Monday, May 12, 2008

God Hates China

God Hates China. That pretty much sums up the rough ride China has been given in the past few months, let alone the last month. However, that is a poor analogy, as God doesn't exist, and a non-existent being obviously can't hate anything, but you get my gist. China has drawn the short straw so far in '08:

January- February 2008: The Big Guy in the Sky decided to dump ridiculous amounts of snow on Southern China, with Henan and Guangdong being hit particularly hard. Reports of 1,00,o00 backlogged travellers camped out at Guangzhou and Nanjing rail stations added to the furor. Although only 133 perished as a result of the blizzard, many were injured in accidents or stampedes. Thousands went without basic services but the main hit was taken by the Treasury: some $7 billion in potential profit was lost, and harvests were badly affected.

March 2008: This time another religious group is to blame. On March 10th, monk-led protests and marches spread across Lhasa and wider Tibet. The escalation was preceded by inflammatory words from Dharamsala, India, the seat of the exiled Tibetan Government. Things took a violent turn on the 14th as protesters clashed with PRC police. Chinese living in Lhasa faced persecution whilst their native counterparts faced ambiguous prosecution. We could see Chinese being beaten on the streets of the Tibetan capital in a cleverly-released video, whilst Tibetans were beaten behind closed doors. However, the international community regarded this not as Chinese steadfast protection of sovereign territory but as a precursor to genocide. Ludicrous, but whilst I don't condone the Chinese government's actions, that simply does not amount to accurate journalism. Point is, this warping led to global protests and attacks on the Olympic Torch route. China's economy may have been booming, but its international reputation was a shrinking violet.

28th April: Two trains collide near Zibo, Shandong province. 70 were killed and 400 injured whilst the international community blamed China's rapid, laxly controlled development for the collision. Xinhua would later join that hypothesis, as well as noting that at least one train was travelling at excessive speed. Whatever the reason, this was something the country could have done without, especially considering that the derailment occurred on a route linking two Olympic host cities, Beijing and Qingdao.

May 12th: A huge 7.8 earthquake rocked Sichuan province, not far from the regional capital, Chengdu. Thousands were buried in this largely agricultural area. The death toll so far has reached 15,000 but is set to rise as soldiers have only recently reached the epicenter. Heart wrenching stories of school collapses are finally drawing China some sympathy, but 15,000 souls is a huge price to pay for some support.

Still, they say every cloud has a silver lining. China has been lauded for its relief efforts. Premier Wen Jiabao was quick on the scene, offering support to the stricken and overseeing the rescue effort. Thousands of soldiers, policemen and rescue workers have descended on the worst-hit areas and the government is actively welcoming overseas aid pledges. All this, and yet God has the gall to rain on Sichuan.
Still, China has shown in the simplest of ways that it will do whatever it takes to care for its own. It didn't need to build the Three Gorges Dam or host the Olympics to exemplify this. China has responded fantastically to an extremely difficult situation. Shear manpower and national unity get the job done. Somewhere up above, Chairman Mao is smiling.

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