Friday, 30 May 2008


Tribulations only serve to revitalize a great nation 2008-05-30

[picture: Premier Wen in a temporary classroom in SW Sichuan]

Special report: Reconstruction After Earthquake

by Xinhua writers Ni Siyi and Lu Chuanzhong

·Chinese government fulfilled with actions its pledge of "putting people first."

·President Hu yelled out that "No hardship will daunt the heroic Chinese people!"
·Premier Wen wrote that "Trials and tribulations only serve to revitalize a great nation."

BEIJING, May 30 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese nation was almost
caught off-guard by the 8.0-magnitude earthquake in Sichuan
Province earlier this month. As a result, an estimated
80,000 people perished in just a few minutes, and another
15 million lost their homes.

For a nation that has enjoyed three decades of economic
boom in peace and stability -- man-made or natural
disasters over the years sound too petty if compared -- the
sudden tragedy was just too much for every one to take.

Still, in the abyss of grief, the country moves into
reconstruction of the quake-hit regions. It is also high
time for the nation to ponder why the loss could be so huge
and what should be done to prepare for the possibility of
another of this kind awaiting us in future?

In fact, natural disasters of this size have never been
foreign for each generation of Chinese, whose national
terrestrial territory covers 9.6 million square kilometers,
let alone the fact that much of its land sits on a
quake-prone belt.

Maybe, because the people have been longing for stability
so much and too cautious against arousing disturbance after
many years of chaos and disorder, there had been few such
warnings before the quake that the worst of Mother Nature
could occur -- people were just inadequately prepared.

The nation should start from now to realize that its future
should not be built merely on GDP figures, but on its
readiness toward off the worst odds of all natural and
human factors.

Economists and other scholars have suggested disaster
prevention and relief be integrated into the national
economic and social development plan, and added into troop
training and school courses so as to minimize the damage
once disaster occurs.

The quake also helped enhance people's awareness of the
risks of natural disasters, making officials and builders
realize that projects should never be done cursorily;
otherwise they will face legal responsibility even if they
luckily escaped collapsed buildings they erected.

The central leadership has noticed the quality of
structures falling in the quake, especially vulnerable
school buildings that killed hundreds and thousands of
children who were having classes at the time of the quake.

He Guoqiang, China's top anti-graft official and member of
the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the
Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, urged for an
"upgraded quake-resistance standard" and "quality first" in
rebuilding quake-damaged schools when he visited the

Faced with strong protests from parents and public queries,
the Education Ministry and local governments have promised
to evaluate the construction quality of collapsed school
buildings and "severely punish those responsible if
problems were found."


With tens of thousands of lives lost, the quake proved too
dear a cost for the Chinese people. But if there is
anything the Chinese could gain from it, it's the bountiful
lessons both the government and the people have learned and
the experiences they have had.

Fourteen minutes after the quake struck, the military sent
out the first rescue team; within two hours Premier Wen
Jiabao was on a plane to the epicenter. The relief
headquarter was set up in the same evening in Dujiangyan,
one of the worst-hit cities in Sichuan.

Meanwhile, Chinese media rolled out around-the-clock and
nearly-live coverage of the disaster and the rescue work;
the whole of society was mobilized.

Chen Guangbiao, a private business board chairman from the
eastern Jiangsu Province, heading a team of 120 people and
60 excavators, rushed to the quake areas after an arduous
48-hour journey to help with the rescue work, side by side
with the military.

Military helicopters, field hospitals, satellite images,
air-lifting and air-dropping, scenes reminiscent of those
seen only in Hollywood blockbusters, now appeared in
China's TV news reporting, showing in a way the
effectiveness of the country's national mobilization
mechanism and also the economic and social prowess it has
gathered in the past 30 years.

Meanwhile, the Chinese people also saw on TV that President
Hu Jintao and Premier Wen braved aftershocks to direct
relief work and console victims in the quake areas;
military troops scrambled to rescue lives in the debris at
any cost.

"Saving lives is the top priority," that's what the
government said and most importantly, what it did.

Many Chinese, including quake survivors, said they were
"proud of the government" when speaking to foreign and
domestic reporters.

Sharing the public sentiment, a young man surnamed Yuan
from Ya'an, one of the worst-hit cities, said he was "moved
by and proud of" his city government, which not only tried
hard to rescuelocals, but managed to help other quake areas
without any sign of red tape and local protectionism which
used to be common.

After the quake, the Chinese government fulfilled with
actions its pledge of "putting people first," something it
had advocated so hard, and beefed up the governing ideology
of openness and transparency. Officials saw this time the
surging of a civil society, found the norm of their actions
and the value of their very existence.

The general public also found the traditional values shine
again, such as courage, resolution, reason and sympathy,
which had once paled in people's mind when they were in
pursuit of economic benefits.

China's spoiled younger generation, called the
"post-1980s," grew up almost overnight after the quake,
becoming a major force of the volunteers in the rescue and
relief work.

A young man in Chengdu wrote to a magazine: "Before this
incident, I had no confidence in humanity at all. Now, I
found they are still there, and very strong in everybody's
mind. The Chinese nation has a strong cohesive power."


President Hu may be a mild-speaking person in many people's
eyes, but he was seen on TV yelling out to a group of
relief soldiers that "No hardship will daunt the heroic
Chinese people!" Premier Wen also wrote on a blackboard in
a quake-hit school that "Trials and tribulations only serve
to revitalize a great nation."

They are not merely words of encouragement, but also a law
testified by history time and again.

Starting from the Opium War in 1840, China's modern history
was virtually one of foreign invasions and famine. The
Chinese, including rival warlords, consolidated their
ground and drove invaders away in the end.

After New China was founded in 1949, the Chinese people,
who had undergone a century of humiliation, cherished their
independence and territorial integrity so much that they
were always ready to safeguard them at any cost, including
giving their lives.

Some 20 years later, havoc was again wreaked on their lives
by a human disaster, the 10-year Cultural Revolution
(1966-1976), which brought their country onto the verge of
a breakdown. But it was also the retrogress and chaos that
prompted the Chinese to work harder in the next three
decades to build their nation into the world's fourth
largest economy.

The rise of a great nation has never been smooth. However,
the gains and losses from every disaster it experienced and
every mistake it made, will all be cauterized into the
nation's historic memory and to nourish it into further

The Sichuan earthquake, this time, given its great loss and
vast social impact, will not only serve as a turning point
on how the Chinese will build their infrastructure, but
also on how they see themselves and how to run the country.

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