Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao holds the hand of an injured child as he visits the victims
who are settled temporarily at Jiuzhou Indoor Stadium in Mianyang (AP).

Assessing China’s Earthquake Response

May 14, 2008 02:22 PM
by Josh Katz
As the death toll from the 7.9 earthquake that hit China’s Sichuan province continues to rise, international observers analyze the country’s handling of the crisis.

30-Second Summary

About 15,000 people are reported dead but, with 60,000 still missing, the death toll is expected to rise. Today, 50,000 Chinese troops moved into Sichuan to search for survivors, but landslides and adverse weather have made transportation difficult.

The international community has thus far praised the Chinese response to the disaster. Relief efforts quickly sprang into action, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao immediately traveled to the affected area, surveying the damage and attempting to console the population.

China’s response has presented a stark contrast with Myanmar’s handling of Cyclone Nargis, John Berthelsen writes in the Asia Sentinal. The ruling junta in Myanmar has been accused of shunning international help, hampering the spread of information and withholding aid from its people.

China’s current management of the crisis also differs from the way the country has dealt with prior calamities. The government is considerably more open in its dissemination of information about the Sichuan earthquake than it was during the SARS outbreak of 2003, the snowstorms this January, and the recent Tibetan protests, according to

Although Beijing’s leadership has been applauded for its response to the earthquake, some have criticized China for not taking strict preventative measures. The country tightened building codes after the deadly 1976 Tangshan earthquake, but those laws have been followed much more closely in urban areas than in the rural ones that suffered the most from the recent earthquake. One woman wrote in a chatroom, “Why did so many schools collapse but all the government buildings were fine? It’s outrageous!” the Los Angeles Times reports.

Headline Link: ‘China Earthquake: Death Toll Rises to 15,000’

Background: China’s handling of the crisis; building codes; Chinese nationalism

Opinion & Analysis: China versus Myanmar and the mandate of Heaven


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