Follow-On Article (1) (for the Sichuan Quake article)
Please note that this follow-on article was written back in May, and is NOT the follow-on article I promised to write here. It does NOT therefore cover many of the points you have raised here which I hope to cover. However it should answer some of the questions while I try to find the time to write that “follow-on” article I promised. I hope to do that before this weekend.
Here is the original “follow-on” article written in May :
(1) Some of the info may be slightly outdated.
(2) “this blogsite” referred to below refers to my own blogsite ( chinablogs )
The purpose of this article is to answer some of the questions raised. The format it will take is a series of Q & A. The questions/comments (Q) are summaries of readers’ own questions and comments. They are followed by my answers/responses.
Q1 : “You are defending the government“
The article should not be viewed as a “defence” of anyone. I did not say there are no poorly constructed buildings in China, neither have I said there is no corruption in China. The purpose of the article was to provide an alternate view. One supported by data rather than emotions.
It is worth noting that I have constructed this blogsite as a platform for raising alternate views to challenge the mainstream believes and values. Since China is a constant target of vilification by the media, ALL articles on this site will therefore naturally carry an inherent “defensive” appearance. It is however NOT the purpose of my articles to defend, but to inform.
Q2 : “The protestors only want names of the dead children, not the 90,000 as you quoted“
The motivation behind the demand for the name list is to reveal the number of children killed. If the authorities were to give the names of, let’s say, 30,000. There is no prove the remaining 60,000 or so do not include children. Some of the activists stirring up emotions of the parents do not give the appearance of someone who would stop before the WHOLE “truth” is revealed. It is highly unlikely they would voluntarily stop before having 90,000 names.
As I said in the article, I have never known of any governments in the world that have released name lists of natural disasters resulting in deaths of that magnitude. I don’t think China would be any different.
Part of the reason no governments in the world has done that may be the difficulty of giving names to a body with no head, or a head with no face. How do you give a name to a pair of legs that don’t match other bodies?
Q3 : “The buildings WERE poorly constructed“
No-one has ever said there are no poorly constructed buildings in China. I do not know of any developing country with no shoddy buildings.
But that is beside the point. If it was just about shoddy buildings, there would probably be no confrontations between the protestors and the authorities. And we would not be debating here today. There are plenty of shoddy buildings all over the developing world. No-one in their right mind would deny that.
The issue here is the activists are trying to link the deaths to government corruption, and direct their anger towards the government, thus creating the trigger for large scale unrest.
Q4 : “Why did some schools collapse while buildings around it remain intact“
If there are school collapses while buildings around them remain “intact”, then I would agree that they need to be investigated. And I have no doubt the authorities are already doing just that.
But let us not automatically come to the conclusion that ALL suspicious building collapses are results of corruption. There are plenty of possible causes for buildings to collapse, one of which is of course possible corruption. But without knowing the details, there should be no reason to rule out other possibilities. One thing that comes to mind is the fact that schools are often surrounded by much smaller buildings. These would naturally occupy less land, and therefore have a much lower chance of sitting on a rupture in the earth’s surface caused by the quake.
There are just too many possibilities to list here, including poor workmanship and/or poor design unrelated to corruption; unauthorised extensions and modifications to the buildings after construction; etc.
Q5 : “The government doesn’t allow parents the chance to mourn“
No, that is not true. No parents have ever been denied the chance to mourn. In fact, the government has been playing a central and indispensible role in the long road of rehabilitation, both financially and spiritually. Mourning has always been encouraged, protests are not.
Q6 : “The government is cruel and over-reacting to parents’ demands“
If the activists did not try to link the deaths to government corruption, and fan public anger towards the government, I dare say the whole thing would turn out in a very different way. As I mentioned in the article, there is no reason for the government to be scared of statistics.
What would clearly be more worrying however for the government is not the parents and any well meaning people, but the anti-China groups fanning the flames and taking advantage of the situation. Afterall this IS a once in a lifetime chance for those groups to cause potentially huge scale upheaval in China. It would be completely illogical to think that they would not make use of such an opportunity. And the Chinese government clearly knows that.
Q7 : “Is the CCP trying to protect corrupt local officials in Sichuan“
Many people have the impression that China protects corrupt officials. This is despite the fact that in the last decade alone, thousands of corrupt officials in China have fled the country. Clearly, if corrupt officials are protected, there is no reason to flee.
The central government in China has been fiercely fighting corruption for the most part of this decade, and has made many significant inroads in many areas in the last 5 years. Unfortunately none of this is reported in the Western media.
With the international limelight firmly set on China, and with the parents demanding answers, it has provided the perfect opportunity for the central government to clamp down on local authorities in Sichuan. It is hard to imagine President Hu and Premier Wen would give this opportunity a miss.
The fact that activists are not allowed to continue their protests is not in any way related to whether or not the government clamps down on corruption.
Q8 : “So what is the correct way forward“
In my opinion, if the protestors simply want to put pressure on the government to investigate and punish corrupt local officials, they have already achieved their goal. It should be time to move on and let the government do its job.
The continuation of the protests would not only cause trouble for the protesters themselves, but ironically would have the opposite effect of forcing the government into an unconstructive defensive position. It would also take the government’s eyes off fighting corruption to concentrate on legitimate national secuity issues.
The recent riots in Tibet would be child’s play compared to the potential unrest that would follow if the current situation is not handled carefully. With the very real possibility of anti-China groups fanning large scale mayhem, the Chinese government would have no choice but to clamp down hard on all dissent.
Concluding Remark :
Perhaps it would help to understand that we all live within the confines of our own environment. We may not like what is ahead, but we can only choose the best path out of the available options. In the case of the parents, the best path in practical terms in my opinion would be to move on and accept the government’s help in rebuilding their lives.
If there was one thing I could tell my friends in Sichuan, it would be this :
“Understand that it was a miracle that you have just survived a force equivalent to 560 atom bombs while many didn’t survive 1 in Hiromshima. Perhaps it was NOT the dead who were unlucky, but it was YOU who were UNBELIEVABLY lucky”
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