May 24, 2008 @ 4:22 am | Comment


Yes, it was probably because the Chinese did not insist, rightly or wrongly, that their relief workers be allowed to enter the country to distribute the aid that they were permitted by the Myanmar government to deliver it. I believe that the 3 (I think there were 3) Chinese planes simply landed at Yangon, unloaded their cargoes & took off again. We have to hope that at least some of the aid got through to the people who needed it.

However, even if only a small fraction reached the cyclone victims, that was still better than nothing – & nothing was precisely what the rest of the world had succeeded in delivering before 7 May.

Moreover, while the Chinese may indeed have sent the plane(s) chiefly or solely as a “show of support for the military junta”, how do you know that there was not also a genuine humanitarian motive? And supposing China had not sent any aid, could they not have been criticised for that? (And might there not be a political motive embedded in the donations of aid from some other countries? I think the aid would have been hardly less welcome to the cyclone victims for all that.)

May 24, 2008 @ 6:13 am | Comment


1) I saw it on Phoenix TV today, the vice county mayor said that the people who were involved in the embezzlement of relief goods have been arrested.

2) The reason why foreign rescue teams weren’t allowed in in the first 3 days is simple:

– The hard hit areas were inaccessible, all roads were blocked by landslides. It rained heavily for the first two days, you can’t even get in by helicopters.

– Communications were cut off and the situations on the ground were unknown. PLA paratroopers were sent to the area to gather information. Because of the bad weather, they had to do it at 4600m instead of 1500m, all of them left their wills before the jumped off the plane. I don’t think foreign rescue teams would do that.

– Because of all roads were blocked, you have to get there on foot and it takes hours even days to get to those areas.

– Many PLA soldiers didn’t even have food to eat themselves, how the heel do they feed the foreign rescue teams?

– Foreign rescue teams don’t speak mandarin, let alone Sichuan dialect.

There had been 24-hour TV coverage, I am sure you didn’t miss all that, right?

When foreign rescue teams are on Chinese soil, their safety becomes the responsibility of the Chinese government. So you can see, instead of providing help, they would have created more troubles for the Chinese government. It’s not like we didn’t have enough hands.

May 24, 2008 @ 7:26 am | Comment


PS If you are suggesting that the cost of maintaining the carrier force should be credited to the total US relief aid effort, this would be reasonable only if the carrier force was assembled & deployed specifically to provide aid in this crisis, which was not the case. I believe that the ships were already in the Gulf of Thailand on exercises when the cyclone struck. (I grant you there is the cost of the fuel they would have consumed in order to get from there to the Andaman Sea through the Straits of Malacca.)

Btw I understand that USS Essex is an amphibious assault ship (LHD-2) rather than an aircraft carrier in the usual sense of the term (& therefore a lot more useful for this purpose than a true carrier would have been.)

PSS The initial aid from China was reporteed as having been flown into Yangon in 3 flights in a large cargo plane. No idea whether the cost of the fuel counted as part of the 1 million USD or not.

May 24, 2008 @ 7:47 am | Comment

“Many PLA soldiers didn’t even have food to eat themselves, how the heel do they feed the foreign rescue teams?”

Foreign rescue teams have the good sense to take provisions with them.

“Foreign rescue teams don’t speak mandarin, let alone Sichuan dialect.”

I’ll bet a few DO speak Mandarin. Besides, how many languages does it take to clear rubble, set up tents, and administer aid. I think offers of help in times like this transcend language barriers.

“So you can see, instead of providing help, they would have created more troubles for the Chinese government.”

I guess that’s why China was slow off the mark to push the Burmese Junta into accepting foreign (including Chinese) aid – they new they would be creating more trouble.

“It’s not like we didn’t have enough hands.”

That reads like a thinly veiled ‘foreigners out of China’ mantra. And, btw, what China lacked was sufficient expertise and specialised equipment. No amount of hands can make up for that.

May 24, 2008 @ 9:15 am | Comment

According to eye-witness reports, some of the school buildings collapsed in as little as 10 seconds due to the lack of steel skeletal support in the concrete. Meanwhile, other buildings properly constructed survived the earthquake.

May 24, 2008 @ 9:21 am | Comment

“There were problems with logistics.. they let neighboring countries in first because they were the closest.”

In today’s world rescue teams can be mobilised very quickly, and disaster relief is an ongoing effort. Despite the Chinese Foreign Minister’s claims that all foreign aid would be welcome, teams and equipment from Canada, US, UK, and others have been turned away. Nice.

Cold war paranoia or childish rebuke? Take your pick.

May 24, 2008 @ 9:36 am | Comment

How many Chinese children have died because foreign companies dump crap into their water?

Ferin, you really are trying my patience. The majority of the companies polluting China are Chinese. Foreign companies have gone to China to take advantage of China’s low wages and lax environmental standards, but come on.

I disagree with many aspects of global capitalism and globalization, particularly how corporations take advantage of countries with lower environmental standards and fewer labor protections, don’t get me wrong. But, what? Chinese companies are blameless for China’s environmental problems? This just isn’t true.

May 24, 2008 @ 11:12 am | Comment

I was just inverting his ridiculous conspiracy theories. Whenever someone posts something so dumb that it hurts my brain I have the urge to give them a taste of their own medicine.

If you think that’s annoying, people like BOB, nanhe, Ivan, etc and the 90% of China commenters in the Anglosphere that are retarded would make your head explode.

May 24, 2008 @ 12:26 pm | Comment

Ferin & Bob, grow up. I’ve deleted your last two comments.

I’ve missed a lot of threads recently because this kind of crap is a waste of time.

And ferin, I am fully aware of other idiotic comments and commenters. I just don’t have the patience for it any more.

May 24, 2008 @ 1:24 pm | Comment


To have more specialized foreign rescue team would have been helpful, but I think the logistic nightmare short after the quake would have prevented them from doing much. I doubt they could have manage to get them there faster.

OK. IMHO the CH government was not nimble enough on this, but such an earthquake was also a big sock for its command structure, they sure had their hand full trying to get their own rescue efforts organized and deployed. To integrate foreign teams in such a chaotic moment would have been very problematics. One way or the other the foreign teams would have to depend on CH logistic efforts. Where to send them? How transport them? How integrate them in the relief effort?

I think the real problem is one of international coordination. It is about time to set major help international coordination agencies, at least at regional area, so when a major disaster happens all organization and logistics facilities are in place and all rescue teams which can be deployed in that area could be used immediately and effective in any stricken area. Much better than trying to sort things up at the worst possible time, i.e. right after disaster strikes.

Although now it is late for specialized help teams to rescue any remaining survivor from the ruble, there is much that can still be done. For example, a program to train and create more CH specialized rescue teams would be the best way to help CH to be even better prepared for the next time a disaster like this happens.
Who knows when specialized teams would again be needed in that part of Asia? There is no shortage of natural disaster there. Even good trained CH specialized teams could be needed in the future outside CH.

May 24, 2008 @ 1:42 pm | Comment


Maybe Pekingduck should create a special thread, always accessible from the main menu or a button besides the post button, where people can relieve themselves (toilet thread ;-). A short of free fire zone where people could practice their post wars until total exhaustion (or total annihilation) . With automatic deletion of posts older than 20 days (for example)

Also instead of deleting the most egregious post they could be stored, and then from time to time, maybe held a contest to selected the best(worst) ones in different ares. The winner becomes a prize. A plastic duck for example. 🙂

Think about it, we could make a major event out of this!! 😉

Could be an interesting Blog dynamics research study too.

May 24, 2008 @ 1:59 pm | Comment

I would send entire threads into the abyss for my plastic duck.

May 24, 2008 @ 2:03 pm | Comment

They say that anonymity encourages anti-social behavior.

The Phantom of the Opera is there…inside my mind….


May 24, 2008 @ 2:18 pm | Comment

“I would send entire threads into the abyss for my plastic duck.”

The good old ferin 😉

May 24, 2008 @ 3:08 pm | Comment

A rather remarkable incident here:

“Even as the Chinese soldiers reach out across the barbed wire to shake hands and pose for pictures with tourists, some of them are not averse to stealing goods from unsuspecting Indians. I was witness to two unseemly (for any army, anywhere) incidents in the one hour we spent at the border —a student had a Rs 100 note snatched right out of her hand by a soldier, who ran off back to his checkpost, laughing at her distress; another tourist managed to save her camera from being grabbed just in the nick of time. No one can help the tourists because the two strands of wire, easy enough to cross, constitute an international boundary that cannot be violated.


May 25, 2008 @ 2:59 am | Comment


Thanks for your reply earlier in this thread.

I have to say that I disagree with you on the first question.

However, I realise that perhaps I really should have asked a different question, namely “Do you think Westerners in China are in general treated worse than Chinese in China are treated?” (And perhaps the reverse question, “Do you think that Chinese in Western countries are in general treated worse than the indigenous (ie white) population?”, but here I’d expect more general agreement.)

Re the comparative tendencies to stereotype, I agree with you.

Btw, re your comments on AC’s post above, I think you were contradicting yourself just a little bit. Are not clearing rubble, setting up tents, administering aid &c not only tasks that, as you say, transcend language barriers, but also (precisely) ones that do not require particular “expertise or specialised equipment”? As AC rightly pointed out, China has plenty of pairs of hands for that.

Not that I necessarily buy AC’s account totally. However, when you read his/her observation “It’s not like we didn’t have enough hands” as a “thinly veiled ‘foreigners out of China’ mantra”, was that perhaps a bit of your own “cold war paranoia” showing through? No offence intended (&, if any taken, please feel free to send a “childish rebuke”!).

May 25, 2008 @ 3:46 am | Comment

I didn’t believe this story until I saw these pictures:


May 25, 2008 @ 4:33 am | Comment

One of the photos in the links posted by AC above appears to show a man carrying an unlit torch in the torch relay in Shanghai. If the Chinese are now carrying the torch without the flame and without red flag waving nationalists, this would suggest that the Chinese may think that the flame has angered Heaven.

May 25, 2008 @ 10:16 am | Comment

“Are not clearing rubble, setting up tents, administering aid &c not only tasks that, as you say, transcend language barriers, but also (precisely) ones that do not require particular “expertise or specialised equipment”? As AC rightly pointed out, China has plenty of pairs of hands for that.”

And it was AC, in the first instance, who stated that language difficulties were an issue for such non-linguistic assistance, an attitude that betrays an undercurrent of antagonism towards foreigners in China. I’m sure AC will be happy to confirm this 😉

May 25, 2008 @ 5:09 pm | Comment

“Oh, and another pet peeve – stupid insecure comments about who gets whose women. Give me a freakin’ break. It’s not womenkind’s fault if you aren’t getting some.”



May 25, 2008 @ 5:22 pm | Comment

antagonism towards foreigners


Foreigners in China have a pretty bad track record. It’s essentially enshrined in social convention that foreigners are treated like garbage in “Western” countries anyway, it’s a sad thing that Chinese people give foreigners special treatment.

May 25, 2008 @ 5:30 pm | Comment

“…it’s a sad thing that Chinese people give foreigners special treatment.”

False perception, old sport.

As for the anti-immigration rally, lunatics every one. Btw, how’s China’s immigration policy coming along?

May 25, 2008 @ 5:48 pm | Comment


LOL! Those Chinese guys are clever! I must try that trick next time I work for the military. 😉

It may be a good incentive for convincing soldier to volunteer for deployment in remote but touristic areas close to the borders.

“Look young man, if you go there you will get a good laugh at the tourist and maybe …… even some goodies. See the photos? Are you going to volunteer or not?”

May 25, 2008 @ 7:37 pm | Comment

“Foreigners in China have a pretty bad track record.”

What does this statement mean?

May 25, 2008 @ 7:46 pm | Comment

how’s China’s immigration policy coming along?

Not everyone can do brain drain.

What does this statement mean?


May 26, 2008 @ 1:04 pm | Comment

“Not everyone can do brain drain.”

It’s hard to believe China survived the cerebral deficit caused by your departure.


It was a reasonable question; care to try again?

May 27, 2008 @ 12:51 pm | Comment

It was a reasonable question; care to try again?

Okay, I’ll say it again: foreigners have a bad track record in China.

If you’re being abused, you were probably asking for it.

May 27, 2008 @ 2:43 pm | Comment

[…] was a quick one from the PekingDuck which talks about a doctor who told his wife he was going out, jumped on a plane and went to […]

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