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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 16-May-2008
Sichuan earthquake devastation opens a period of good will with China, in contrast to Burma

Web Log - May, 2008

Sichuan earthquake devastation opens a period of good will with China, in contrast to Burma

China's sudden openness draws friendship and sympathy from Taiwan, Japan and elsewhere.

In a remarkable turnaround from standard paranoic Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policy, China is being completely open about the recovery efforts after the massive May 12 earthquake in Sichuan province.

The situation is horrific. Almost entire populations from towns around the quake zone have been wiped out, and the buildings leveled. There are some 30,000 people trapped under buildings. Government sources indicate that there could be 50,000 deaths or more, with over 100,000 injuries. Hundreds of children were buried in schools, while adults were killed in their workplaces and homes. People who survive stand outside of collapsed buildings hoping that workers can save family members trapped inside.

China has mobilized 130,000 troops to perform rescue and recovery work in the quake zone. However, not enough equipment is available, and so Chinese government officials have appealed to the public to donate basic equipment -- hammers, cranes, shovels, and rubber boats -- according to the BBC.

What has surprised observers is China's total openness about the situation. China has always been highly secretive about natural disasters in the past, but that's all changed now. International news organizations are permitted to travel freely in the disaster area, and produce live reports for their audiences. Furthermore, the censors aren't blocking the bad news from reaching the Chinese people, and Chinese reporters are free to report everything.

What's most unexpected is that, after initially requesting cash-only foreign aid, China is accepting other forms of aid for the relief operation.

A 60-member Japanese rescue team is headed for the quake region to help Chinese workers; Taiwanese and Russian planes are delivering supplies to the region, in contrast to previous policy; and Russian rescuers and medics will be helping out as well.

Contrast to Burma (Myanmar)

This is all in very sharp contrast to what's been happening since the May 3 cyclone Nargis disaster in Burma.

Although no foreign aid workers or news reporters are allowed in the Irrawaddy delta, the BBC has been quite effective in getting the story out.

Wreckage and bodies are strewn everywhere. Hundreds of thousands of people, isolated in thousands of villages in the delta, are facing famine and disease. There's no fresh water and no food. People are starving, and desperate for aid, but most are getting no aid at all.

2.5 million people need aid, and most aren't getting it. Meanwhile, supplies and aid workers are in Thailand, on the border of Burma, unable to reach the starving people because Burma's military junta won't permit it. The few supplies that Burma allows into the country are hoarded by the army, and little of it is apparently reaching the victims.

The junta and their families, incidentally, have lavish lifestyles in sumptious palaces.

There's little doubt in my mind that when the relief effort ends, the Burmese military junta is going to be accused, either formally or informally, with criminal genocide.

When I wrote about this a few days ago, I indicated that it seemed likely that China would also receive a good deal of blame for the Burma genocide, since China has supported Burma's isolationist policies, and that would be one more issue that would human rights demonstrators would use against China.

However that's at least partially changed now, thanks to China's almost total openness in the Sichuan earthquake disaster.

In fact, there's now a great deal of international good will directed at the Chinese government, among both the Chinese people and people outside of China.

One commentator described the situation this way:

"But outside of China's borders, the Sichuan quake has radically altered the storyline of the 2008 Olympics, which has been until now one of escalating tensions. An ugly year has been redefined by its ugliest, saddest moment, and China's most ardent critics know that it is time to put differences aside.

China's most vocal supporters, its nationalist netizens, are aware of this, too. As one blogger posted on the portal, "So many disasters have happened in China in 2008. This is a special moment. We should unite together to deal with the emergency, not put energy and strength into criticizing the government."

An earthquake doesn't change what happened in Tibet, nor does it erase any sins, real or imagined, in connection with Darfur, but it does place the Chinese people and their fates front and center in the world's consciousness. That is the mandate of this catastrophe, and regardless of its political implications for the Communist Party, this mandate will surely be felt when the Olympics begin on Aug. 8."

For the time being, China's crackdown in Tibet is forgotten, the human rights demonstrations are forgotten, the threats of war over Taiwan are forgotten.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this is all fascinating because there's no way to predict what effects these twin disasters will have. Generational Dynamics is concerned with the behaviors and attitudes of large masses of people, and there's little doubt that the twin disasters will have a marked effect. But what will it be?

Will this era of good feeling last through the summer Olympics? Will there be some kind of violent backlash in Burma? Will either disaster have an effect that either speeds up or slows down the march toward the Clash of Civilizations world war?

By studying these kinds of things, we can add to the generational theory and present it on this web site, which is the only web site in the world that tells how the world works. (16-May-2008) Permanent Link
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