Faced with a disaster of biblical proportion, the vast majority of Chinese stood still at 2:28 PM (local time) on Monday to memorialize those who lost their lives in last week’s earthquake. The Chinese government and Chinese businesses are taking extraordinary steps to participate in this memorial, including basically shutting down all entertainment in the country for three days; Shanghaiist gives a detailed overview of some of these measures.
The year 2008 might go down in history as the year that has again united China. I’ve had several Chinese of my parents’ generation tell me that many of them had lost faith in the Chinese as a people after the Cultural Revolution, that a decade of mutual persecution and incrimination had destroyed even basic morality. I’ve had other Chinese tell me that they had lost faith in the Chinese as a nation after 1989/6/4, that a country which used force on its people could not possibly survive. I’ve heard from younger Chinese that they felt abandoned by the new market economy, that the growing wealth gap meant we were growing more separated by the day.
But many feel a sense of renewal this year. We’ve seen the wealthy reach deep into their pockets to donate to the victims; we’ve seen young peasant soldiers give their lives, give every inch of their souls in fighting for every last life in Sichuan; we’ve seen (some) admirable government officials go sleepless nights trying to solve every last problem. All of the pain that we’ve shared (from the snow storm, to Tibet, and now to the Sichuan earthquake), and all of the good that we’ve done to fight back are re-establishing in many Chinese a broad love for China that hadn’t existed for decades.
This is no longer the red hot, testosterone-driven lust for a stronger China many of us (including myself) exhibited after the Olympic torch was attacked on foreign soil. This is a deeper, determined, unblemished love for a China that we will rebuild.
I was very moved by this video of the crowds that spontaneously formed in Tiananmen Square (and many other Chinese cities) following a 3-minute period of silence; the video shows tears, anger, sorrow, and hope in the hearts of a billion plus Chinese of all ages and backgrounds.