Follow-On Article (2) (for the Sichuan Quake article)
As promised, this is the “follow-on” article I was meant to write. As mentioned earlier, this article does not attempt to answer all questions, but will instead focus on a few main points that I personally believe may have the most impact on the bigger picture.
However I like to point out that I have read all your comments here, and believe that I would have no problem in debating any of the points raised so far. Unfortunately it would not be feasible for me to do so for the reasons I have explained earlier.
There are 3 general main points I like to tackle in this article. These are :
- Your perception of my original Sichuan Quake article. (Thereafter referred to as “the article”)
- The most common root cause of contention in almost all China related debates
- Assumptions in this debate (in relation to the Chinese government)
Point 1 above will in turn be broken down into :
- Your interpretation of the article. (This will be covered in the “Background” section below).
- The relevancy of the article. (This will be covered in section 1 that follows).
Point 2 will be covered in section 2 “The Anti-China ‘Label’“. And point 3 will be covered in section 3 “Anger towards the Chinese Govt“.
The “Putting the Sichuan Quake into Perspective” article is a re-post. It was 1st published on my own blogsite on may 10, just before the quake anniversary. This article was not meant to be just an academic discussion about a past event, but was written for a specific purpose.
First, let me briefly explain the reason, and then the motive behind the article, before responding to feedbacks in the sections that follow.
The reason for writing the article (and all the other articles on my site) was to counter the control of opinions by the mainstream Western media by exposing details that Western media would most likely never tell you. Hopefully, by doing that, we create a platform for a healthier debate from which one can then make his/her own judgements.
The motive behind this article was my wish to contribute to helping the victims and their friends and families to rehabilitate. I firmly believe that anger and hatred would not only NOT help the rehabilitation process, but in fact make things worse. Therefore if we are sincere in wanting to help, our job MUST be to do what we can to highlight those facts that can create the desired results.
One thing we all need to understand is regardless of whether you like the Chinese govt, they are here to stay. I have very good opinion of the Chinese (central) government. Perhaps you don’t. But they are here to stay, and no-one can change this fact. We must all therefore understand the implications of this, and work within the confines of that environment.
Perhaps I should not need to tell you that in China, making massive protests during sensitive dates against government orders do NOT work, and have never worked. Participating would very likely have consequences. In the past, protestors and anti-China groups ask for US intervention. Today the US won’t be able to “protect” you. And the involvement of the Western media would only force people such as myself further to the opposing side.
Under this context then, (regardless of your intentions being sincere or otherwise) urging the victims out to the streets to protest clearly CANNOT be in the interest of the victims, while on the other hand fanning their anger WITHOUT urging them to go out to the streets to protest would only further intensify their suffering.
One must therefore focus on finding a PRACTICAL way to help the victims move forward and rebuild their lives WITHOUT needlessly creating further suffering for them. The intention of the article was never meant to justify or otherwise any action or inaction, nor is it about moral issues. If one is at all touched by the suffering of these victims, one does NOT use those victims as cannon fodder for your fight against the government regardless of your well intentions or otherwise.
If one is sincere in helping, then ALL of the above must be considered. If helping is at all the objective, then THIS objective must be the guide eyes for ALL our analysis. It is with THIS in mind that I have written the “Putting the Sichuan Quake into Perspective” article. And it should be with THIS in mind that the reader should judge the article.
Responding to Your Feedback
Section 1 : Relevancy of the Article — Comparing Quakes
A few here reject the relevancy of the article because it focusses on comparing earthquakes.
I do NOT agree.
Regardless of whether the points about school collapses is valid, there is certainly undeniable value in raising the awareness of relevant factors so far untouched, and providing another perspective to the understanding of the events.
If we can put ourselves in the shoes of the angry victims, perhaps we may understand the relevance and significance of comparing these quakes. Most victims, especially those whose anger was fanned by interest groups, blame the govt, and by association, the country. They fantasize that if they were in another country, they would not have faced the same fate. As a result, many of them may never rehabilitate as they trap themselves in this cocktail of hatred, despair and anger.
If we can help them alleviate some of this hatred and anger by helping them understand the fact that, had they been in another country, they would probably NOT have survived any better; if we can help them understand that immensely wealthy 1st world countries such as Japan and Italy can NOT even protect their citizens from (relatively) small quakes, would that not change their outlook? Would that not minimize the destructive effects of the dangerous cocktail of hatred, anger and despair?
This is of course not to say that there should be no investigations into the school collapses. There is nowhere in the article that argues against investigation. As far as I know, there were continuing investigations at the time I was writing that article.
Comparing these quakes puts the whole thing into perspective. Facts and figures play a powerful stabilizing role during intensely emotional periods. Understanding that it was a miracle that they survived changes the mindset. There are always 2 sides to a debate. But if we are at all sincere about helping, THIS, is what we should aim to achieve.
Section 2 : The Anti-China ‘Label’
Most in China related debates would at some stage either refer to “anti-China groups” or accuse the other side of referring to “anti-China groups”. This is probably by far one of the most common ROOT causes of contention between the 2 sides of China related debates. If only we can overcome this difference, most of these debates would not be necessary. Unfortunately, I don’t see how we can do that.
We form our view of the world by the way we interpret events. This is in turn influenced by our own experiences. There is no way I can project my life experiences into your brain, and neither can you do that to mine. It isn’t like I can write a one page article or a one-hour speech that can undo your life experiences.
On this topic, we probably both feel that we haven’t heard any plausible reason backing the other side’s claims. Perhaps no matter what either side says, this situation will never change. That being the case, let me at least bring up some facts that (hopefully) both sides should be able to agree on :
(1) There are anti-china groups — just like there are anti-American groups, anti-Arab groups, and anti-Israel groups, etc. There is no reason to deny their existence.
(2) Most anti-China groups either (1) want to harm China, or (2) bring down the Chinese govt — just like most anti-US groups want to harm America or bring down its govt. Again there should be no reason for a neutral person to deny that. The claims that those groups only want to liberate the countries concerned are hardly convincing. SOME of those groups may do, but some don’t.
(3) My articles are based on the premise that there are anti-China groups. NOWHERE have I ever said in any of my articles that ALL on the opposing side are anti-China. Neither have I said ALL those who do belong to anti-China groups have malicious intent.
Each of the above points by itself does not mean much. But if you agree with them and put them together, then it should be clear that at the very least the concerns I raised are valid. You may disagree with the logic or the facts, but there should be no reason to insist that one should simply “drop” these legitimate concerns as a few have insisted here. Simply labelling other’s reasons as “excuse” as someone here has done does not help the debate.
Perhaps it helps to understand that it isn’t that I WANT to go against the crowd, but you need to at least give me a justification for change. Simply accusing others paranoid or saying “give those labels a rest” can hardly provide the justification for a change of mindset.
There are 2 most common indefensible attacks I’ve experienced on blogs. One is that, virtually anyone speaking well of the government is paid. The other is that we create this “anti-China” label to justify vitually everything.
The reason the 1st is indefensible is clearly that there is no way for me to disprove the claim. The 2nd is indefensible for the reasons I summarized above. Both may be seen as justified attacks in the minds of many on my opposing side. But from my side, this is simpy the ultimate silencer to shut up dissenting voice without giving reasons.
Fortunately, I haven’t seen any more of the 1st type of attacks since late last year. Unfortunately, the 2nd type persists. I would sincerely look forward to the day where everyone would just focus on the issues at hand and debate purely on the subject matter. I have seen many here with better minds than myself. There is no reason we cannot focus our debates purely on the subject matter.
Section 3 : Anger towards the Chinese Government
(i) Investigations :
One of the most common complaints against the Chinese government on this topic is that it refuses to investigate the disaster. Indeed, some here have even accused myself of arguing against investigation. But the fact is I have never even THOUGHT about arguing against investigation. As I have stated very clearly on my own website, and then here, and now repeat again : “If there are school collapses while buildings around them remain intact, then I would agree that they need to be investigated”.
Most would readily assume that if the authorities do not approve of investigation results being made public, it automatically means the govt itself doesn’t want to investigate what happened, and doesn’t want to learn from mistakes. But that could hardly be believable. It is hard to imagine that the authorities would not want to find out what happened, and what lessons they can learn from this.
You can state your disapproval about the lack of transparency, but to blindly accuse the govt of refusing to investigate is hardly a rational charge. I cannot imagine any govt in the world would not want to learn and prevent future catastrophes. There can be little doubt that governments would, and the Chinese govt is, actively and thoroughly investigating in order to try to prevent a repeat of history.
They would be insane if they don’t. And I doubt any reasonable person would seriously think the Chinese leadership is insane. It is hard to imagine insane people can build the country China is today within one single generation. You may not like them, but you have to agree they don’t look like people who don’t believe in investigations.
(ii) Accountability :
Let me first state that I am NOT against holding the wrongdoers accountable for their actions. So that itself is not the point of contention. What differs between us is our respective assumptions on this case.
Let me 1st restate something from my “follow-on” article. And that is :
“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.”
Indeed, in the last few years, even some of the very high ranking officials have been brought down with corruption charges. There should be no reason to believe the govt would protect the local authorities in Sichuan. The fact that the process itself is not transparent does NOT imply that those responsible would not be brought to justice.
Again, You can state your disapproval about the lack of transparency, but to blindly accuse the govt of protecting corrupt officials without any evidence to back up the charge is completely unreasonable.
In the case of this Sichuan quake, I do believe as I stated in the artcle that it would be in the interest of the central government to weed out bad elements in the local governments, and that this has presented them a good chance for that. I simply find it unimaginable that they would not make use of this opportunity.
The world is not black and white. There are always 2 sides to a debate. Assuming yourself on moral high ground is to assume the other party is wrong even before the complete picture is revealed. This sets in prejudices that mars the debate and also one’s ability to understand opposing arguments.
The intention of my original article was never meant to justify or otherwise any action or inaction, nor is it about moral issues. Neither have I argued against investigation nor many of the other claims against myself in the Comments sections. Unless we overcome this superiority mentality, we can never have an appropriate debate.
The objective of the article was to suggest a practical way for the victims and their families to move forward and rebuild their lives. This was stated very clearly at the beginning of the article, and has remained the main theme for the most part. Anyone without preconceptions should have been able to see the article for what it is.
I like to conclude with one paragraph from the “Background” section above :
“Under the context (described in that section) then, regardless of your intentions being sincere or otherwise, urging the victims out to the streets to protest clearly CANNOT be in the interest of the victims, while on the other hand fanning their anger WITHOUT urging them to go out to the streets to protest would only further intensify their suffering.”
If one is at all touched by the suffering of these victims, one does NOT use those victims as cannon fodder for your fight against the government regardless of your well intentions or moral high ground. If one is sincere in helping, then ALL of the above must be considered. If helping is at all the objective, then THIS objective must be the guide eyes for ALL our analysis.
On a slightly different note, for those who may be interested, I have also attached below a copy of the comments an American gentleman with 1st hand experience of the quake has written on my blogsite. It has nothing to do with the above article, but I thought some may be interested :
1) An American gentleman’s personal experience of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake :
( Author : Michael McCroskey Date : May 15, 2009 )
I have lived in Chengdu off and on the past 4 years and was actually there during the SiChuan earthquake (certainly the longest 3 minutes of my life – I litterally expected to die).
I have a small karaoke business in Chengdu in partnership with a local, while maintaining my businesses here in America.
I have witnessed first-hand the private and government relief efforts. After the quake, China came together like it never had before to raise money for relief. The government, led by Premier Wen Jiabao personally, was immediately on the scene, and for much more than a simple photo op – he was there for days. Again, I witnessed all this in real-time.
China has only been on this “opening road” of its govenment since Mao’s death in 1979. That’s a scant 40 years. We in America need to keep the reporting on China in context as they CONTINUE on a road of opening up, while STILL dealing with 100’s of millions of Chinese that were educated under Mao that only the govenment can do ANYTHING. China is about balance and measured progress.
I will attempt to open some closed minds about China with this simple entreaty – VISIT CHINA! Don’t take anyone’s word for what is or isn’t happening. Visa’s are easy to obtain, and travel is unrestricted. Chengdu has even recently opened up high-speed rail service directly with Tibet.
Travel to the earthquake-striken areas is also easy from Chengdu (besides, both main world Panda reserves are in the Chengdu, and you definately want to visit).
I want to personally thank Chan for this wonderful and all-to-needed site as well.
2) The same gentleman, Michael McCoskey, commenting on Premier Wen Jiabao’s rescue efforts during the quake :
( Author : Michael McCroskey Date : May 15, 2009 )
I and everyone else there, including Premier Wen, was experiencing the 100s of after-shocks that happened (some above 6.0) for weeks after the main quake. Some people slept in the streets for weeks after the quake out of sheer fear. NO ONE in that area felt safe for months.
Wen Jiabao was a hero of a leader in my book, pure and simple. He didn’t fly in for a “photo opportunity” weeks after the fact, he was in there for DAYS within 48 hours of the main quake. He really was an inspiration, and that’s the simple truth of it – if nothing else he inspired the hell out of me!
China handled one of our centuries biggest natural disasters with extreme (and from my viewpoint quite unbelievable) grace, compassion and effectiveness. It sure did contrast to what I saw of the Katrina response here in the US.
Credit due is credit due and fair is fair, I don’t care what form of government is in charge.
3) The same gentleman, Michael McCoskey, continues his comments on another of my articles :
( Author : Michael McCroskey Date : May 16, 2009 )
I can also confirm that there were several arrests of local communist city officials that fled the area in fear after the earthquake. While I understand their personal fear, they had a duty that went with their important positions.
You would never see such a thing here in America. It is refreshing to me to see these “leaders” that abandoned their people in a very important time of need held accountable for their actions.
Then, to witness Premier Wen risk his own life to personally lead the rescue effort (even as the aftershocks continued in the 100’s) was nothing short of inspirational.
I’ll continue to say it – whatever anyone thinks of the Chinese federal government, they have done an unbelievably great job of coordinating this relief and rebuilding effort.
I’m an American, and I have absolutely NO reason to be saying these things other than I was there, and I know first-hand that what I am saying is true. I am a witness.
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