Anthony Kuhn

Earthquake Reaction Raises Questions

Bei Chuan destruction

Refugees, soldiers and rescue workers carry survivors out of the county town of Beichuan. The landslide that buried much of the town is visible in the background. Photo by Anthony Kuhn, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by Anthony Kuhn, NPR

Though not at the epicenter of the quake, the city of Mianyang has actually suffered the most casualties from the May 12th earthquake. One look at the area's mountainous terrain makes it clear why Chairman Mao chose Mianyang as the linchpin of his "Third Line" strategy to relocate defense-related industries and research facilities there during the 1960s to make them less vulnerable to attack. (How vulnerable they are to earthquakes is of course is another matter.)

All along the road to Beichuan county, I saw homeless earthquake victims, many of whom had walked three days or more to come down from the mountains. Many limped along in simple canvas shoes, carrying bags and blankets. I saw many of them arrive at the Jiuzhou stadium in Mianyang, volunteers gave them tents, food and clothing.

These sights offered food for thought.

DECISION-MAKING MYSTERY

For example, I bumped into plenty of my colleagues in Beichuan. Security forces were clearly on orders to let foreign journalists into Beichuan. At what level was this decision made, and why? Why were foreign journalists being kicked out of less dangerous and remote areas? It certainly can't have hurt that there were quite a few foreign volunteers working hard to save victims in Beichuan, and Chinese and foreigners alike were clearly united in their urgent common mission.

Bei Chuan refugees

Rubble and damaged houses in Bei Chuan County. Photo by Anthony Kuhn, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by Anthony Kuhn, NPR

And even if there is no sign of major liberalization of rules governing the domestic press, the government appears to be giving it much freer reign on this particular story. If the effort is successful in increasing social stability and boosting the government's credibility, it could serve as a helpful precedent for future reforms and win Chinese journalists extra room to practice their craft.

WATERSHED DEVELOPMENT?

Also, the flood of volunteer workers and donors ferrying food and supplies to stricken areas has become so great that the government today had to impose traffic controls in some areas to ensure that vital supplies could get through. The outpouring of charity and volunteerism appears to be unprecedented in China. It's the opposite of the crass materialism at which social critics often rail. Is this a one-off phenomenon, or will this prove to be a watershed in the development of Chinese civil society?

Bei Chuan buildings

Militia, medics and volunteers clamber over the remains of a street in Bei Chuan County, one of the areas of Sichuan province hardest hit by the earthquake. Photo by Anthony Kuhn, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by Anthony Kuhn, NPR

CARRYING THE TORCH

Beyond this, how will this event affect Chinese people's priorities and values? Consider this: The Olympic Torch relay is due to pass through Mianyang in mid-June. The government has said the show will go on, but there's already a debate in progress. Several noted Chinese scholars have suggested that the relay should be canceled. In the face of such a far-reaching disaster, they argue, this is no time for a lavish celebration. In any event, the earthquake clearly offers an important window on the country at a crucial time, and a wealth of lessons for all to learn.

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"The outpouring of charity and volunteerism" in contrast of "crass materialism" is certainly positive. I've been following the debated on the torch relay on the Chinese cyberspace. Some Chinese in China called for the cancellation of the celebration right after the earthquake. The relay events after the earthquake were more low-key, and they added silence tribute, but there are Chinese people who think it should be totally canceled.

Sent by jidian | 2:23 PM | 5-16-2008

So what happened to these "Third Line" factories and research facilities? I haven't been able to find any reference to them in the wake of earthquake. If anyone knows something, please share it with me.

Sent by TL | 3:08 PM | 5-16-2008

I was listening to Melissa's coverage of the earthquake the other evening on my way home from work (WVXU-Cincinnati) and was moved to tears. Her portrayal of the devastation was so clear and moving. The sadness of the parents searching for their two-year-old son and grandparents was raw in the truest sense of the word. I cried for all the victims of this natural disaster but also gave great thought to the unnecessary violence that occurs in our society everyday -- In Africa, the effect of war leading to genocide, rape, stealing and forcing children to fight as soldiers. In the US, gang violence, child abuse and pedophilia; In the Middle East, the suppression of women and their ultimate murder, often by a family member, and in Iraq the countless numbers of humans blowing themselves and innocent people up in the name of religion... unfortunately I could go on and on. I just don't understand where all these violent tendencies come from and how they continue to plague society. I appreciate the in-depth reporting that NPR provides and have hope that one day positive stories will outnumber the negative.

Sent by Tia Kuchik | 3:45 PM | 5-16-2008

I really doubt the Chinese would learn any important lesson from this tragedy. Chinese government and media are trying to transform the rescue as a show of China government's leadership and Chinese support to it. Up to now, the mainstream of opinions shown on Chinese Internet is also like this. I'm desperate for Chinese reflection ability.

Sent by convection | 3:52 PM | 5-16-2008

I think the Chinese authority let loose on foreign journalists in this case because this tragedy is an "act of God" so to speak. In other cases where any journalists, foreign or Chinese, got banned from reporting, are probably tragedies (for example the AIDS crises in He-Nan province) caused by man, or more specifically, caused and covered up by local authorities.

Sent by Paul | 3:54 PM | 5-16-2008

I am very sorry to read that they blocked all foreign journalists out of Beichuan. I am afraid it is only a decision by some local bureaucratic officials. As you see you haven't experienced any troubles in last few days.

For the torch relay, I think we should go on. This is the way to tell people we will not be defeated by a quake. The torch lights the future for us and the torch inspires people to be strong.

At the same time, we can also raise money along the route of torch relay to help people in suffering.

Sent by C. Liang | 3:54 PM | 5-16-2008

Two more cents about the blocking of foreign journalists. I, once again, don't like to see it happened. But it may reflect the continuing distrust of western media by some local officials. The distrust reaches the highest point two months ago about the report of the Tibetan issue. But anyway, there is a long way for both sides to understand each other.

Sent by C. Liang | 4:02 PM | 5-16-2008

The ruling party is not one entity, it is likely some fraction agreed with opening up journalism at this stressful time and the other side haven't got time to react?

Another possibility is that the government doesn't see the threat of western media anymore. In the past few months, the reports on Tibet and Olympic torch relay have turned many Chinese aganist western media. People no longer place high trust on western media and thus their report won't influence Chinese people a great deal anymore.

Anyway, if the current experience is positive, it is likely that they will allow more international journalists in the future. On any account, it is not a bad move.

Sent by aChineseInUS | 4:23 PM | 5-16-2008

i have no problems to kick out those foreign journalists from the scenes. we have a lot of life need to be saved, tremendous tasks ahead of us. we don't need those self-righteous snobs to be there. for us, it means life and death for a lot of chinese people, for them, it is just another great opportunity for the wealth of news information that can further their careers. just let them sit in bars, restaurants of chengdu, sip drinks and beers, talking about gossips, writing some fiction stories how bad the chinese government is. as long as we chinese rally together, we could overcome any disasters an challenges

Sent by ipfreak | 4:49 PM | 5-16-2008

To those who are "desperate for Chinese reflection ability," have you ever been to China and tried to get to know people from different segments of the society? Are you able to speak or read Chinese? How much do you know about Chinese culture and society? What's your stake when Chinese people prosper or suffer? Feel free to take whatever moral or intellectual high ground you want to take and label other people whatever way you like to.

I know too well what kind of knowledge you have about China thanks to the western news media, which I have read, listened to, and watched too much in my past 7 years in the US. Anyway, I still think NPR is the most trustworthy news agency in US. If ATC agrees too much with the Chinese media, they would also be labeled brainwashed. So NPR's coverage is already the best I can expect from western news media.

Sent by j.w. | 4:55 PM | 5-16-2008

"I really doubt the Chinese would learn any important lesson from this tragedy. Chinese government and media are trying to transform the rescue as a show of China government's leadership and Chinese support to it."

That is typical Western cynical, self-righteous, self-important, anti-Chinese, nothing-you-do-is-ever-good-enough-for-me, no-matter-what-I-am-better-than-you attitudes towards not only the Chinese government, but also the Chinese people and the Chinese culture. How utterly ugly it is to know that some Westerners reflect the whole devotion to rescue work as a "show"?!

As if it isn't in Chinese values and Chinese human natures to put priority on saving lives! As if whatever Chinese people and Chinese government do are for the purpose of pleasing Westerners?! How self-important that is! No wonder the Chinese netizens don't have good responses to the Westerners and the Western media.

Some Westerners need to get over their sense of superiority and the fact that they don't own cultural hegemony around the globe. They need to learn how to look at the rest of the world as equal human beings and apply absolutely the SAME standards when judging themselves and others.

Sent by Lucas Li | 5:03 PM | 5-16-2008

I noticed that many news Web sites in Chinese mentioned the serve shortage on antibiotics, germicides and other epidemics, and prevention supplies in any counties of Sichuan province. I am wondering what will be the best way to raise this awareness and help the Chinese Government to overcome those supplies shortages.

Sent by Lurker | 5:40 PM | 5-16-2008

convection, only negative response means "reflection ability" to you? Being a person with "reflection ability" -as you obviously assume-, does it ever occure to you that you can be wrong, outragesly wrong, just for this once? It doesn't matter how you want people to think and they don't have to behave in the way you expected to be "concious" and "free-thinking".

Sent by Leawood | 5:41 PM | 5-16-2008

My heart sank to the bottom of ocean from the very beginning when I read the news. It hurt me so deeply that I can't control my tears for days. Especially reading personal stories like the one Mellisa told.

What we can do from the other part of the globe is by donations. Human are so weak in from of mother nature.

I am a chinese. The things happened in 2008s, the storms in south part of china, the disruption of torch relay, and now the earthquake will reshape chinese, for good or for bad.

United we stand. We stand with our suffering brother and sisters.

http://i0.sinaimg.cn/dy/c/p/2008-05-17/U2494P1T1D15557244F21DT20080517023737.jpg

Be it propoganda, be it news controls, with all the doubts that somebody believe, my brother and sisters are doing all they can do to survive, to rescue. And I am so proud of them.

For the access controls to certain region, I didn't hear from other places but npr might go further into the mountain to over the whole stories which I pay highly respect to. Thanks. Because it's a "third line" region. A lot of factories like chinese version of GM and LochHeed-Martin were allocated there. I would understand if some areas were locked up after the earthquake.

To the torch relay, it should go on its track. the torch relay in China bear the new meaning to all chinese. We will not be defeated. we are one family. "One world, One dream". We still believe in one world, we still have dreams. I hope everybody have similiar concept will join us at this difficult time to fight for the trapped, the wounded, the displaced. Please do whatever you can to help my brothers and sisters. Thanks.

Sent by Nanji | 6:14 PM | 5-16-2008

"I noticed that many news Web sites in Chinese mentioned the serve shortage on antibiotics, germicides and other epidemics, and prevention supplies in any counties of Sichuan province. I am wondering what will be the best way to raise this awareness and help the Chinese Government to overcome those supplies shortages."

the real problem is how to get supplies there, the pouring rains, landslides and mudslides on the roads, the aftershocks. it is just extremely difficult to get to those locations by air, by land, by water.

Sent by ipfreak | 6:30 PM | 5-16-2008

There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from both Chinese citizens and foreigners living in China to try to help in anyway they can - from being walk-in volunteers to the Chinese Red Cross in Chengdu to spontaneously creating sites in apartment complexes to collect donations of supplies. The fact that the Chinese government has allowed coverage of this disaster has allowed Westerners to feel the human bond -- we all feel for parents grieving for their children, we all hope for more survivors to be discovered. We celebrate when someone is pulled alive from rubble after 72 hours with no food or water. In the past, because of media restrictions, we haven't had that link with China. We have it now and I don't care if it's clever leaders doing a good PR spin. Compare Bush during Hurricane Katrina with Premier Wen Jiabao. Bush wasn't there...Wen Jaibao was.

Lucas Li, we aren't self-righteous and anti-Chinese. Most of us are simply ignorant about China - it's either all mystical-kung-fu stuff or it's our governments' anti-Communist PR spin.

It's sad that it takes disasters to make us realize that we are all citizens of the same planet.

Sent by a westerner who's been to China | 7:07 PM | 5-16-2008

quote:" why? Why were foreign journalists being kicked out of less dangerous and remote areas?"

Think yourself!

Save some space and transportation for the rescue teams. The victims are in desparate need of rescuer and supplies, not anyone else that can't help.

Oh, btw, Beichuan is one of the most dangerous areas as it could be flooded and buried by water. All rescue team there are risking themselves to save more people.

Sent by Liang | 7:13 PM | 5-16-2008

As devastating as this earthquake is, there are hopes that China will come out of this tragedy better and stronger.

As Anthony and many others have alluded to, the openness and aggressiveness of the Chinese media on the earthquake are unprecedented since 1989. Just days after the earthquake, the Chinese media confronted senior ministers with tough questions such as: "Why did so many schools and hospitals but few government buildings collapsed?" There is even a column in Guangdong's official Nanfang Daily that questions the effectiveness of sending soldiers without properly equipped and whether the TV cameras that parade party leaders may have hindered rescue efforts.

The message that Premier Wen Jiabao have consistently stressed during his tour is: Human life is precious and we will spare no efforts to save lives. Such messages resonate more with the Chinese people than abstract human right concepts.

Hopefully, this tragedy will make the Chinese people and leadership reflect on their priorities and make China a better society.

Sent by Mike | 7:19 PM | 5-16-2008

Good questions, Anthony! To believe that the Chinese authority can change overnight would be crazy, but certainly it has to gradually adjust to the changes brought by the society. For anyone who is hoping for an open and democratic China, be optimistic, and most importantly, patient.

Sent by jh | 8:13 PM | 5-16-2008

Anthony, the "noted Chinese scholars" nowadays are so marginalized that even the mentioning of their names will bring sarcasm in many web-based forums.

Even though, in this case, many Chinese tend to agree with them.

Sent by hakey | 8:27 PM | 5-16-2008

Please note, as I know Beichuan has no food and water supply now, thoursands people died that can make infection happen. Chinese government not only block foreign journalist, but also block everybody go in that area except the rescue worker.

Sent by Andy | 8:30 PM | 5-16-2008

To be honest, this time I think Chinese government has done good enough to rescue people in this big tragedy. Immediately after the earthquake, highest level of national leader prime minister JIABAO went to the core disaster area and then comes State President JINTAO HU. At the meantime, Chin sent tens of thousands of their crack troops, activated their most powerful air force, the whole society is providing help in their best effort (manpower, resource, money) from common people to rich man. There is no government in the word that can do everything that is recognized by every people especially in such huge and severe tragedy. The most important thing under this kind of circumstance is the powerful and effective order and well coordinated rescue effort. Just take a look at what U.S government did in Hurricane Katrina, do we have any reason to blame Chinese government?

I don't know why so many people here is blaming Chinese government for blocking foreign journalists. The government does need to spend manpower to rescue the life but not taking care of foreign journalists. And foreign media need to rebuild their trust from Chinese government and people which is lost due to the biased report in last one or two months made by CNN and some other medias.

Let's focus on the real urgent and most important things, which is how we can provide our own effort to relief people's pain suffered from this tragedy.

Please do remember, as of today, the disaster has killed more than 21,500 people and injured 159,000. The death toll could rise above 50,000. 27,560 people have been rescued, but 14,000 are still buried under and 8,000 are still missing. More than 487,200 people are homeless.

Sent by KAN ZHANG | 8:52 PM | 5-16-2008

To the Chinese posters angry about Western media...

It seems that you guys are angry to have learned that Western media is biased. Well, you have finally learned what most of us have known all along: all media is biased in some way.

This is not to say that all journalists have malevolent intentions when they report, but the truth is that every reporter, regardless of which organization or government he or she works for, brings his or her own bias every time they approach a story. It cannot be helped.

We in the West don't rail on China's media all the time for its anti-Western tone. Of course, that's mostly because we don't watch it. But it's also because we know China's media is state-controlled. We are never surprised by its lack of objectivity.

In the US, most media are controlled by big corporations. Just follow the money trail. They sell advertising, and their advertisers pay media to bring them listeners/viewers. And listeners/viewers want news that's exciting and sensational. (Just one viewing of Xinwen Lianbo is enough to convince you that the Chinese media aren't trying to attract viewers.)

NPR, on the other hand, relies on support from its listeners, who, according to demographic statistics are more highly educated than the average American. This is perhaps one of the reasons you may find it to be at least a little more objective.

Still, don't be so critical of Melissa Block (those of you who are) without first realizing that she's a human too, and she's experiencing everything she sees first hand. Don't be surprised that she sees things through American eyes. She's an American for God's sake!

Now that you understand that the vast majority of Americans are every bit as ignorant as the vast majority of Chinese, what will you do with this information? Will you use it to start fights or build bridges?

Sent by Realist | 9:24 PM | 5-16-2008

"I really doubt the Chinese would learn any important lesson from this tragedy. Chinese government and media are trying to transform the rescue as a show of China government's leadership and Chinese support to it. Up to now, the mainstream of opinions shown on Chinese Internet is also like this. I'm desperate for Chinese reflection ability"

I want to raise you some questions since you are thinking as above:
1,can you give a better solution within such a short time for Media broadcast?do you want Chinese govenmment to hide the situation from billions of it's worrying people who is not able to go to the diaster zone?
2 Do you know what is strategy? In this tragic situation,what do you want from the Media? Do you want all of the worst pictures? Do you believe in spirit strengh? I think the chinese media(especially CCTV-1) is doing very well:with a comprehensive coverage of latest news from the epicenter,tragic situations,rescue situations...
you are desperate since you have prejudice on China generated by your limitted knowledge of China...

Sent by shueixian | 9:24 PM | 5-16-2008

"I think the Chinese authority let loose on foreign journalists in this case because this tragedy is an "act of God" so to speak. In other cases where any journalists, foreign or Chinese, got banned from reporting, are probably tragedies (for example the AIDS crises in He-Nan province) caused by man, or more specifically, caused and covered up by local authorities."

http://news.sina.com.cn/z/sdxintaimine/index.shtml

Here is a list of man-made mining disasters which reported by mainland Chinese media date back to 2004.

Henan Aids
http://news.sina.com.cn/c/2004-02-23/14091876624s.shtml
http://news.sina.com.cn/z/henanaids/index.shtml

I am not saying Chinese gov did a good job to handle these disasters. But don't you think its a step in the right direction? Rome wasn't build in a day, neither was democracy. Would you prefer a China that was isolated and under a leader like Mao decades ago or today's China?

Sent by PeaceProsperityFreedom | 9:43 PM | 5-16-2008

Thanks for all your hard work and the valuable first-hand accounts that put a personal perspective to all the numbers. Melissa's story made me cry a lot. For those of you who are keen to get more information on the tragedy and progress of rescue work, http://english.sina.com/z/080512sichuanquake/index.shtml is a good source. With constant threat of aftershocks and landslides, it is a very complicated and daunting race against time.

Chinese government has never been good at explaining the details, a skill they need to learn, although I do believe that any blockage from any of the quake affected areas is due to dangers on roads or other rescue priorities. Try not to second guess something when there might be nothing to guess about. Stay focused and let's get more stories back home.

Stay safe please.

Sent by Echo from Australia | 12:01 AM | 5-17-2008

Here are some pictures of the students from BeiChuan High, taken the day before the earthquake.

http://blog.tianya.cn/blogger/post_show.asp?BlogID=39238&PostID=13872184&idWriter=0&Key=0

Let us spend a moment, stop the questioning and remember these kids' smile.

Sent by TL | 12:10 AM | 5-17-2008

Wait a second. Are we all reading the same article? I read so many complains about "foreign journalists being kicked out", while I thought the article itself basically marveled at the "freer reign", at least in Beichuan. I agree that western media had a lousy record in understanding Chinese culture and people (it is a bigger issue than just the media). I also sense some high-strung sensitivities among some readers. Shall we all learn to give others the benefit-of-doubt in accepting their decency and good intention (of course not the Jack Cafferty type)? Obviously, everyone writing and reading these stories all cares deeply about the victims and the Chinese people.

I commend and thank NPR/ATC for your professionalism and dedication in reporting the horrendous tragedy under the very difficult situation.

Sent by Someone who has spent equal amount of time in China and in the U.S. | 12:39 AM | 5-17-2008

CNN's John Vaush was definitely in Beichuan two days ago. Check videos on CNN.

Sent by Kevin | 1:15 AM | 5-17-2008

I'm desperate for Chinese reflection ability.

Sent by convection | 3:52 PM ET | 05-16-2008
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convection, I assume you will be eternally relieved instead of "desperate" if Chinese people blame their government for the earthquake, right?

Sent by hakey | 2:55 AM | 5-17-2008

"Is this a one-off phenomenon, or will this prove to be a watershed in the development of Chinese civil society?"

When a country is poor, its citizens need to find food for themselves first, so there is no way to show charity. Can't give away a tent when you don't have one. The outpour of support by Chinese citizens to help their comrades have more to do with China's economic progress.

I would say the innate ability of Chinese for compassion for others is the same as that of any other human being on this planet.

Sent by www.thechinesecentury.org | 3:13 AM | 5-17-2008

"How will this event affect Chinese people's priorities and values?"

Well, considering the Chinese government's performance so far, it is very likely that the Chinese people will rally around the Hu&Wen administration and scorn the western media.

Surprisingly, the American media (NPR being one) have been much less biased, and showed much more humanity, in reporting this tragedy than their European counterparts. The European media (The Economist being an exception) demonstrated an astonishing degree of ignorance and lack of human decency. For example, the Guardian's prominent op-ed piece about the earthquake has the mocking title of "Shaken and Stirred". The London Times, after the Chinese military spared precious helicopter sorties to airlift English "environmental tourists" into safey, ran an editorial calling Premier Wen a face for the "dictatorship". While Chinese troops risking their lifes to pull German tourists out of the rubbles, the chief of the German Der Spiegel sits in his comfy chair in Shanghai churning our a serials of articles suggesting this tragedy is nothing but a big propaganda show.

Thanks NPR. Thanks America. Thank you for, unlike the "liberal" Europeans, still having the basic humanity.

Sent by oiasunset | 3:13 AM | 5-17-2008

I am not sure if I appreciate the openness of Chinese government in handling this disaster completely.
On one hand, it gives me, an oversea Chinese, a chance to understand the real situation in Sichuan. But on the other hand, I find myself deeply disturbed by some photos uploaded online by both media and amateurs in and outside China.
And as time goes by, I've encountered unexpectedly more and more disturbing ones. no warning or guidance to readers.
I really think it's not respectful to those deceased and their families, and it's just not right to post those photos without proper moderation.
Please be considerate, and don't abuse the "just-recently-granted" freedom.

Sent by jiajia h. | 4:27 AM | 5-17-2008

I think the post says there are a lot of foreign journalists in Beichuan. They were not kicked out.

Sent by CLC | 7:42 AM | 5-17-2008

I wonder how we would respond when we; in need of basic food stuffs, water, shelter, and clothing read about a journalist's frustration about his/her inability to access and report on certain areas of a country that is not theirs? The question arises is he/she concerned about the plight of the people, their grief, their loss, their lives, or their ability to report> Yes it is a job but I would be more impressed with a story about how they dropped their 'pen' (recorder) as they assisted in the extrication of of a trapped individual, assisted in carrying someone to a relief tent, or used their communication device to help locate a loved one. I know this will not get read on NPR but I wish we would focus less on our personal ability or inability, which appears to be one's self-aggrandizement, and more on what one can do to help in a horrific situation. I believe a relative who is safe and who is in the area would agree.

Sent by Steven Kengeter | 9:25 AM | 5-17-2008

The openness is a shrewd move by the Chinese authorities and is an effective counterweight to the bad press it has recently received on the Tibet riots and protests of the foreign Olympic torch run that Tibet has generated. It also is a fine contrast to the callous nature of their fellow autocratic regime to the south in Burma. On the plus side also is that the publicity might result in an aggrandizement of China's already robust foreign exchange balance.

After those snarky comments, I want to reiterate my deepest sympathy for the people affected by this quake. Except for the damage to peoples hearts from personal loss, I'm certain that the smart, hardworking people of China will soon recover. It is also my deepest hope that the Chinese government finds the opening to freer news coverage a hard tap to shut once it has been opened.

Sent by Ed | 9:46 AM | 5-17-2008

Thank you for your earnest reports. I flew out of Shanghai on May 9th after vacationing there for the first time. I was quite taken with China and her people, and now I greive with her citizens over this crisis. Your reports via radio and blog have kept me connected to the people and thier stories. Thanks agian and stay safe.

Sent by gypsyprose | 10:51 AM | 5-17-2008

Ed, well done on your speculative comments on the Chinese government's motive. You are following the "party-line" of the Western bias quite well.

Sent by Steve | 11:57 AM | 5-17-2008

Beichuan, at least part of it, is currently in the process of evacuation. Two lakes formed by landslides caused by the quake can burst at any time and thousands can be flooded.

Sent by Michael X. Li | 12:30 PM | 5-17-2008

I have heard often the word 'military police' in your report. It is possible you mean 'armed police'? It is a paramilitary unit, equivalent to maybe somewhere between the police and the national guard in the US. 'Military police' evokes different imaginations about the scene. As you probably have seen, so far there is no looting & shooting, and hence no need for heavily armed military police to patrol the street. On that note, I'd like to see some in-depth report and analysis on the cultural aspect of the (relative) calmness, since you are focusing on China now.

Sent by JJ | 12:44 PM | 5-17-2008

To " To those who are "desperate for Chinese reflection ability," , I'm a mainland chinese, and I said what I'm thinking.
To others comments on mine, no further comments.

Sent by convection | 12:46 PM | 5-17-2008

As a Chinese American citizen and a former Peace Corps China Volunteer (1995-1997), it is heart breaking to see the city where I was posted, MianYang destroyed. It was more disturbing to see rescue teams unable to reach the most remote areas to save those most vulnerable. Like most natural disasters, it is always the poorest that suffer the most. My only hope is that the Chinese government will allow more foreign rescue and relief operations in to rebuild Sichuan. The Sichuan people deserve so much more.

Sent by Michelle Eng-Bendik | 2:58 PM | 5-17-2008

Although I am a Taiwanese citizen living in the States, I have been so moved by how quick the government in China response to such a devastating natural disaster and the openness to the world. The idea of saving lives is clearly the highest priority than everything else. I am also moved by the so many spontaneous volunteers appears on so many web site in China. It seems the quake has brought the hearts of all Chinese around the world together in helping the quake hit area. I could not help my eyes with tears everytime I read your story from the quake.

Sent by Rey Hsu | 3:00 PM | 5-17-2008

It wasn't clear--could be that I haven't followed this thread fully--that foreign media were banned from disaster areas earlier or at other part of the country (I did read various parts of the blog, I haven't come across with the notion that they were blocked anywhere while covering the story here). In any case, it is heading to the right direction. Understand there were mistrust from both sides--the Chinese government, and to a certain extent, the general Chinese public, were often leery of the largely negative portrayal by the western media, especially during the Olympic torch relay; the journalists from the western media, on the other hand, were often frustrated by the restrictions placed on them while covering the news in China, and are rightfully suspicious of the loose reign suddenly bestowed to them. Hopefully this is not a one time thing, and that the government in China is learning how to deal with the media, whether foreign or domestic. The general impression I am getting is that they are learning and are moving towards an open door policy. China is playing a progressively important role in the world stage and is under global and international scrutiny. I sincerely hope that this natural disaster, albeit tragic, and the forthcoming Olympic games in Beijing would give both sides a chance to shed much of these mutual distrust and move toward a better understanding of each other.
--A Chinese immigrant living in the US.

Sent by Winston | 7:20 PM | 5-17-2008

On a personal level, NPR has done excellent reporting. However, I started to doubt about how worldly NPR is. Starting from the comments of "Chengdu, a city that nobody has heard of" to "the angry mob and police" to the rescue effort "not very high tech" since no helicopters were not in the scene, etc. Your readers have explained the background and cultural difference for the first two. There are reasons for "not very high tech". The quake zone is a treacherous mountainous area. The word "chun" means mountain. There is a Chinese saying, the roads of shu (the old name for Sichun) are so treacherous; they are even more difficult than that leading to the sky. I thought as a report, learning the background of the place of investigation is part of the homework. For once, I think CNN is doing a better job.

Sent by Helen | 11:48 PM | 5-17-2008

To me the changes in the Chinese media have been gradual and steady. I have noticed changes for many years, first in social news, then critical news directed against local officials. Restrictions are fewer and fewer and people can basically discuss openly about everything except too sensitive political issues like one-party rule. I cheer for Chinese leaders, who are super capable and efficient.

I think the quake disaster just provides a good chance for foreigners to notice the gradual change.

Compared with a stupid Time magazine reporter -- Mr. Simon Elegant, who mentioned that "national disasters have been viewed as both portents of change and tests of government's 'mandate of heaven', NPR has done a great job. Mr. Elegant failed to make a distinction between history and current affairs and put the quake in the wrong context. Few Chinese would link the disaster with the test of the government, let alone last year's snow storm. Sometimes I suspect probably it is Time's editiorial policy
to bash China.

Sent by a graduate student in washington | 12:40 AM | 5-18-2008

"I really doubt the Chinese would learn any important lesson from this tragedy." and you say you are a mainland Chinese are you Convection? Please speak for yourself, Im a Chinese too, who you think you are speaking on behalf and of the majority of Chinese around the world. Almost everyone wants nothing but to show their kindness, love and sympathy. It is obvious you are the one who have not learnt the basic rules of human decency.

Sent by K.Z | 6:26 AM | 5-18-2008

How will this effect the Chinese goverment and people in the long run? Probably about as much as 911 and Katrina did the US. After an initial outpouring of aid and sympathy (the rest of the US actually liked NYers for 15 minutes - and I live in NY so I know) it's back to business as usual. In terms of government disaster response this is a pot calling the kettle black situation for the US.
Regardless of the Chinese government's motives, access for journalists etc., the important focus is the human tragedy in Sichuan and surrounding areas. Thousands have died, more are injured, millions are homeless. The government and private people are trying their best to bring aid, but it's messy and complex - what do you expect?
I don't pretend to have an in depth knowledge of China (but I'm trying hard) since we have only visted twice - to adopt our daughters. We found an interest in the world and open spirit in the many people we met. My heart breaks for the victims of this terrible tragedy. Remember the children.

Sent by Jennifer W mother to two daughters of China | 7:22 AM | 5-18-2008

The perspectives and positions can change so dramatically in crisis situations. The counter arguments of China's roll in the 2008 Olympics... NPR's correspondents going to Chengdu to report on the modern China and almost becoming the story themselves... As Robert Siegal stated earlier this week "we are more a like than we are differed". I am almost overwhelmed at the magnitude of the tragedy. And not only with China but Myanmar's junta's inabilities to come to grips with its responsibility to care for its citizens. Clearly the 21st century is being defined morally and economically. Humanities' position is perilous on this good earth.

Sent by michael | 3:45 PM | 5-18-2008

Though I highly commend the great job by the reporters of NPR, I would like to see more understanding of the situation as well as appreciation of the background. Many times it's the lack of knowledge and understanding that leads to biased report, the most recent example being the notoriously distorted reports on Tibet riot and completely one-sided story about Tibet spread by the Western media, which is thorougly out of touch of the 1.3 billion Chinese people and caused a strong backlash against the Western media.

Sent by Ray | 2:16 AM | 5-19-2008

This is the first report that I read so far from western media and Chinese media that "Third Line" had been mentioned. I know Mianyang and surrinding areas has a lot of these "Third Line" factories, but no reports about the situations they faces.

Sent by Sherry | 12:55 PM | 5-19-2008

Melissa and crew, thank you very much for your hard work. I really appreciate the report of yours, and in general, NPR. I am a Chinese, living in US. Yes, western media is biased and so is Chinese media (probably much more). The reality is that western media is also biased in western matters; look at the report before Iraq war. However, westerners know the media is biased because they live here. On the other hand, they can only look at these media for information about other countries in the world. Many people I met still ask me whether we have arranged marriage in China (of course not). It is the lack of knowledge and understanding that cause the distrust and even hostility.

Lucas Li, thanks for your keen comments.

Sent by X. Liu | 3:37 PM | 5-19-2008

A comment on media bias. I agree with Realist on that all media is biased in some way. But I do think there is not much "anti-west" tone in Chinese media, at least far less than the "anti-China" tone in Western media. As a Chinese who's lived in North America for 10 years, my impression is that the coverage on domestic issues in the West is good, you can find different views on a certain issue, not like in China, it's one voice most of the time. However, the reports on China in the US is much more biased and hostile than the reports on US in China. I had similar experience with previous poster X. Liu. I was shocked when I first came to the US when people said things like "You have microwaves in China?", "You can have religion in China?", even "You have soysauce in China?"

Sent by Yun | 10:52 AM | 5-20-2008

How will this affect the Chinese government and people in the long run?

I am a Taiwan Chinese living in US, here are some my observations:

1. In a party late last year, I heard a Chinese Consular joke about the US policy for fingerprinting foreign visitors. At that time, the mood was open, and more openness in the future. Yet last month, Chinese visa policy was tightened without any warning, thanks to the eye-catching Olympic protests all over the world. I hope China can get out of this fast and will not be like the post 9/11 United States.

2. On future press freedom, I am sure there will be a closing down later. Just hope it's three steps forward followed by two steps backward.

3. One big change might be the relationship between Taiwan and mainland. People in Taiwan donated big money for victims - only next to Chinese government spending. The effort, lead by newly elected President Ma and the First Lady, was broadcasted live to China. I am sure politicians will continue to fight for whatever symbols they pretend to protect and to buy and sell weapons, but people's hear are the base for all peace and human survival.

Sent by H Fu | 12:31 PM | 5-20-2008

Last big earthquake 1976 brought the begining of the Change for Good in China, I am sure this one too will bring Good Change for China. China will recover as always no matter what. Yes Olympic torch should go to the schools were the bulidings were collapsed, let the students there run the rely and I am sure they(including the dead) would be very happy since they are having a such Olympic fever there. Let Olympics presents them a big check to build better schools since they have been collecting all the way there.
The truth is that even though West is media free, but most people including leaders are also free to choose what they want to listen, care or belive. They even make up stories as all people do to get whatever they want. That is why the West is so divided by individual wealth, by race and even within the groups. It is up to yourself to fight for yourself. China is been forced into this fight, it is ugly beacuse there will be a lot of losers. And some of the losers will fight back even mean self or total destructions.

Sent by Mary | 12:50 PM | 5-23-2008

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