Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Real Chinese Earthquake Story

吃苦。 "Eat Bitterness"

In China,
吃苦 is a enduring state of being for all Chinese. Whether its employees going the extra mile at work or kids spending hours on math homework - the ability to 吃苦 is something that everyone looks to have and is proud to have AS A CHINESE.

For the past few days, I have been adamant about watching the news. There has been 24/7 coverage on most of the major channels in China. There are stories of tragedy and heartache but also stories of charity and empathy.

As I recall, a group of 8 friends, all with cars got together, filled up their cars with supplies - water, food, medicine and drove 8 hours to deliver the aid. They have since stayed to help in any way possible.

There has been major movement online to donate money to the cause. Even my mom wanted me to donate 10,000rmb for her to the China Red Cross.

I have been consistently following the coverage in the New York Times and CNN as well. While many of the articles have been opinion-neutral, there are always glimpses of politicizing in the coverage. For example, any mention of the Chinese government's quick response to the disaster isn't followed with praise, but with a statement about political legitimacy.

From CNN's Soldiers Press Search for Quake Survivors:

Gareth Leather, an analyst for The Economist magazine, said the communist government was criticized for its response to the 2002 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome.

"The government was very secretive about it, which in turn allowed the disease the spread across China and Asia a lot quicker than it otherwise would have done," Leather said. "This time they have been very open about it, which I think is maybe showing signs that lessons have been learned."

From NYT's A Rescue in China, Uncensored:

China’s Communist Party leaders are keenly aware that their approach to the earthquake will be closely watched at home and abroad. And after two bruising months of criticism from the West over its handling of Tibetan unrest, the government can ill afford another round of criticism as it prepares to host the Olympic Games in August.

Dali Yang, the director of the East Asian Institute in Singapore, said the government might have come to the realization that openness and accountability could bolster its legitimacy and counter growing anger over corruption, rising inflation and the disparity between the urban rich and the rural poor.

Maybe the leaders do care. Maybe the people do care. Maybe the country is coming together, just as the US did after 9/11. Just maybe.

In the past few days, I have been quite proud to be Chinese. That pride has been perfectly reflected in the CNN article Earthquake Victims Eat Bitterness.

In Che Jia Va, survivors of the deadly earthquake that struck central China wait patiently for aid. They don't complain.

Among them is a woman with back injuries who cannot walk, and moans loudly. Soldiers eventually found the woman and took her away.

Sheets of plastic protected some of these victims from the rain that came down after the quake. But despite a lack of food, water, phone service and supplies, most of the victims were undemanding and uncomplaining -- some playing cards to pass the time -- confident they would be looked after.

We've had some of the nicest people help us out. There was a guy who had a packet of cookies and wanted to share them, because we were reporting the quake story.
A woman at a gas station, which has a $13 limit per purchase, let us buy $100 worth for our two SUVs. She just came up and helped. There actually were soldiers at the gas stations to ration it out.

That's the China I know.

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