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

and maybe point out some of the benefits of somewhat more free distribution of information – look at the help that has come in from overseas – although the cynic in me believes this is more a continuation of the more ‘nationalistic, save China, anti-Japan, anti-France, etc…’ trend that has been seen in the official press over the past few years.

At least they are not the dum—-s running Burma.

May 20, 2008 @ 6:39 pm | Comment

I don’t see the logical connection between displays of “mass zeal” (albeit “outside official channels”. I’m not sure that this is an entirely accurate characterization of such mass zeal. ) to the alleged blossoming of civil society.

May 20, 2008 @ 6:42 pm | Comment

New look in Pekingduck!

May 21, 2008 @ 1:55 am | Comment

@BOB
“displays of “mass zeal” ”

Don’t be so cynical Bob, it was rather a (massive) display of mourning. What do you expected? They are 1.3B after all, and the number of victims has been quite high, even in relation to that population, specially among children.

The display of compassion, donations and volunteering for help really lies at the basis for a civil society.I think it will have significant, and hope positive, effects in the near future. Inside and maybe also outside CH.

And all in all I do not downplay the actions of CH government. The mass mobilization, even with limited technical equipment in some cases, has been impressive.

May 21, 2008 @ 2:06 am | Comment

This Tangshan earthquake orphan donated 100m RMB to the victims in Sichuan. His mother saved him using her own body during the Tangshan earthquake in 1976.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3THlsJ3ajI

The story itself tells you how China has changed in so many ways.

May 21, 2008 @ 5:54 am | Comment

My mother called my grandmother last week to find out if her mother’s day gift had been received… and was given an ear-full. How *dare* you talk about something like this right now?

The truth is, this sort of civic activism isn’t “new” to China… it’s just something we haven’t seen for 30 years. Many older Chinese have atlked about how this reminds them of the society that existed in the early years under Mao, in a positive sense.

I hope we can keep it up, and redirect it in a positive direction. China will overcome.

May 21, 2008 @ 6:42 am | Comment

I guess we’ll see about a civil society this time next year. It is very positive to see such a massive outreach when there is a big natural disaster, but what is needed even more is a day to day outreach towards the poor, the migrant workers and dispossessed children.

May 21, 2008 @ 7:11 am | Comment

Chinese have the potential to be as civic minded as any other nationality. Their apparent lack of public spiritedness relates I think to the fact that China is a developing country. Many of the problems China is grappling with right now, such as inequality of wealth, corruption, worker exploitation are similar to what America was going through during the era of the robber barons.

Public spiritedness also comes from awareness. The fact that the Chinese media has been relatively open on the earthquake, showing the distress of the earthquake victims in everyones living room, is bound to engender sympathy for the victims , which in turn leads to charitable acts.If the earthquake had been reported in a just factual matter without the round the clock coverage that we are now seeing, then the outreach and support for the victims would not nearly be as extensive as it has been.

Also, the Chinese public have also taken their cue from Premier Wen. The example set by him I am sure had an impact on the Chinese.

Whether this can continue to on to the building of a truly civil society depends, I think, on raising awareness more than anything else. Awareness is all that is required – and I trust that the natural humanity of the Chinese people will manifest itself accordingly. And awareness of issues ranging from worker exploitation, the environment, the death penalty and even animal-welfare can only come about from greater freedom allowed to the mass media.

In the West vast social changes came about by bringing issues that no one had even previously thought about and putting them at the forefront of the collective onsciousness of the general public.

But the prerequisite for public awareness leading to change is the pre-existing self-image of the people whose minds need changing.

White Americans saw themselves as a decent, democratic people before the Civil Rights movement. When they were made aware of the true situation of African Americans, this jarred with their self-image – to maintain the image of America as ‘good’ the motivation was there to implement change.

Similarly with China; it could be useful to at least pay lip-service to some aspects of Communist ideology because this will maintain tension between China’s proclaimed ideals, and the situation on the ground. There will be the motive for long term change which will hopefully resolve some of this tension.

If China suddenly abandoned even the current pretence of care for workers and peasants, I think it would be worse off. Even the reported reduction in use of the death penalty over the past year or so, and some nebulous comments about the eventual aim being abolition, is impelled to a certain degree by the image that some communists still have of themselves as ‘progressive.’ And I believe that China’s top leaders are genuine in wanting to combat rural poverty.

A China that does not abandon all socialist ideals, in the long term will have more ‘soul’ than a place like Singapore – a highly successful but robotic society devoid, to my mind, of any sense of idealism.

If any society does not believe in its own inherent goodness – or they simply not care for their self-image, then there is much less hope for change in the long run than one that may currently seem hypocritical in its proclamations.

May 21, 2008 @ 8:30 am | Comment

Great new look – Ryan has been busy ;-)

As for putting ‘stereotypes to bed’, that would be great. Perhaps the most positive step that could be taken in China’s new program of civility would be to deal with the plethora of strereotypes they’ve accumulated about others (foreigners in particular).

May 21, 2008 @ 9:12 am | Comment

@Stuart: Cheers. It was a team effort really, alas I was the only one to survive under Richard’s whip and chains. jk.

@Wayne:

Public spiritedness also comes from awareness. The fact that the Chinese media has been relatively open on the earthquake, showing the distress of the earthquake victims in everyones living room, is bound to engender sympathy for the victims , which in turn leads to charitable acts.If the earthquake had been reported in a just factual matter without the round the clock coverage that we are now seeing, then the outreach and support for the victims would not nearly be as extensive as it has been.

I agree absolutely. I think it also has a lot to do with the fact that the quake was felt so far and wide. When you feel the building shake in Beijing and hear that it actually happened 1,500km away, it creates a connection to that place and those people that might not be there otherwise. As this quake was felt straight across the country, it may have something to do with the outpouring of support.

May 21, 2008 @ 9:43 am | Comment

Ryan, thanks again for the great new design. I only wish I had time to introduce it properly.

You should all see yesteroday’s NYT article about Chinese people, including the media, defying the government and insisting on volunteering to help in Wenchuan. It’s a great article, and this phenomenon could mark the start of a sea change in how China deals with NGOs and citizens willing to volunteer for positive change. The old system, where the CCP tries to clamp down, shut outsiders out and then lie about what happened – those days could be over. Do read that article.

May 21, 2008 @ 10:54 am | Comment

ecodelta,

Yeah…after I made the post, I confess that I regretted using the word “zeal”, even though, I suppose, that the mourning is indeed an expression of “zeal”. In any case, there must be a better word than “zeal”?

May 21, 2008 @ 1:37 pm | Comment

Richard,

Thank you for your considerate and thoughtful words. It is comforting and moving reading the outpouring of sympathy all over the world while I cannot control my tears every now and then for the last week in front of the computer checking out any and everything happening in the quake zone.

How strange a month makes in the media? And how very much I wish it did not have to take this cost!

May 21, 2008 @ 1:47 pm | Comment

@BOB
“In any case, there must be a better word than “zeal”?”

Hhhhmmm… good question. I am still looking in the dictionary.

mass fervor, mass passion, mass empathy, mass sympathy , mass mourning, mass grieving (??)

Maybe the last two

May 21, 2008 @ 8:26 pm | Comment

Ecodelta,

Maybe “Mass enthusiasm” is a better word?

In any event, an interesting question for me is whether China’s propaganda apparatus can sustain itself over time with a message of “love”?

In particular, how does one, on the one hand, sustain a message of an anti-Chinese foreign conspiracy which is the organizing principle of Chinese propaganda, while, on the other hand, preaching about “love”?

Seems like a contradiction.

May 21, 2008 @ 8:32 pm | Comment

I am getting a bit tired of all this “love”, especially when combined with so much vehement flag-waving and so many eulogies of the indomitable Chinese spririt.

Of course, the Sichuan earthquake is a tragedy. It’s a horrible tragedy. But the Chinese were rather less full of “love” during the 2004 Tsunami. As I remember, the Indonesians pretty much “got what they deserved”. How quickly things change. Or maybe not.

May 21, 2008 @ 10:29 pm | Comment

Richard, the NYT article is the one I posted above – printed in the IHT.

May 22, 2008 @ 12:17 am | Comment

Ryan, yes, this is quite the snazzy new look!

May 22, 2008 @ 12:18 am | Comment

@NT

Agreed, look at how little China did to help Myanmar, or even put real pressure on their thug leaders to let international aid in.

May 22, 2008 @ 1:06 am | Comment

NT,

Do you know that those Chinese who said that the Indonesian tsunami victims “pretty much “deserved what they got”" are the same Chinese that are now too “full of love” for your liking? If not, I respectfully suggest that your comment is pointless.

May 22, 2008 @ 1:15 am | Comment

Really like the new look for PD!

May 22, 2008 @ 2:32 am | Comment

@BOB
“In any event, an interesting question for me is whether China’s propaganda apparatus can sustain itself over time with a message of “love”?”

The Catholic church has done it for almost 2000 years ;-)

May 22, 2008 @ 4:31 am | Comment

nanheyangrouchuan,

You’re a bit slow on the uptake — understandable given your past statements. For your information, China already sent a group of aid workers to Myanmar, even as it deals with its own problem. ASEAN is also helping. That’s a hell of a lot better than hypocritical Western governments that seem more interested in regime change than humanitarian aid when it comes to Myanmar.

May 22, 2008 @ 5:40 am | Comment

@Nimrod

And….would not be a change of regiment the most useful humanitarian help for Myanmar? With a really effective government there would not be such a dreadful crisis there.

Also your accusations of hypocrisy can be turned quite easily around. Is not CH supporting the military junta for its own self internal political interests, paying no attention to the suffering of the people in that country?

That sort of callousness is something that CH can do well without.

May 22, 2008 @ 6:17 am | Comment

@ Nimrod (accurate screen name btw)

“For your information, China already sent a group of aid workers to Myanmar, even as it deals with its own problem.”

China hasn’t done crap. Those are military advisors and sending them isn’t much of an effort considering that PLA already has a colonial force in Burma. The US has tons of food, water, clothing and medical supplies sitting on a carrier battle group and in Thailand, waiting for the OK. But the Burmese generals are too busy writing their names on boxes of old, rotten aid as “gifts” to their subjects.

May 22, 2008 @ 7:17 am | Comment

nanheyangrouchuan

I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you on this but do you actually know how much or how little China has done to help Myanmar? By “help”, do you mean relief aid in the usual sense of the term? I believe that the Chinese government donated 1 million USD initially, which doesn’t sound like much but which was 4 times as much as the USA offered. The figures may be very different by now but of course since then China has had its own disaster relief to fund. (I seem to recall that the Chinese offer, which was made very quickly after the cyclone struck, was contemptuously dismissed as a PR stunt by sections of the Western media.)

PS I see there are references on the internet to a further donation of 4.3 million USD from China & an offer by Bush of up to 3 million USD more from the US government. I believe that in the USA private individuals & charities usually give much more in total than the government does in situations like this. However, do you happen to have reliable up to date information to justify your post’s initial assertion?

May 22, 2008 @ 7:21 am | Comment

From a cosmological standpoint, if we’ve just moved from an era dominated by the element of Fire, to an era dominated by the element of Water, it’s probably not a good time to be parading Olympic torches and waving red flags. Nationalism will just make Heaven even more angry.

May 22, 2008 @ 7:56 am | Comment

nanherouyangchuan

Sorry,I didn’t see your last post before I sent mine.

I’d still like to know the basis for your assertion that China “hasn’t done crap”. How do you know that only military advisors have been sent? I’m not saying I disbelieve you: I’m just interested in where you get your information from.

I’m also curious as to why you describe PLA personnel in Myanmar as a “colonial force”. To your knowledge, what was the extent of the Chinese military presence in Myanmar (before the recent cyclone) & in what respect(s) could it aptly be described as “colonial”? Or is your use of that epithet a rhetorical flourish?

May 22, 2008 @ 8:27 am | 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 [...]

May 22, 2008 @ 8:56 am | Pingback

ecodelta,

There is a time and place for politics, of course, but you imply that the quickest way to offer humanitarian to Myanmar TODAY is through regime change. This, after that debacle in Iraq that is now in the 5th year. How’s the humanitarian situation there, by the way? lol… this is the kind of incredible, tone-deaf response I have come to expect from some quarters.

nanheyangrouchuan,

What a joke. FYI, jer, don’t bother checking facts with nanheyangrouchuan. I know how his mind works. He sees PLA soldiers on TV mobilized for relief work in Sichuan and assumes what China sent to Myanmar were “military advisors”… this, while a US *aircraft carrier* sits at the mouth of the Irrawaddy. Now do you think anybody can just hop on a US aircraft carrier? I wonder how many military advisors are on that ship. Meanwhile, France, the other erstwhile colonial power in Indo-China, seems to have farted out another “without border” organization (Donors without Borders) and is champing at the bit to “intervene” to “force” the issue with Myanmar.

Let us assume these countries have oh-the-best humanitarian hearts with no hint of untimely and necessarily ugly political motives, they should learn from Asian countries that seem to have no trouble on getting their equally international aid to Myanmar. Learn some Asian etiquette, or why not turn the aid over to ASEAN and let them distribute it!

May 22, 2008 @ 10:33 am | Comment

“which doesn’t sound like much but which was 4 times as much as the USA offered.”

How about the cost of all that humanitarian aid along with maintaining the carrier force and the cost of flying in the aid.

Oh, and China has pledged the money, but how much actually arrived. Much of the money pledged to Indonesia never arrived as well.

The PLA built rail system in Burma:
india.indymedia.org/en/2003/02/3096.shtml

PLAN naval base in Burma (removed by Richard)
http://www.pekingduck.org/archives/004730.php

http://www.softwar.net/danasia.html

External Security Threats and Role of Chinese PLA in Burma:

The dominant external security concern for Thailand is the on going SLORC military campaigns near Thailand’s border and rampant drug trafficking in Burma. The SLORC has the backing of China’s People’s Liberation Army which supplies weapons and is developing land, air and naval bases throughout Burma. The main conduit for PLA activities in the Wa United Army. The Wa tribe homeland straddles the border of China and Burma. Besides heavy involvement in the drug trade, the Wa were the soldiers of the Burmese Communist Party and are still armed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, wear PLA uniforms and have always had PLA officers commanding their ranks.

The Wa are helping the PLA extend their influence and control in the Golden Triangle area by relocating military units and thousands of villagers from the China border to the northwest Thai border, across from Chiang Rai. The Wa/PLA forces are moving into areas and trafficking routes that were previously dominated by the Shan tribe of Kun Sa. Recently there has been fighting between Shan units that broke away from Kun Sa who have attempted to deter the Wa. The Shan group is led by Cha Yot, a break-away officer from Kun Sa, who has organized his own forces to attack the Wa/PLA. There are additional reports that other Wa United Army units have moved to the Burma-India border, which according to the Far Eastern Economic review, has raised concerns in New Delhi.

The CODEL is concerned about a large airfield that the Chinese have built some 40 miles south of Mandalay, Burma. A reporter for a credible Western news agency recently visited and set foot on the runway of this air field, which is reportedly large enough to handle military cargo aircraft.

May 22, 2008 @ 1:22 pm | Comment

@nimrod
“There is a time and place for politics, of course, but you imply that the quickest way to offer humanitarian to Myanmar TODAY is through regime change.”
Not implying that. Actually is the junta there who is preventing the help to get into the country.

“This, after that debacle in Iraq that is now in the 5th year”
If you want to divert the argumentation we could also speak about Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Sebrenica, Sarajevo, Kosovo, South Africa (apartheid system), Kuwait , Cambodia (Vietnam intervention) to name just a few cases.
Just ask the people there if they prefer to return to the previous state of things. Would you like to ask the people in Myanmar how they would like to be?

On the other hand I am not a fan of blatant intervention “a la Americana”. In EU and in my own country there was massive opposition against the IRAK war. Such a strong intervention, without even taken into account local players and countries, in a country that is rather a conglomerate of different peoples created after the colonization with a very unstable social framework, plus the religious problem (sunny, shia and infidels) was a recipe for disaster.

Putting aside the strategic interest…. not a few American really believed they were going to be received with open arms and flowing flags. Like Kuwait in the 90s or better like Europe 1945 Terrible mistake. Anyone with some experience could see the problem coming.

Americans tend to be rather naive in foreign policy (begging your pardon guys), they should have heard the counsel of the British, who have more experience with this sort of things, but in the end the good old British could do not prevent them to go ahead and the US dragged them into the mesh.

Every action taken come with the risk of failure or success. Before taken any action one mus ask oneself about the real intentions and the possible consequences. Hell is fulls of good intentions, but closing our eyes and doing nothing has also dire consequences, there are no easy decisions.

May 22, 2008 @ 2:02 pm | Comment

@Nimrod

One final though. Who is the greatest benefactor of Iran. The US!

Think about it. Iran had to the west an enemy who invaded them a provoked an 8 year war that devastated the country. And to the east they had the Taliban regime who was a deep enemy of the Shiite.
And now both are now gone, courtesy of the US. Actually Iran position is now far stronger than before in the area. Maybe even to become a significant local power.

I saw once an interview with former Iran President Hatami in which a reporter ask that very question. He had to use all his political dialectic ability to get rid of it… It was funny.

History has strange ways and no one can see what lies at the end of each road.

May 22, 2008 @ 2:12 pm | Comment

Hey, Eco, I told them not to do it! Lots of Americans disapproved of the Iraq invasion. Unfortunately our leaders didn’t listen.

May 22, 2008 @ 3:15 pm | Comment

jer – My point is that we shouldn’t mistake politically-led nationalist mobilization to help other Chinese for the emergence of a genuine “civic” spirit. I concede that the two are not mutually incompatible, but they are also not the same thing. (And to make this point is in no way to belittle the impressive response throughout China to the Wenchuan earthquake.)

May 22, 2008 @ 4:21 pm | Comment

to the alleged blossoming of civil society.

Your idea of “civil society” is bending over backwards to give foreigners even more undeserved special privileges in China.

China’s new program of civility would be to deal with the plethora of strereotypes they’ve accumulated about others (foreigners in particular).

Clean up racism in your own country first. Why are you such a pathetic opportunist? If you haven’t been beaten to death yet like Vincent Chin, stop whining.

In any event, an interesting question for me is whether China’s propaganda apparatus can sustain itself over time with a message of “love”?

How do you explain the large donations by Overseas Chinese organizations? 50,000+ people died. Do you remember how things were after 9/11?

In particular, how does one, on the one hand, sustain a message of an anti-Chinese foreign conspiracy

The foreigners do a good enough job of that by themselves. No one likes a moaner who isn’t satisfied with all the special treatment they get.

nice layout btw!

May 22, 2008 @ 5:39 pm | Comment


jer – My point is that we shouldn’t mistake politically-led nationalist mobilization to help other Chinese for the emergence of a genuine “civic” spirit.

I think it’s been a long time coming, really. Chinese people as a whole (including the Overseas Diaspora) haven’t had much of a civic attitude for the last few decades. Not that I blame them considering their relative poverty, but still.

I’m glad that things are improving.

As for the Indonesians, the Overseas Chinese detest them more than the mainlanders as far as I know. I know Indonesians and Malays are detested by a lot of Chinese people outside of China for good reason.

They aren’t victims. They hate Chinese people more than the other way around.

May 22, 2008 @ 5:46 pm | Comment

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

Prince: “I wouldn’t change a stroke ’cause baby I’m da most…”

May 22, 2008 @ 5:49 pm | Comment

Likewise one single Chinese language newspaper generated $1 million for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake. The “Asian” “American” community donated about $200 million then.

That’s probably not going to stop Indonesians from butchering their Chinese community in the future or make the Malays (Mahatir even jokingly said he wanted to bomb Singapore) repeal their discriminatory laws, but whatever.

Sorry for the chain-posting.

May 22, 2008 @ 5:51 pm | Comment

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

May 22, 2008 @ 6:21 pm | Comment

“If you haven’t been beaten to death yet like Vincent Chin, stop whining.”

Whining is your job (under instruction, I suspect) whenever you perceive anything less than ultra-positive about China.

Falling back on the victimisation card is a tell-tale sign that you’re under the influence of recent nationalistic fervour and questionable educators. But, if you must, are you really of the opinion that foreigners in China don’t get mistreated, manhandled, robbed, cheated, insulted, and occasionally murdered? Think again; or apply for re-education (I believe it’s still available).

If you want to make a serious contribution you’re going to have to stop deluding yourself about the state of your own objectivity.

May 22, 2008 @ 7:48 pm | Comment

stuart,

Do you think that Westerners in China are in general treated worse than Chinese are in Western countries? Or that Chinese (in China) tend to be more prone to stereotyping foreigners than vice versa? I do realise that you can only have had direct experience of half of this comparison. And I’m not trying to initiate an et tu quoque competition.

May 22, 2008 @ 9:58 pm | Comment

Clean up racism in your own country first. Why are you such a pathetic opportunist? If you haven’t been beaten to death yet like Vincent Chin, stop whining.

I didn’t realize that dead people were supposed whine…

May 22, 2008 @ 10:10 pm | Comment

@otherlisa
“Hey, Eco, I told them not to do it! Lots of Americans disapproved of the Iraq invasion. Unfortunately our leaders didn’t listen.”
Well… Mr Bush won twice presidency, by a slim margin I must concede.
Just be more careful next time, congressmen included ;-)

By the way, do you thing grandpa Wu could run for the elections as governor in California? If Arnold could make it…..

May 22, 2008 @ 10:49 pm | Comment

Do you think that Westerners in China are in general treated worse than Chinese are in Western countries?

Generally speaking I think both groups are treated very well, although it has to be said that overseas Chinese enjoy some rights that foreigners in China are denied.

Or that Chinese (in China) tend to be more prone to stereotyping foreigners than vice versa? Absolutely. This is the cumulative result of years of insularity, propaganda, and hopelessly outdated school textbooks. Chinese citizens are too often presented with information that reinforces inaccurate stereotypes. For example, CCTV persists in daily doses of wartime dramas portraying evil Japanese soldiers hovering menacingly over Chinese women and children.

In a lesson on stereotypes I’ve taught a hundred times in China, the first two picks from a comprehensive list of positive and negative characteristics chosen by Chinese students to describe Japanese, are ‘aggressive’ and ‘arrogant’ EVERY time, without fail.

The French used to be ‘romantic’ and ‘sophisticated’ – that may well have drawn a different response three weeks ago!

As for characteristics that describe Chinese people, Chinese students unswervingly choose ‘peaceful’, ‘tolerant’, and ‘hospitable’. That’s when I ask them how a Japanese class would respond to the same question.

Stereotyping also exists in the west, of course, but a more balanced media (despite China’s recent overblown furore to the contrary), better information, and pluralism are effective measures in removing outdated thinking.

May 22, 2008 @ 11:29 pm | Comment

I eventually was moved to tears by what’s been happening to China with the earthquake, and I am not a very emotional person. In the long run, this earthquake will be remembered as the point that tip the scale for China, where from this point on, there will be massive clean up of corruption in regional govt, massive prosecutions of irresponsible builders and contractors, an awareness in the public that they are influential that they could change society-an important ingredient to democracy, the openness and frankness of the media, the establishment of reinforcement of building codes, the reconstruction of the rural China, which has been neglected regardless of the massive improvement in the coastal regions. I think we will see a massive improvement in modernizing rural China after this.

May 23, 2008 @ 12:21 am | Comment

I think the timing of the earthquake was strange-right before the Olympics. I thought China as a country was becoming too egotistic during the Olympics, this unfortunate event posted as a wake up call- to remind them the problems, the earthquake exposed lots of defficiency still in China, especially in the poorer regions, this event as in 911 humbled many many people, and wake them up from their money hungry minds, and made lots of people remember how vulnerable and small we are in this earth, that we can’t be so self assured of our material success.

May 23, 2008 @ 12:25 am | Comment

It’s really sad so many parents only allowed to have one child, and now many of the families are forever broken in spirits, and so many with the entire family members died and only one survived. This is not the time to talk politics, we are all the same when it comes to situations like this, it makes me wonder how good I have it, and how fragile what I have is. Certainly made me less worrying about my problems. CNN USA has reported very little on China’s earthquake, they are so preoccupied with the election they do this like clockwork, pay too many attention to issues on the international front, and the only other issues were those in the middle east they report on, CNN has different priority. Even German news channel reported some in-dept on China’s earthquake. NY Times has a big article everyday on China-right now is on the earthquake, but they have been running a daily report on China for a while.

May 23, 2008 @ 12:33 am | Comment

I meant CNN pays not too many attention to issues on the international front.

May 23, 2008 @ 12:37 am | Comment

Oh, Eco, I don’t want to go wildly off-topic, but we all know Bush didn’t win, especially in 2000. Don’t get me started.

May 23, 2008 @ 12:57 am | Comment

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

@otherlisa
“….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

nanheyangrouchuan,

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

nanheyangrouchuan

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!

Michael

May 23, 2008 @ 9:17 am | Comment

Richard,

“The Duck looks GREAT!”

U Got The Look!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpJpQ3UrblQ

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

@otherlisa
“Eco, I deleted one of your comments”

Ok. Collateral damage ;-)

May 23, 2008 @ 1:28 pm | Comment

@BOB
“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

nanheyangrouchuan

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

May 24, 2008 @ 12:26 am | Comment

http://www.zonaeuropa.com/200805c.brief.htm#010

http://www.zonaeuropa.com/200805c.brief.htm#008

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

nanheyangrouchuan

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

Lindel

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

@Lindel

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

nanheyangrouchuan

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

@stuart

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

@otherlisa

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….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej1zMxbhOO0

May 24, 2008 @ 2:18 pm | Comment

@ferin
“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.

http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=14356647

May 25, 2008 @ 2:59 am | Comment

stuart

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:

http://tinyurl.com/5bb3xq
http://tinyurl.com/5atgj9

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.”

GET SOME:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S06nIz4scvI

May 25, 2008 @ 5:22 pm | Comment

antagonism towards foreigners

http://youtube.com/watch?v=0ELf9GUKGVo

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

@Rohan

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?

durrr

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.

“durr”

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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