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Covering the Earthquake zone: Day 1, Sichuan Province, China
I saw my first dead body today. Figures it had to be of kids.
We were shooting at a county 60km away from the epicentre of the earthquake that hit Sichuan province, southwestern China.
Also had a building crumble towards us so we ran. But we're safe no worries.
The rescue effort in Hanwang county is into its fourth day. Parents and relatives are basically looking for their kids bodies to surface.
Miraculously a girl was rescued alive today. Unfortunately she will be amputated from the waist down. But considering the circumstances I think her parents and everyone are grateful.
The bodies weren't so disturbing, though the kids faces were beyond recognition. Some of the parents had to take two or three more looks under the sheets to make sure the body is in fact their child.
The most disturbing one was of a girl clutching a pen still. It happened so suddenly, she didn't even have time to react. The clock in the middle of town is stuck at 14:28, the time the earthquake hit.
The county is nearly deserted except for parts where there are rescue efforts going on. Some buildings are barely affected while places like the school we filmed today is a hallowed out mess.
The most haunting is the sound of parents wailing for their child when they recognize the body. Remember these people have only one child per family. And these kids were mostly of high school age, moving on to university next year. They're the hope of the family.
Thankfully I have not experienced any aftershocks in this area.
We're returning back to the hotel in the capital of Sichuan province every night. It's quite a stark contrast to be down in the dirt, inhaling rubble by day, and staying in a five star hotel the next.
Anyhow these are just a random collection of thoughts since my boss said I should talk about what I saw today.
I am feeling fine, but who knows if I'm repressing it.
Gotta wash off this debris off myself and grab a few hours of sleep. Another early start tomorrow.
Days 2&3 - Total devastation
Today I experienced what mass panic was and ran for my life in Beichuan county.
We were filming a rescue effort when I saw a group of rescue and aid workers, residents, everyone all running in our direction yelling "RUN!!!"
My cameraman ran towards me and said, "Run! It's a flood!"
We proceeded to run like hell, with rescue workers hollering that nobody should stop running.
To my understanding Xinhua news agency came out with a report around 12:50pm about fears of the rising water levels and cracks in the dam. But my boss says the water levels have a few more metres to go before it spills over.
Here I was expecting a wall of water going to wash over us like in the movies.
My first thought was: I should really get some medical insurance. Luckily my boss has told me tonight that I am indeed covered despite having not taken the hostile environment training course.
I did feel bad for the poor man still 6-7 metres down the rubble. We thought we'd stay there and film his rescue for the rest of the day. This father is not only alive after six days without water and food, but was UNHARMED. He happened to be under a stairwell which saved him. They were just feeding a string to him and dripping water down when there was mass panic. As he thought he was closer to being saved everyone left him. His 13-year-old daughter stayed with him though I'm told.
I don't blame anyone for being over cautious. After the complete destruction of this county after the earthquake, people are worried about more deaths. The county is reduced to rubble. In the old part of town 80 per cent of all the buildings are gone.
The site was extraordinary considering most of the bodies in obvious areas were removed. It was eerie and haunting on a different level than seeing dead bodies. I saw cars flattened like a tin can, bikes fallen into the cracks of the road, buildings fallen on top of buildings creating a mountain of rubble. You can't help but imagine the fear that must've ran through the place when the earthquake hit and the number of people who died in the most awful of ways.
This flood warning was a serious setback for the rescue effort continuing for those still found alive.
Yesterday we interviewed a 22-year-old still trapped in between slabs of concrete. His one leg appeared to be twisted and completely broken.
He was still very alert and chitchatting with his relatives, who were outside and took turns going in to see him.
I was outside the building and chatting with a fireman about the survivor. A young man in the army uniform passed by and was very excited to hear about a survivor. He said, "What's his condition? Just cut off his legs! Come on! We saved two people like that yesterday! What are you waiting for!?!?!"
As gruesome as it sounds, at this point in the rescue effort, life, at any cost is still worthwhile.
The survivor's relatives were all very calm and rational considering the circumstances. They didn't blame rescue workers for working too slow, nor were they impatient. Like the young rescue worker, they are just grateful to hear that he's alive. Of course at this point, the survivor has not been told that his mother died in the earthquake and so, still had good strength.
We ran into his doctor today and heard he was rescued at 20:00 last night, with a good chance of having BOTH legs healing!
Earlier in the day we climbed up a mountain of rubble. We heard the kindergarten was somewhere in there with parents still lining around trying to find their kids' bodies.
An aid worker told my colleague a very sad story about the kindergarten. When the earthquake happened the teacher tried to keep the kids calm by getting them to sing a song. As the building collapsed the singing petered out.
Among the wreckage I saw this one guy laying out photos he found. He sucked in his breath and said, "My god." His friend said, "I know, but it happened. What can you do?" None of the people who stood around
flipping through the pictures knew anyone in them. But they all cried silently.
Then there was a mother standing on top of what use to be her home. She kept yelling out her son's name. At first she sounded like she genuinely believed her son would respond. But much like the middle school in Hanwang county, I think parents and relatives are still looking, even if it's just the body. At least they know.
Filming that scene made me feel just how intrusive and exploitive the media is. We film, then leave. But what can we do?
People at the emergency shelter further south in Mianyang try to send out hope.
There is a tent sent up for people to register their missing loved ones.
Me: "How likely are these people going to find their loved ones?"
Volunteer: "You cannot give up hope. Many people just lost communication."
This elderly lady turned to me at the tent and asked me tearfully if I could help her find her 30-year-old son and her 3-year-old grandson. She came straight to the centre after the earthquake and hasn't been
in touch with them since.
People are holding up signs everywhere and hoping to talk to fellow villagers to see if they've seen or heard from their loved ones.
I know people say the rescue effort is winding down, but there are still places, in the mountain area, where rescue crews have yet to reach because the aftershocks made the roads inaccessible. I heard though that certain villages are still doing well enough but are running out of time without food and water.
The epicentre, Wenchuan, is still inaccessible to cars. Though my colleague, who took two days to get in on foot, assures me Beichuan, about 80km away from the epicentre, is by far the worst hit place. Likely because the county is surrounded by mountains on all four sides and the houses are built on the lowest level.
It's getting hotter by the day now and the stench of bodies is going to be a big concern. I often hear pieces of mountains rolling down of in the distance in Beichuan. I personally haven't felt much of the aftershocks.
As for the cracked dam, I wonder if the army is just going to let it wash out the county eventually. Looking at the damages I have no idea how long, and whether it's possible to even clean up that mess.
I want to thank everyone for caring about my safety. You have to believe me that we are the most taken care of. We always have water supplies and we get to stay in a five star hotel every night back in the city. And I am always careful.
My body is aching a bit from running so hard, and my throat is a bit sore from inhaling so much dust and debris (yes even with a face mask) but otherwise I am fine.
Sichuan Earthquake coverage: Day 4
No survivors were found alive by the time I left Beichuan county today at 16:00 local time. The chances are getting slimmer. All I saw were body bags being carried around.
We found a rescue effort where a father sat waiting to see if his son is still alive under a slab of concrete. It used to be a three story building. Now it stands only waist high.
He doesn't live in the county but arrived two days ago and had been continuously calling his son's mobile until it got through last night and was picked up. He heard breathing sounds and immediately notified rescue crews. They didn't start the digging until 11am today.
Two hours later they got a glimpse of the top floor of what use to be a motel. Inside were four bodies. Rescue crews gave up digging. There's no way anyone underneath would survive.
The father thinks his son is still on the first floor.
He speaks in Sichuanese to me, gesturing behind him, his son's unintended grave. I could only understand 70% of what he's saying, but I'm guessing he's complaining that the rescue crews didn't come fast enough. It still hasn't sunken in that it's now day 6 after the earthquake.
Just across the rescue site was a couple taking great pains to collect their belongings scattered on the street. They put everything in their store. They fidgeted with the lock for a long time, as if they'd return some day. My coworker told me he saw reports today that officials do not plan on rebuilding the county after the cleanup.
Further down some residents are back to dig through the rubble for their belongings. One man found his photo album and his army badge. The ex-army soldier beams and holds up a mobile phone. "I found it! And it still works!" He's among the lucky ones. None of his family members died in the earthquake.
The town is almost empty except for rescue and aid workers. Even they are slowly pulling out.
An hour drive south to Mianyang Emergency Shelter shows a bustling place. Inside people have made beds on top of treadmills, hanging laundry off the bench press, and boxing rings have become a big comfy bed for dozens. There were weird giant sized posters of Arnold Schwarzenegger and other body builders hanging on the wall. The earthquake victims leaned against them, slurping instant noodles or eating congee.
The right side of the stadium grounds was a big queue. They were registering their kids into a temporary school that will be built shortly near the site. The NBC correspondent told me that this was very well coordinated and unseen during Hurricane Katrina.
So far the stadium is quite sanitary. It's been home to survivors for almost a week, and now houses over 10,000, most from the Beichuan area. Those with their kids running around can still manage a smile or two.
I saw one baby screaming at the top of his lungs and kicking his grandma. Perhaps he's traumatized from the events of the past week. She graciously tried to hold him upright for me to take a picture of him, but he wouldn't have it. He continued to cry.
Tomorrow is another day spent in Beichuan. We felt an aftershock today while filming the rescue but it was very small. We all ran away from buildings or anything that can topple over us. But it's kind of hard.
How does one go on day in and day out not trusting nature? Not trusting the roof over your head?
My coworker's friends live in Chengdu. A newlywed was home alone when the earthquake struck. Her first thought was: What's the most precious thing we've got? She ripped her 52" plasma screen off the wall and
proceeded to wrap it up with three blankets. Then she thought: "That freezer is really new and very good."
I don't know whether she managed to carry that stuff herself.
But now she and her husband take shifts sleeping. One sleeps until 3am and the other takes over into the morning. They have set two glass bottles one on top of the other. They figured if the earthquake was big enough they will wake up.
Not sure that will save them. But I can only imagine how horrible it must be to not feel safe in your own home.
I realize I'm very privileged. Today I was hiking back to the car when I let out a big sigh "Whew! Finally done work, now I can go home!" Just then I was passing by a couple of local residents. I felt so awful. These people don't have a place to call home and will likely either sleep on the floor or in a tent made of three plastic sheets in Mianyang.
My mother called me frantically this morning, telling me to get out. She said, "Why are you doing this? It's not like they pay you a lot. You don't need to prove anything!"
I really had no good answer for her. I had to ask myself long and hard why I wanted to be here. It's not for fame; I'm not even doing on-camera stuff. It's not for the adrenaline, because I can think of a million other things more exciting than running for my life from a possible flood. It's not because of some altruistic reason that I think I'm "serving the people" or that it gives me great satisfaction to tell people about their pain.
The only answer I can come up with is that this opportunity opened up for me to experience what people have to endure through natural disasters. And keep me humble.
I've heard horror stories about trying to get a flight out of Chengdu airport. Some people waited for 24 hours or more. Our driver then piped up: 'Yeah but you guys have money so it's no problem.'
And that cinched it for me right there. We do have the resources. I'm sure I'd get out faster if I got first class tickets. I can live in my cushy five star hotel every night, or get out of here anytime I want.
Sichuan Earthquake coverage: Day 5
The mourning of the dead in Beichuan took place all over the county, just like the rest of the country at 14:28, the exact time the earthquake hit a week ago.
I went to the one that was held on the highest pile of rubble in the area, with only rescue workers from the army and media there.
About 10 minutes before the moment, the cameraman turned to me and asked, "Did you feel it?" I didn't, but it was an aftershock.
Shortly afterwards someone pointed to the mountain behind us. At the peak were clouds of dust kicking up. I looked long and hard and finally saw huge boulders rolling down the mountain.
I didn't know if it was going to be bad, but at that time, I felt pretty safe standing on top of the rubble. At least nothing can fall over me.
We never saw boulders reaching the bottom of the mountain. But it's enough of a reminder that Beichuan is still under threat.
14:28 rolled around and the soldiers all took off their hats and bowed in unison towards the Chinese flag, lowered at half mast. Car horns wailed for three minutes. It was touching.
Across the river, a rescue crew is still busy digging out a possible survivor. They do not stop during the moment.
A 67-year-old woman was found alive earlier this morning. They were hoping for one more miracle.
As we waited for the "moment" to happen, ie. see them pull out a survivor, a cameraman and I wandered off to the back part of town.
I've been back in this county for the last four days. Everyday the roads look different, boulders moved, rubble pushed aside. I'm unsure whether that car really rammed into that railing or whether it was pushed there to clear off the roads.
But this back end of town, looks about as eerie as the first day I went there.
Few residents are allowed in as of 8am today. The rescue workers say it's for their own safety. I find only a handful of them trying to collect their belongings.
One couple I ran into stood on the empty street staring at an apartment building. She points to the window with a curtain billowing in the wind. "I thought I was just going on a day trip for work and would come back that night, so I didn't even bother closing my window."
"Which floor do you live on?"
I counted. "You mean the third."
"No, the bottom floor is crushed under, now the second floor is the
None of her family died. But she lost her housecleaner and many friends.
"My initial thought was that my family was alive so I'm one of the luckier ones. But now coming back ... I'm not sure what to do."
She came back to collect some things. But it's not safe to enter. All she has left is her purse and the clothes she wore out of the house that day.
The stories of these residents don't stop here, but the life has certainly left Beichuan county.
Only a handful of residents and mostly people from the surrounding mountain areas are seen weaving between all the rescue workers who are tired and don't have much else to do other than body retrieval.
There's nothing "new" to report other than the rising body count. The international news is slowly moving back to the cyclone in Burma and to other news.
I'm heading back to Beijing tomorrow. I hear the airport is a nightmare so I'm prepared for extreme delay.
I don't feel like leaving because I know the stories aren't done. But such is the news lifecycle.
My colleague said he interviewed a father who dug with his bare hands at a school for his son yesterday. It took him 10 hours to save him.
He said, "My first thought was: It only took 10 hours? That's quick!"
Think that's a sign to get out before you get too jaded.
Ok so I realise that I've not contributed to ZNH for a little while (there's a variety of reasons for this - but I'll not bore you) and every now and again something passes my desk, or is whispered in my ear that is too good (or odd) to pass up.
I was casually surfing around when I found this blog post at the China Herald
And I have to say I was rather taken aback. Why on Earth would anyone feel the need to ban a performance of Pinocchio? What is it in the story that offends!?
Let me give you a quick synposis...
When the gentle woodcarver Geppetto builds a marionette to be his substitute son, a benevolent fairy brings the toy to life. The puppet, named Pinocchio, is not yet a human boy. He must earn the right to be real by proving that he is brave, truthful, and unselfish. But, even with the help of Jiminy, a cricket who the fairy assigns to be Pinocchio's conscience, the marionette goes astray. He joins a puppet show instead of going to school, he lies instead of telling the truth, and he travels to Pleasure Island instead of going straight home. Yet, when Pinocchio discovers that a whale has swallowed Geppetto, the puppet single-mindedly journeys into the ocean and selflessly risks his life to save his father, thereby displaying that he deserves to be a real boy.
Now, forgive me if I am wrong - but isn't this a story about the discovery of oneself? About being unselfish and telling the truth?
Somebody please tell me what I'm missing here.
Courtesy of Danwei, Beijing-based band Defy sings about their dislike of state-run China Central Television. Here is a sample of the lyrics:
I don't watch CCTV
I don't watch this fucking channel...
... Ai, I don't like you...
... CCTV, CCTV, CCTV
It's nice to know that CNN and western media aren't the only ones drawing the ire of the fenqing.
Come tomorrow we're going to be inundated with all things Olympics here in China yet again. Big celebrations are being set up here in the capital and in other parts of this country as well to mark the 100 day countdown to the Games. As such, the media organs are going to be going non-stop trying to show what a glorious set of Games China is going to be putting on. And it's through the lead up to this media blitz that I got thinking about what the impending Games are going to be all about for people on a personal level.
I was asked by a friend of a friend to be interviewed by the People's Daily last week, because the paper wanted to get some foreigner's reactions 'in the can' about the 100 day countdown and the Olympics themselves for tomorrow's edition. The questions, which were emailed to me, were fairly generic in nature, but one of them did force me to think for a bit. The People's Daily wanted to know what the Olympic Games mean to me on a personal level. It is an interesting notion. We're consistently bombarded on the web and through the Chinese media about just how much these Olympic Games this summer mean to China and the Chinese people. And the foreigners living here and abroad all like to speculate about just what the Games will do as far as China's public image is concerned. But I have to admit I've never really given any thought to what the Games mean to me. I've never attended an Olympics before. Sure I've watched them on television and have rooted for my own country, even though Canada never really does very well in the Summer Games. I even have a bit of a personal, albeit very minor, connection to the Olympics, given that my sister narrowly missed out representing Canada in the Olympic Marathon in Seoul in '88. But the more I thought about the People's Daily question, the more I realized that I don't care about the Olympics at all. At worst for me, this summer's Games will mean thousands of people jamming up the subway system and my neighborhood, along with inflated prices for all things laowai as the local retailers do their best to take advantage of unsuspecting foreigners. At best, I'll be able to look back afterward and say that I was in Beijing when the Games took place. But as far as any sort of soulful connection to the Olympics in one form or another, it's just not there for me. But, in the end, that's me. As for the answer I gave the People's Daily, you'll just have to buy a paper (though I don't really know if it was for the print or online version, or both).On the opposite side of the coin, I had a chance to sit down for a one-on-one interview with China's Mr. Olympics, He Zhenliang. He's the guy that most people credit for getting the Olympics here to China. He's a very amiable and accommodating fellow, and an interesting guy to chat with, given that he was - in his early years - a translator on numerous occasions for Premier Zhou Enlai. But if anyone out there in China had an excuse to wash his hands of all things Olympics, it would be him, given all the crap that he had to deal with in trying to actually get the games here to Beijing. But in chatting with him, you couldn't help but realize that this guy really, really thinks the Olympics are going to change this country. Sure, he's a diplomat and gave all the 'correct' answers, but still, you could tell that he believes in these Games to the very core of his soul. To me, it sort of epitomizes the feeling I get from most Chinese people whenever they talk about the Olympics. For whatever reason, there seems to be some sort of collective agreement that these Olympics are going to kick ass and prove to the world that China and the Chinese people aren't getting the respect they deserve. As such, Chinese people have really taken these Games to heart and have developed an almost intimate and personal connection to them. Hence the anger surrounding the torch protests and the like. But the one thing I can't really put my finger on is whether it's the actual Olympics themselves that the Chinese have come to love or whether it's the Games' ability to put China under the global spotlight. A term I hear being kicked out a lot is that these are 'China's Olympics.' You hear it so often that you almost tend to forget that the Olympics are 'the world's' Games and that China just happens to be the host this year. So what will be interesting to see is just how much the Olympics mean to Chinese people 4 years down the road when London is the host. Are the Chinese people having a May-December romance with the Games or are they willing to take the five rings and put them on their fingers and commit for the long-haul?
In the latest article filed to the Victoria Times Colonist, "Rising anger as Chinese feel under attack," I take a look at how far apart the pro-Tibet and pro-China sides are, and how this divide (and lack of understanding) has played into the anger surrounding CNN pundit Jack Cafferty's remarks:
On Tibet, both sides have completely different narratives. Westerners generally believe the Chinese military invaded sovereign territory in 1950, forced the Dalai Lama into exile, began a system of "cultural genocide" and eliminated religious freedom and human rights. To many westerners, this is black and white.
The Chinese see it in black and white too. They believe they liberated Tibet from a backward feudal system and have invested in economic development to lift many Tibetans from poverty. They also believe Tibet has historically been a part of Chinese territory and that foreigners have caused China endless suffering (the Opium Wars, annexation of Hong Kong, foreign settlements in Shanghai, Tianjin and elsewhere; burning and looting historical sites in Beijing).
And they believe that as China's one moment to shine -- the Olympics -- approaches, foreign powers are again trying to rip the country apart and keep it from succeeding.
China has a victim complex. Talk about severing part of its territory is like ripping open a still-bleeding wound.
CCTV 1 anchor Wen Jing was caught by a sharp netizen yawning on air, obviously not aware the camera was focused on her. The netizen also posted a second photo, which appeared to show the anchor shortly after she realized the camera was on.
The photos have drawn a number of comments online, with many people blaming the director. This is the second CCTV mix-up recently, as the state-run network accidentally broadcast an anchor having her make-up applied.
CCTV spokesperson Mrs. Liang lept to her producers - and Wen Jing's - defense, saying, "This is an obvious mistake. But we want the audience to understand these anchors are tired, and have to arrive at the station at 3am. Maybe she was too tired."
She said fines for these kinds of mistakes range from 50 to 200 RMB.
The original story was published in Xiandai Kuai Bao, a newspaper owned by Xinhua that is published in Jiangsu Province. It can be found here.
Some interesting comments coming out of Xinhua today, and an even more interesting interpretation by Agence France-Presse:
China urges control of 'patriotic fervour' over Tibet
BEIJING (AFP) -- China has urged its people to contain their patriotism, in the first sign Beijing may be growing uncomfortable with a nationalist outburst over the Tibet issue that it has tacitly supported. A dispatch issued late Thursday by state-controlled Xinhua news agency railed against "despicable" Western media coverage of the unrest in Tibet and said resulting Chinese indignation should be "cherished." But it also said nationalist energies should be expressed in a "rational" way and focussed on building the nation. "Patriotic fervour should be channeled into a rational track and must be transformed into real action toward doing our work well," said the report. China's government and state media have repeatedly condemned what they call bias in foreign coverage of China's crackdown on Tibetan riots, which erupted in Lhasa on March 14 and spilled over into other Tibetan-populated regions. The government's stance appears to have helped fuel attacks on the Chinese Internet directed at foreign media. A number of online campaigns have been launched, including one calling for a boycott of French goods due to protests against China's Tibet policies that threw the Beijing Olympic torch relay's Paris leg into chaos last week. Web users also have set up the website www.anti-cnn.com that criticises the US-based news network's alleged anti-China bias. On Friday, the email boxes of major news organisations in Beijing, including AFP, were flooded with emails furious over "vicious distortions" in Tibet coverage. China's Communist Party government, which swiftly quashes any expressions of public opinion it does not like, has so far allowed the attacks. Xinhua's report appears to fit a pattern in which the control-conscious government has given free rein to such sentiments when it serves party interests, but curb them when they appear to be spiralling out of control. After US forces mistakenly bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, large anti-US protests were allowed in China before the government put an end to them. In 2005, protesters were allowed to throw rocks and eggs at Japan's embassy in Beijing, among other anti-Japanese actions, triggered by a range of grievances between the two Asian rivals.
The AFP's interpretation of the Xinhua comments is interesting. On the one hand I can't really disagree with the AFP's contention that the authorities might be getting worried about the anti-Western media campaigns spilling over into something more embarrassing or dangerous. But in the same respect, if it were really overly concerned, the government wouldn't be using terms like 'cherished' to describe Chinese people's anger and frustrations. It also wouldn't be fanning the flames by having its Foreign Ministry spokesperson repeatedly going to the podium to demand a 'better' apology from CNN over Jack Cafferty's comments. The comments from Xinhua, in my estimation, are a preemptive way to cover its ass in case things do get out of hand. It can point to its comments and say to whomever: "look, we didn't sponsor these protests, and we told folks to be rational."
What will truly be telling is what the government line will be in the coming week. Emotions are running high right now amongst the Chinese population given what has been going on this week on the internet and in the media. If the government - AKA Xinhua - continues to report and write about the Chinese people's 'indignation' toward the western media next week, it will be clear to me that the authorities are in no way interested in keeping things in check. But, if this be the case, the larger question is what the motivation behind it is?
An interesting new development in the internet world when it comes to Chinese nationalism and the anti-Western media campaign that seems to be growing.
msn名字后面请加(L)CHINA 代表一个中国 让全世界看看华人团结。请发给您msn的朋友。
This message has been making the rounds today via MSN. The basic translation is: "Behind your MSN name, put (L)China. It will show the world that the Chinese people are united. Please forward this to your friends' MSN."
Basically this is the Chinese netizens response to the comments by Jack Cafferty on CNN about China from April 10th seen here:
It's an interesting scenario that seems to show no signs of abating. Because CNN is prevalent here in China, being the major foreign media source available on the television, anything that is said on that particular network related to China comes under intense scrutiny. As such, many Chinese seem to be keying on CNN as the benchmark for Western media coverage. And it's somewhat understandable, given that basically the average Chinese person has most likely grown up hearing from only one basic source for their information, Xinhua, and is not accustomed to having someone on television have an opinion that goes beyond the government line. As such, when an 'influential' television personality like Jack Cafferty makes comments against China, the Chinese people are going to take notice. Is it wrong for Cafferty to make those comments? No. That's his right as a television personality in the West. As for the substance of his comments, I'll leave that debate for the blogosphere. But what is interesting is how these types of comments seem to galvanize the Chinese people. There's been endless discussion on the internet about the 'Western media bias.' But this latest MSN campaign, while unobtrusive on the surface, disturbingly smacks of the nationalistic SMS campaign that swept across the capital in 2005 that launched the anti-Japanese protests at the embassy here in Beijing. The question to ponder now is just how much more fuel can be added to the fire before we see an explosion?
GOOD is a Los Angeles-based magazine geared towards people that "give a damn." Their latest issue is dedicated to China and features a series of articles on issues of import in and outside the Middle Kingdom. One of them lists ten reasons why China matters. Top ten lists make me cringe, especially when they choose to lead the story with a poorly chosen image. But they get things started a little differently than I expected:
Don't be scared of China--the country is perfectly positioned to be our most powerful ally (lack of democracy notwithstanding, of course). But if there is anything to worry about, it's not China's massive military; it's the economy, stupid.
What's this!? No mention of the--gasp!--Olympics? And--my goodness!--it's the country's economy that's a major concern?
Given GOOD's choice of a list format, I also expected little would be offered in way of explanation. I was again surprised: each reason links to more text, offering fairly concise backup. Let's take #10 as an example:
Why China Matters #10
Because Nixon went to China and your world was born.
Words By Thomas P.M. Barnett
When President Richard Nixon reopened diplomatic ties with Mao Zedong's communist China in 1972, he enabled the most profound global economic dynamic of the last half century: China's historic reemergence as a worldwide market force. Nothing shapes your world today more than China's rise, and nothing will shape our planet's future more--for good or ill--than China's ongoing trajectory.
After centuries of relative isolation, China's rapid reintegration into the global economy transformed globalization from its narrow Cold War-era base (the West) to its current "majority" status, whereby two-thirds of humanity now enjoys deep and growing connectivity with inter-national markets and the remaining third works toward it. China's decision to rejoin the world was globalization's tipping point, meaning--absent global war--there's no turning back now, only adaptation.
If Nixon opened the door, then Mao's successor Deng Xiaoping led the Chinese people through it. Unlike Mikhail Gorbachev, Deng chose wisely: By tackling economic freedom before political liberalization, Deng kept China stable during its tenuous first years of market reform. Although Deng is correctly labeled an autocrat (he ordered the bloody suppression of the Tiananmen Square democracy protests in 1989), he is also correctly identified as a modernizer who unleashed a generation's immense creativity.
A grand bargain was struck: Deng won military support for further market reforms so long as a lid was kept on political change, and the army was afforded enough of a budget to modernize. The Party would remain supreme, but state involvement in the economy would shrink and private business would be encouraged along with investment from, and trade with, the outside world.