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Death Tolls and Press Controls on Quake's Anniversary

A year after the horrible earthquake in Sichuan province, China released statistics that said 5,335 school-aged children died in the quake. Many of them died in shoddily-built schools. About 70,000 people altogether died in the quake. Parents of the dead children have lobbied the government for reparations and to punish corrupt officials who built the lousy schools.

Covering the quake's aftermath isn't easy. Here's an example from the Financial Times.

China's attitude toward the press from the moment the earthquake hit until now has been fascinating, as long as you're not a reporter getting punched in the mug. In the beginning there was unprecedented freedom to report. Then the tightening began. The below is from an illuminating report on China's attitude toward the press during the quake:

News openness in the early stages of the earthquake relief effort was something to which we all bore witness. Controls were relaxed even on the issue of school collapse in the very early stages, and we saw party media like Xinhua News Agency and People's Daily Online jumping into the fray. Early on, Chinese authorities also indicated that there would certainly be investigations into problems in school construction.

The environment steadily tightened, however, and there were three principal reasons for this. First and foremost, news reports on school collapses were implicating more and more officials. Many officials who previously served in areas impacted by the quake had now moved on to higher positions in the official hierarchy. In one of the more outstanding examples, Sichuan's provincial propaganda chief, the very man whose responsibility it was to control media in the quake region, had served previously as the party secretary of Dujiangyan.

Former Sichuan officials were also now serving within the central party leadership in Beijing. [Eds. note: Zhou Yongkang, a Politburo member and China's top law enforcement official, was Sichuan's party secretary when most of the school's were built.] News reports touching on official negligence were clearly disadvantageous to their "political survival." And so the tangled fabric of power within the vast bureaucracy quickly knotted together in a recognition of mutual interests, and this force worked against the resolve at the center to get behind the problem of school collapses.

Secondly, the collapse of schools in the quake zone quickly set off a massive grassroots rights defense movement. And thirdly, the school collapse issue touched on even deeper and more sensitive nerves -- the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games and China's international reputation. A top Sichuan education official, Lin Qiang, even resigned his role as an Olympic torch bearer, saying in an interview with Southern Weekend on May 23, 2008, that "the truth is more important than glory."

In the official response to reporting on the Sichuan earthquake, we also saw signs of emerging changes to media control and censorship in China, what we have called at the China Media Project "Control 2.0." It is fair to say that media controls in mainland China have never slackened, but "control" has undergone many changes, not just in methods and tactics but also in the standards applied to control -- What should be controlled and what not? What should be controlled more strictly? What areas can be loosened?

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Comments (51)

Chan1 Author Profile Page:

In case anyone is interested, I've just published a follow-on article of my earlier article regarding the quake. You can go to the site and then click on the "Follow-on Article " tab on top of the page.


There is also a couple of very interesting comments on that site from an American who was in Sichuan during the quake giving his own personal experience of the quake.

Worth a read.

Observer88 Author Profile Page:

Very funny...um, I'm certainly (and obviously) not luring anyone to kill anyone. Just saying that unfortunately, force is usually how these things get sorted out.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

To Observe,

You can lure Chinese to kill each other, it is too evil. it's like lure native Indians to shoot white American people!

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

To farklol,

You still don't get it. Go look at the world map.
Does Tibet belong to China? Yes.

Then, the local have no rights to decide a part of land they dwell on, only all Chinese, yes any group of people can protest, but it does not mean they will win.

Democracy is decide by whole nation, not a group of people.

Like your house, everyone has part in it. So every must agree, or decide by vote of all account of family member.

Like in Ancient Greek, all people must vote to fight war, then they will march out, not a few who hold sign for years that decide.

Not even Buddha god Dalai can decide, that is thing you have to understand.

As early I say, any part of China is decided by ALL Chinese people, not only the people in HK, or in Taiwan, or in Tibet, or even in Beijing.

Please remember this!

And please don't play political game with me, I was born politically.

Have you seen American Idol? Good show!

But it is not the local city's vote decide who is the idol, but only voted by All Americans!

Observer88 Author Profile Page:

Farklol - it's an interesting question you raise. My opinion is no, China should not give up any land that it currently is governing. But it's not a simple topic because there are no simple rules to apply to it. Should land be taken away from someone who took the land by force? By those rules, most land on Earth would have to be given up to someone else, since most land at one point or another in human history was taken from someone else who wanted those resources.

And yet, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, most people believed it was an inappropriate land grab that should be reversed. When Germany invaded a whole host of European countries, most agreed it was wrong and that the land should be given up. But most questions of land and who it rightfully belongs to are gray areas, not simple black and white questions.

I do think Tibet is different than Taiwan, and Manchuria is different than Xinjiang, but in the end, the recognized borders of the current PRC have existed for so long, that it's better to focus on meeting the needs and aspirations of the people within those borders, then to give up your sovereign rights over that territory, whether or not it was fairly taken. Is any land ever fairly taken?

Taiwan is an interesting question though. In the same way that I agree that Tibet should remain part of the PRC because so much time has passed, what does that say about Taiwan? Taiwan has had its own sovereign government, which has operated independent of the mainland for over 50 years. Historically, the island was full of Taiwanese aborigines, occupied by the Dutch, and later occupied by the Japanese after the Qing dynasty apparently renounced any sovereignty over the island. One thing is for sure, the government of the PRC, has never governed over Taiwan. On the other hand, the island today is full of people who speak the Chinese language and have a common, albeit not identical, history with that of the PRC. But the U.S. has that common history with England, and much of South America has a common history with both Spain and Portugal. Does that mean England, Spain and Portugal have a right to the Americas?

All this goes to show that there is no one size fits all rule to the question of when territory should be returned to its previous inhabitants. International law questions aside, realistically I think it all comes down to the question of how fiercely independent the people in those areas want to be, and whether they're willing to fight for it, and whether the country wishing to fight for it ultimately thinks the political, economic, and human costs are worth it.

farklol Author Profile Page:


But what if, in this hypothetical democratic China, the Tibetans and Uighurs and Mongolians say "Okay China, you have your freedom and rights now. We will use ours to demand to be separate from you and take our lands back." What then?

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

To Dear thmak,

---To GeneralYuefie: There are all kinds of personnel probelms in the work place. Yours is just one. After all it is the boss and his managers to run the workplace according to their style,not you.---

I know, but when you run a house, a corp, a nation, your responsibility is the same, listen to others, let other speak out, it does not mean they are right, or you are wrong. Simply exchange ideas.

Many people don't understand, employee and employer are both bosses, why?

the employer has right to choose, also the employee has his right to choose too.

it is negotiation, not military policy.

The boss pays, but it is the employees working for the company income.

Same thing as nation, what a leader can do without his people refuse to work, so he must listen and negotiate with them.

If in Chinese concept, leaders are servant of people, then why they won't allow their master to speak against them?

Who are the slave, who are the masters really?

Even Su Shi hated and fired his assistant that guy had no personal opinion for 1 month.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

But now, CCP China is one man decide.

I am afraid Hu maybe one day gets drunk, and gift Tibet to Dalai, or want to show how generous he is, write off all the US Debts for exchange of some Elvis collectible CDs.

It might happen.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

To farklol,

I am not sure 1.4B Chinese would vote their land off.
Just Like America, would Americans vote to return Hawaii? Alaska? Puerto Rico? And some of the Land of Indian that Government ate in 1800 and 1900 century?

I am not hopeful for it.

farklol Author Profile Page:


When China becomes a democracy, should it also give up its claims to Tibet, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Hong Kong, Macao, and Manchuria as well?

thmak Author Profile Page:

To GeneralYuefie: There are all kinds of personnel probelms in the work place. Yours is just one. After all it is the boss and his managers to run the workplace according to their style,not you. I hope you can be a boss somedays. Remind you that there are no freedom of this and that. It there are, they are all regulated by laws, written or unwritten or interpreted by some person in power.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

Actually The Chinese type of Democracy concept was first introduced to Chinese thru a classic novel:
Outlaw of Marsh by Shi Nai An

Those bandits were pressed by the corrupt government and uprising against government, and their principal was to help people the poor and against officials the rich.

The leader of bandit was voted by all 108 brothers, Song Jiang.

And that time the Emperor was so afraid, he banned the book, and people loved it, so it was still secretly spreading, and emperor arranged another novel call Clear the Bandits.

However people did want to read it, and eventually, later emperors were smart, got some writers to add on more chapters that starts with bandits want to surrender to the emperor and they were to serve the government.

The original 70 chptr are Chinese Democracy, Mao even loved it, used to often when he needed to call people to uprise.

I suggest some should go back to read it.

The struggle of democracy and one-man rule already been fought for over 500 years on this novel.

Now, most people read the 120 chpt, only a few could find out it is only 70 chptr, that the novel ends that all bandits joined together and voted a democratic leader.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

One example:

I used to work in one of company in US, that ran by all Chinese, the president made a decision to me I thought was unfair to me, I wrote a 100 character letter to him, I put on his office desk, so he could read. But two managers under him, turned my letter back to me, they thought it was not respectful for me to write to him a private letter, and they told me not to write, if I did it I should quit.(They even took away my basic rights to write a peaceful letter!!!)

They are all holding American passport, don't they live like slave?

It was just like work in China, when you work in that kind of environment.

Don't point out your leader's fault, if you don't like it, you may quit, or immigrate to America.

That is reason, I say Chinese culture, Chinese people help each other to make their leader a master, so their people slave.

That was moment I realized that is why that only Chinese company can produce poison milk that 2000 workers, no one said about anything, until babies died!!!

That is reason only China produce Mao, and CCP!!!

In America, American people are the boss; president serves them, they can be fooled, but when they find it out, they can fire him.

What about China?

My family would lock me if I go protest or speak disgreeable to any boss, for they are afraid I sit in Jail or beat up by some punk that they hire.

And one cannot even write only letter to newspaper about democracy and human rights, you will be turn
down for whole life, other people don't even publish your writing or poem or essay that if they are disagreeble to leaders, and any local government.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:


People in society, should never live like they are in the army.

They should have their own freedom, their freedom of self-conscience, leaders just cannot disallow them not to talk, have free speech.

Why we must order and make others to listen to us?

I don't care you are pro-commy or pro-democracy, even God gives much freedom to choose btwn life or death.

Army is human tragic. When a group people believe that their rights are threatened, or they want other to listen to them, they both choose war, struggle.

Democracy and Human Rights is about free speech.

Like this blog.

But in China, government do not allow people to speak, and every Chinese is afraid to speak out, unless, they are pressed and have no other way to run away from it, so they go marching, and uprise.

Any government don't allow people to talk, will get 3 results, slavery of their people and culture and ideal; uprising by force, or assassin.

After long years of slavery, people have only two ways to act, be a slave or like Mao.

Even Tang Dynasty, officials and people allowed to speak and criticize the emperor openly and directly.

Unless, we serve in army. But even in army, people or soldiers are allowed to not to obey that leaders, otherwise intense interrogation, torture, massacre, and suicide... will happen, which the purpose of army is build to protect people's rights and their life from all those.

And I don't mean Chinese cannot have democracy and their basic human rights right now, unless they really want them.

No one can give them, unless they want and get them themselves, but I am Chinese and work with Chinese, the majority people don't even know what is democracy and human rights, and they don't even carry out while in their house and company, how the hell you expect them to fight and to guard and to talk to their government and request for it?


In western concept, Law is to guard human rights, and Law is from above, holy, so every is under it, even president.

In Chinese concept, people make Law, he or those who makes it and enforces it are holy like god, like Mao, like CCP, like our Chinese Parent-like leaders.

Unless Chinese understand this, otherwise, it never changes.

thmak Author Profile Page:

To GeneralYueFei: I'm sorry that you and your Chinese bosses cannot work together and resolve your differences agreeably. Your experience is not unique to Chinese managers but can be found in any American enterprises. You must know a lot of American Army generals in the Middle East war are dismissed or asked to retire because they have different ideas of how the war is going to be run than their superior. The superiors do not like their ideas. They are considered old-breed. I hope you understand. They are free to speak but they are dismissed, period. In this so-called free,democratic and human righteous USA, you can also find corporations that made poison peanut butter, asbestos and others. You can find police brutalities and Kent state shooting of students. You can find a so-called democratically elected Bush and companies committed the worst human right violation in this century and railroaded USA into an unjust and illegal Middle East war. The present president doesn't even reprimand them or say anyhting bad about them. It seems you cannot emulate Obama's attitude with reqard to the present China government. Obama "must save USA face". "Tell me this kind of society can purchase Democracy or Human Rights?". If you think the general Chinese are push overs. Try it!! I hope you understand. The American system also believe in guns and powers more than the Chinese. American has more firepower than any country in the world and doesn't like any challenger to their military supremacy. I hope you understand. Ask the native Americans how lucky they are to have those free, democratic, God fearing and human righteous Europeans coming over to their forever-gone homeland. I hope you understand.

farklol Author Profile Page:


Japan, S Korea, Taiwan all have Confucian-based cultures, all value the needs of society over the needs of individuals, all have bosses and companies that you described. They are all considered democratic by Western standards. Confucian culture and democracy don't clash when you look at similar societies that eventually formed political parties and held elections. It could be even argued that democracy is better suited for East Asian societies than, say, Muslim society. East Asians have the intelligence and a culture that values education, family, and a measure of conformity that incidentally brings stability to a democratic system. Of course, in a different cultural style than the West, which values individualism over collectivism.

But that's beside the point. China can change, in case you didn't notice the past 100 years. Major social and political upheavals happened in China in my parents and grandparents' time. And while Mao may be a monster, he is also a monster that knew how to start a revolution. A revolution, mind you, that shows all those meek, slavish Chinese really do like to turn on their masters from time to time.

Also, your talk of human rights in Old China is irrelevant, seeing how human rights weren't invented until 1945.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

I used to work with Chinese managers that their would not point out their boss's fault and just look at the matter going worse, and I asked them why they looked at me as I was a new breed, but they can yell at their workers who under them.

That is reason like corp can make poison milk, and June 4th Army shot students, and Mao that kind of person ruled China like god.

You must save your boss' face.

Tell me this kind of society can purchase Democracy or Human Rights?

Can you teach your dog to bark at you when you abuse him? He cannot even run away, he will come back again and still treat you as family.

This type of culture only create two type of person, most of them, general Chinese, push overs;
another, like Mao, revolutionists, who only believe guns and powers, this type of system you either slave to it, or overthrow, but if you can overthrow it, then you become like Mao, CCP, a party.

Me and friends drinking last weekend, talked about why US is so lucky to have such system, and faith, and rights.

George Washington and his fellows, He beat away an emperor, and don't want to become one, and set US this way.

Not in China, our most respected Mr. Sun Yan Xing or Sun Zhong San, who had a slice chance, but too bad, he died early. And Jiang who was a jerk, did not want commy to sit in the system, and the nation must settle with blood shed. If Jiang let commy be representative, China would not be one party nation as today, and not many people would support Mao at that time.

Otherwise, all different, all different!

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

tO farklol,

I don't pro-Mao, I don't think any Chinese really like or believe Mao. He was one of the person set our government an inhuman habits. That one allowed to criticize him, cuz he was god.

And after Mao, no one dares to be as god, but they, those leaders made our government CCP a god.

The party is always right, like the Pope.

One thing really bothers everyone, is that high rank is above lower rank, so no one can stand equally to his higher rank.

It is not government, it is culture, that roots in Chinese life.

What Western or American culture is, that
All Men Under God Are Equal.

Even someone who is the president.

But in China, people do not know what is equal rights, whether in government or in any private corp or family house.

That is culture thing. I see American yells at their boss or directly and openly claims his opinion, and his boss can take it as his job or daily life.

But this never happens to Chinese company, whatever boss says is right; in traditional family the father is always right... so in office of government whatever leaders or higher rank say, and other listen and should not speak and input disagreement or other or better opinion.

HR and Democracy are the culture thing. Unless Chinese change our mind and life, then we never will know what is human right and democracy.

American being polite that won't speak for truth to cause conflict; but not when they work. Chinese , if you point our your leader's fault, then you are consider lack respect.

Even you tell he did not wear any cloth. No. Not allowed!

In family, too, father beat the kids, it's discipline, not abuse. But in US, it is crime that most American believe and learn from little that everyone must treat each other with respect and full rights.

Not in China!

In Ancient, people, poets, writers often used metaphor Father and son, Husband and wife to indicate relationship of Emperor and officials, King and people, master and slave, boss and servant, employer and employees.

Think about that a Chinese who grows up in this kind of family, do they know what is equal rights and human rights?

people have to fix the roots.

Chinese now, don't know how to be a boss, or employee, they either order their people like master, or serve their superior as slave.

I quit a few Chinese companies cuz I cannot stand such environment.

The culture can only be influenced by culture, and that's years years work.

Confucius said: Ten years to grow a tree; 100 years to build a man

farklol Author Profile Page:


The present Chinese government, CCP, or PLA aside. I was discussing the flawed methodology in which human rights groups approach the China situation. I was saying that in order for NGOs to have ANY impact on China's development, they need to take a lesson from Mao and treat the nation NOT as an abstract ideology or system of government but a collection of people. People with needs, needs that will change at various stages of development.

Say what you want about Mao, his ideology and style of governance left much to be desired. But he was a genius when it comes to inciting political and social change. There is no one who had a bigger influence on China in the 20th century. It would serve the staff at Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Freedom House well to carry around the Little Red Book when they are in China, it's a useful how-to manual and maybe even earn them some street cred with the laobaixing.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

---It is impossible that all Chinese love their Government, just like any other country.---

I don't think 'all' Chinese 'love' their government.

1st, in China you cannot hear the voice of someone who disagrees with his government, not allowed!

2nd, what is love?

Love is equal rights; love is bringing truth.

Especially, truth.

If you love someone trully, then you can withhold your truthfully feeling and words, even it hurts sometimes.
Can you love your wife but won't allow her nagging?!

Even kids know better!

thmak Author Profile Page:

To Observer88: I totally agree with your May 13,2009 9:18AM post. It is impossible that all Chinese love their Government, just like any other country. Even as free, democratic and human righteous as in USA, there are those who just consider it is not that good. So freeing up in China will still not eliminate any disgrunts against the Chinese government. Dissatisfaction is human nature. It cannot be wiped out. As for those who ask your help to migrate to US, they just want to have a better life. Who don't want to have a better life? But they don't know that the good life in USA sits on borrow money that is passed on from generation to generation to pay back. Most Americans borrow money to have a good time. It is a prosperity bubble just like the housing bubble which bursted recently. The present generation don't want to pay for their good life. The financial institutions crashed the economy and kidnapped the government to bail them out. The government borrows from future generation to reward those financial criminals. If you provide any help in China, I do thank you very much.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

To Dear farklol,

You are right.

But Chinese must understand that their government did not bring them the prosperity, not Mao, not Hu, or any leader, it's them.

But our government hijacked our people and their concept, that they believe their government represent us, what about June 4th?

Students were wrong?

Then I say May 4th was wrong too.

Then I, as every Chinese should be proud about our Qing Dynasty and its government.

Chinese did not shoot the students, Chinese Army did, under the guide of CCP!

2008 Olympic belong to Chinese, not CCP!

All of the poetic showcases and today's prosperity belong to the gene of Chinese culture, not CCP

farklol Author Profile Page:


As a Chinese-American, someone who grew up immersed in American culture and values but have roots in the 'Old Country', I respect your interest in China and believe your intentions to be sincere. But you have to realize that people like Thmak does not. I believe this has more to do with differences in culture and belief than political thinking, and the burden is on you to try and bridge those differences.

Try and understand that, Observer. As a humanitarian, you cannot hope to have any impact on China without engaging the ordinary Chinese (the laobaixing). The path to political reform in China (considered by many NGOs to be the holy grail of human rights feats) lies with the Chinese people. Sure we Chinese can be stubborn and proud, but who isn't? As David Ignatius wrote on a recent column about Mid-East Peace: people were rather die than lose their dignity.

When certain people go on about human rights, but then pooh-pooh the notion of "hurting the feelings of the Chinese", they have lost they started. Because living in the West, secured in their status and prosperity, have taken their own dignity for granted. While the Chinese, who have gone through so much hardship and only beginning to rise recently, feels their dignity hard-earned.

Like Mao said, to win China you have to win over its people, and to do it in mind the fact that the people will protect their hard-earned dignity. Unfortunately, that would require you to delicately dance around peoples' egos at times. That is the burden you have when winning hearts and minds, including people like thmak.

Observer88 Author Profile Page:

Oh, sorry THMAK - I totally agree with you. The earthquake is a naturally occurring disaster, and everyone's thoughts and support should go out to the people who lost loved ones in the earthquake. I think even if the buildings were shoddily built, that is unfortunate, but is not a reflection on China or anything. That could (and does)happen anywhere, even if there was some local corruption. Corruption certainly isn't unique to any country in particular.

And no, I don't think China needs to follow some Western model of democracy. Every country needs to follow its own path and find which type and form of government best suits it. With respect to China, putting aside my own opinion, my impressions are formed from what I hear from Chinese people (not Chinese Americans, but Chinese people living in China) who speak openly with me when we are in a non-public setting, whether we're in Lianyungang, Hefei, Qingdao, or Yichang - it's always the same thing - they are happy and proud of China moving forward economically, but they wish for greater freedom, and ask if there is anything I can do to help them move to the U.S. They also view their own government with great skepticism - they tell me they believe that local officials are just out for themselves, and that national officials stifle dissent just to remain in power. I don't get that from Pomfret's or anyone else's articles, but from Chinese people themselves when I travel there 2 - 3 times a year. I have many dear and wonderful Chinese friends who love their country, but would still like to see some change in their own country. However, they are afraid to openly criticize. So that is the only thing I wish would change for now - the fear - for the sake of my friends, and well, people I don't even know too.

Honestly, I don't think the West (if there is such a thing) is trying to split up China. Western leaders may say things from time to time about Tibet or human rights to please their own constituencies, but honestly, if you read the newspapers you'll see that those same leaders are making critical comments about their own country too, and other countries like Burma, Sudan, the U.S., Rwanda, Georgia, and so on and so on. No one is singling out China.

And yes, you are perfectly welcome to compare events in China to those in the U.S., like say comparing China's earthquake response to Bush's Hurricane Katrina response. My only point is that if you leave your comment at that alone, you are omitting a key point - which is to say, ok, I know what you think about Katrina, but what do you think about what happened on the China end of things?

thmak Author Profile Page:

To Observer88: You didn't point out what is wrong with my post. Instead you just brush aside my rationale by broadly accusing me of "equivocating", no "constructive criticism" and "logical discourse". Using those empty phrases indicate that it is you who are "angry", not me, to the point that you cannot find any rationale to refute my points. Western anti-China thugs try feverishly under all kinds of pretense to plant the seeds of divisivenes among the Chinese with the hope to manipulate one against the other so as to be able to manipulate the situation in China to their advantage as evidenced throughout the history of South America and elsewhere. Most of what are so-considered "contructive criticism" from the West are essentially subversive ideas catering to Western interest. Most of the so-called logical discussions are framed according to Western logics instead of Chinese logic. In every country, there are people who are not happy with their situation and are anti-social. So what is the big fuss about Chinese dissendents? USA has the largest number of people per capita in violation of USA laws. They feel US government and the society is against them and make their life intolerably miserable. That is a more serious problem. The recent economic meltdown is caused by the financial institutions causing the lost of life long savings and jobs of thousands of thousands of people. Yet those responsible are rewarded instead of being punished. I hope you understabd.The case of the 75 years old professor is minor compared to the thousands of innocent citizens in the Midle East killed, maimed, tortured, imprisoned, destroyed livelihood by US arm forces under false pretenses for a long time to come. I hope you understand. Contrary to what you perceive, most Chinese support their government as evidenced by their support of the 2008 Olympics and their reaction to France's insult of China. I just remind you that the so-called free, demcoratic Western countries are not chosen by the majority of their citizens, not much different from China. I hope you should put forth constructive criticism of more serious problems.

Observer88 Author Profile Page:

It's ok, I don't think you're rude, but I still have to disagree with you. I think one of the big misunderstandings here dear Citizenofthepost-Americanworld, is that you appear, if you read your own post, to equate the government of China with the people of China. Note how you start your last comment, asking where the compulsion to criticize the "Chinese people" comes from. Note that no one here, especially not me, has or is criticizing the Chinese people. The government does not equal the people, especially in China, since none of the people there chose the government. In fact, most mainland Chinese I know cannot stand the government, as they are either adults who had their parents taken away during the cultural revolution, or they are students that feel their opportunities are limited unless they "play by the old rules." So please do not mix and match the terms Chinese government and Chinese people.

The government is a separate entity, and as a government entity that interacts with the world and puts itself on the world stage, it is open to legitimate and constructive criticism, whether it invites it or not dear CitizenofthePost. And constructive criticism is not as you say "criticizing from the sidelines." Rather, it is contributing to a healthy public discourse on the world. Imagine how absurd the world would be if we all just tried to put a positive spin on everything our government did simply out of nationalistic pride?

Note that you do not help matters when you suggest that this criticism is meddling in the business of the Chinese people. There are many courageous Chinese citizens that have legitimate problems and complaints and take great risks to communicate these to the outside world to focus the world's attention on them, since they feel that the Chinese government does not care about them.

Oh, and my career is in international aid and assistance, so I'm quite familiar with international cooperation.

Finally, I know you say "China has already received constructive criticism beyond its wildest dreams," but as long as retired 75 year old Chinese professors like Sun Wenguang get beat up and thrown in a ditch by government thugs for visiting the wrong person on tomb sweeping day, the Chinese government (not the people) is due for a little more constructive criticism.

Citizenofthepost-Americanworld Author Profile Page:

I don’t mean to be rude Observer88, I just wonder: whence that compulsion to criticize how Chinese people do things and how they live in their own country? More particularly, why do you so much want to help millenary China? Is anybody asking for your opinion and your help?

For years now, there have been Westerners living in China, some of them very prominent individuals, advising Chinese authorities, on all matters political, institutional, legal, financial, economic, scientific, technological, military, cultural, educational, even philosophical… on all matters related to health, infrastructures, construction, business, sports, you name them, including crisis management… In addition, for decades now China has been sending outstanding individuals abroad so they would learn, more particularly from the West. That is to say: China has helped itself first by becoming a modern nation. As such, it has already been “helped” and has received “constructive criticism” beyond its wildest dreams.

Now you want to know how we, how you can help? I don’t know your situation dear Observer, and it will never be for me to tell you, of course, what you can do for China and the Chinese people.

What I would find most interesting would be, for instance, to find some day, in the Washington Post, a series entitled “What Chinese people do differently and what we can learn from them”. Now that would be original, would it not, and quite helpful to all of us, including Chinese people, as it would make them and their country better known to the world in what they are best at. What about a series of documentaries on “Discovering Tomorrow’s China”? Our citizens could then see how that vast, diverse, fascinating country is transforming itself. That might prove to be useful work everybody could benefit from.

Let’s be even more personal. Surrounding the quake’s anniversary, I saw and heard last night that innumerable Chinese victims still need help: material, medical, psychological, etc. Already, innumerable volunteers, many very young people, have been flocking to the disaster areas. Anybody here who wants to help can surely save a couple of thousand dollars (even borrow them), fly to China, go to Sichuan and offer to help. In this rich country of ours, others can surely organize and mobilize, then extend a helping hand to China and the Chinese people, no strings attached... That would likely be more helpful than criticizing from the sidelines: it would show (not just say) that we truly believe in humanitarianism and in international cooperation. Not bad for starter! Don’t you think?

Observer88 Author Profile Page:

So Citizenofthepost-Americanworld and THMAK,

If you were to actually help China by providing some constructive criticism on how it could improve, or how it could handle any given situation, would you have anything to say?

If not, I am saddened to say that you are more negatively affected by the articles you read on China than am I....as the articles you don't like have essentially made you so angry that you just don't care for logical discourse on China anymore, just a lot of equivocating.

Chan1 Author Profile Page:


Thanks very much for the compliment. And yes, you are most welcome. When you do have an article you like to share and is fitting for that site, please feel free to let me know (by leaving a comment on my blogsite).

Please remember to use the alias you used here, otherwise I would not know it is you. (But you are of course free to choose other aliases or use your real name to go with your article).

Look forward to learning from you.

thmak Author Profile Page:

To Observer88: According to the rule of the court, any conclusive criticism is a verdict and stays as fact and so be recorded. Therefore any criticism of China must be judged, not by itself alone, but in perspective of other similar cases to review the correctness of such criticism to ensure that equality of the law applies to all parties, not just one and not the other. The Western anti-China chorus agitates the grieved earthquake parents to rise up to accuse and punish the Governemnt of not building buildings strong enough to stand against NATURALLY OCCURING disasters while no such actions is taken against the persons responsible for the gravest crime against humanity in this century COMMITTED PURPOSELY by USA in the Middle East. This parity is obnoxiously prejudicial. I hope you understand.

Citizenofthepost-Americanworld Author Profile Page:

Not at all, Chan, not at all.

It warms my heart that you invite me to post on your blogsite. You are very kind. I would feel honored to write something I found appropriate and worth publishing, next to your "Putting the Sichuan Quake into Perspective" and under such a uniquely beautiful picture reminding me of a country and of people I love.

As I have already said, I was impressed by the subdued tone of your piece. There is something profoundly human and moving in what you wrote, Chan, with a mixture of serenity and sadness. It was so fitting, on the anniversary of those tragic events.

Thanks again for your kind invitation.


Chan1 Author Profile Page:

Thanks so much for the compliments and the recommendation of my article. (I guess there's no need to explain Chan1 here is actually Chan on my blogsite).

I like your last post very much. You are most welcomed to write articles on my site in the future if you ever want to as long as it fits the blogsite motto of "Providing Alternate Views to Current Issues" (alternate as in alternate to the mainstream media).
I am happy to hear that you like China, but not everyone who reads these articles are like youself. We do need to strike a balance. If you believe you have a balanced view, just understand that the more you read these articles, this "balanced" view would shift while you still believe you have a balanced view.
Just to give you an example, I did re-read your comments about the "China-can-never-do-wrong" people. You WERE actually either referring to me or at least includung me in that category. And all I did was ask a question. While I am not at all offended, it does show that even China-lovers like yourself ARE very much influenced by these one-sided reports. Imagine what these would do to the average person.
You may say that I am also one-sided, but I only do this to counter the mainstream which artificially turns China into an evil empire, and has already succeeded in shaping the public's opinion. If anything, you DO need people such as myself and Citizenofthepost to keep the balance.

Observer88 Author Profile Page:

Citizen of the Post - I hear you - I do. But frankly, I don't read Pomfret's blog to adopt or reject his opinion on a news event 100% or 0%. Like anything I read, I assume there is some truth to it, and some things that could be looked at in a different light. I read Krauthammer in the Washington Post although I never agree with him, just to hear that ultra right wing crazy argument for the sake of hearing it.

As I said on another post - I love China, love the people, love the culture, find the history rich and fascinating - I travel there about 3 times a year. But like the American government, I separate the Chinese government from its people. And the PRC government has legitimate problems (like all large powerful countries) that if acknowledged and addressed would go a long way towards helping its own people and its relations with the world.

My point is just that the comments here (and lots of other China related blogs) seem to fall entirely into one of two overly biased camps - (1)either China is a great big scary menace, or (2)I don't care what you say about China America is just as bad or worse, so there! There just doesn't seem any constructive middle ground in there. Maybe people's emotions are just so high that it makes it difficult.

infoshop Author Profile Page:

Damn it, we Americans have such short term memory. Katrina is all forgotten. We have NIMBY syndrome. I think we should applied NIMBY to outside of the USA border too. What do you think?

Citizenofthepost-Americanworld Author Profile Page:

Excellent post, Observer88. -- "WHY?" Let me try and illustrate with an anecdote.

When I was 6, there was in the schoolyard that guy, Bull, constantly picking on little Chan who came from a very poor family. Listening to Bull, there was always something the matter, something UNIQUELY wrong with Chan: with how he dressed, how he sat, how he ate, how he chew, how he walked, how he ran, how he spoke, how he played... everything. Never ONE nice word. Soon, I just could not help it and interrupted Bull: "Eh man, did you ever notice that you smell and Chen does not?" Thereafter, others began to challenge Bull with everything that was wrong with him. We all survived. -- WHY did I do it? Your answer is as good as mine. Nothing personal, I just did it.

I invite you (anybody, in fact!) to review all John Pomfret has published so far under "Pomfret's China"; then, please observe and analyse how JP talks about China. Try and do it a little bit the way a Chomsky analysed the work of the media at manufacturing consent. I suggest that in light of my anecdote, that exercise may help you and everybody answer your question "WHY?".

I remember Chinese readers complaining here that visitors should not tour China insisting to only take pictures of the dirtiest toilets with a hidden camera. --- That remark too may help all of us understand how Chinese readers may feel... and answer your question "WHY?".

In my office, there is on my wall a painting that keeps tilting heavily on one side. Whatever I do so that it be level when I leave, I always find it tilting heavily on one side upon my return. You will readily admit, dear observer, this too is a good case for asking the great question "WHY?"

Of course, when I was 6, one solution would have been for me (and Chan) to go play elsewhere or go to another school... So you might say quite rightly that one solution would now be for me and some other readers to post on some other forum. Let me suggest another potential way out of a predicament like ours.

Whenever someone writes giving equal weight to both sides of a story, whenever someone gives the other side not only a voice but its strongest voice, whenever someone acknowledges that while it is wrong that they did it ten times it is surely equally wrong that we ourselves did it a hundred times (minimal moral integrity), it becomes very difficult for any adult to do anything similar to what I did to Bull, when I was 6. Mind you, at the time, what would have best closed the door to my reaction toward Bull though, would have been for him to simply have said something nice about Chan once.

Let me now conclude on Chan. The type of information to be found in Chan1's reference (chinablogs.wordpress.com/) ought to have been part of any fair discussion of the death tolls, on the quake's anniversary.

Observer88 Author Profile Page:

In general, for most of the discussion threads following these articles, I still don't understand why some posters feel the need to counter any criticism of China by equivocating whatever event or issue is under discussion with a situation or event in the United States. It seems to sidestep the point of any given article.

Look, like the United States, China is now a major world power. And like the United States, when missteps and mistakes occur, like Katrina, Iraq, etc. world public opinion will weigh in on it. Weighing in on it is what is supposed to cause the United States to feel some pressure to improve.

Whenever China is criticized however, rather than people posting as to how China could improve and change its behavior, there's a whole chorus of whining along the lines of "But the United States did this too when...." So what? Maybe some of the analogies are valid, some are not. And there are plenty of public forums and other discussion threads on other websites where people can and do complain about these other issues in the U.S. People need to understand that criticizing China isn't a suggestion that China is the only country that has done something in a wrongheaded or brutish way.

China makes mistakes, and wants the world to think of it, and treat it as a big old important world power. As such, it is more helpful to China to hear constructive criticism of China and how it can do better, not all this useless equivocating.

Citizenofthepost-Americanworld Author Profile Page:

Thank you for the link, Chan1.

I am impressed by the subdued tone of that piece.

The information provided is well worth having and keeping in mind.

Thanks again.

Chan1 Author Profile Page:

There is an interesting article on the following blogsite comparing the Sichuan quake to the Japanese Kobe quake and the recent Italian quake.


It puts the whole thing into perspective, and provides an interesting alternate view.

Please feel free to comment on the article.

Citizenofthepost-Americanworld Author Profile Page:

Reading this, I can't help thinking about Katrina, how the whole thing was handled by the authorities, how it has been handled to this day by the media. Poor people.

I shall never forget that black man barely floating in muck, days after the event, refusing categorically to be helped shouting: "Leave me alone, I only trust my dog!"

How not to think how better spent out time would be, were we courageous enough to deal with abuse of power, irresponsibility, unaccountability and immunity in our own country!

But our citizens' lives are cheap, I suppose, and criticism of China and the Chinese people harmless.

jimeglrd8 Author Profile Page:

As an American living in Beijing for four years I agree with those posters who compare the situation in China with that in the US. The earthquake made it clear that the Chinese officials responsible for building schools had failed to build "safe" schools. It should not be assumed that they were "corrupt". Many of the parents who lost children, like US parents in a similar situation, feel a need to blame someone other than mother nature. The Chinese government does control the press but that control is much looser than previously. Just now the Chinese government is blocking access to YouTube because they don't like some of the videos which have appeared on YouTube.
Lets face it China's leaders are still very worried that they will lose control and face the same sort of breakup experienced by the former Soviet Union. As a result they are making it tough on those in Sichuan province who are protesting. The same thing would happen to protesters in the US if the protests were threatening the US government. I was a protester against the Vietnam War in 1969. I was targeted by the FBI in its "Cointelpro" program. As a result I was fired from my job and anytime I tried to find another job the FBI would contact potential employers warning them not to hire me. I finally had to move to the UK to find employment.
It is easy for people to criticize China and certainly there is plenty to criticize but the reaction of China to the earthquake and to other disasters is much better than that of the US government when disasters strike. China paid reparations to the families of those who lost children in the Sichuan disaster. Did the US pay reparations to Katrina survivors?
The Chinese have a strong desire to be friends with the US. However,the US government doesn't do much to be friends with China. The US makes it much easier for Japanese citizens and the citizens of Australia, New Zealand and most EU countries to get visas to visit the US than it does for the Chinese who seek to visit the US. The US also "protects" certain US industries from competition from Chinese products. It also continues to prohibit what US high tech companies can sell to China. Friendship with China would be good for the US even though the Chinese government still relies upon "thugs and goons" to control dissent.

dummy4peace Author Profile Page:
iewgnem Author Profile Page:

Is there some underlying insecurity with yankee psyche that drive you to obsessively charge up even the death of 80000 people into a political circus?

Was anyone arrested over collapse of the twin towers? Perhaps tower seven or nine or whatever it was called? I can go on but that would borderline on distasteful, that's what this article is.

You yanks disgust me, when you even dedicate even 1/10 the amount of resources into helping your own disaster survivors that China did, I might consider give you guys a second thought

Doubter1 Author Profile Page:

Simplesimon33 repeated the same charge against China in at least John's two different blogs. It is sad to see a member of "chosen people" uninformed as much as uneducated.

paradocs2 Author Profile Page:

I agree. As a long time China watcher, there is no doubt that their government is an oligarchy of cronies and through heavy control their media is more propaganda than education. It's been this way since the revolution.
Nonetheless it is with great shame and worry that I have to agree with previous comments that our poor country has slipped to comparable levels of political discourse. See Simon Johnson's article in the May "Atlantic." Our country is still run by a financial oligopoly - without culpability or punishment - after they drove our economy off a cliff. There has been no regime change on Wall Street nor among the lobbyists in the halls of Congress. The main stream media still has not dissected how and why power has shifted to the few. The President has not challenged them. The same trend repeats itself in the shameful torture stories and the ongoing tragedy of our failing health care system. As a nation powerful interests have torn us away from dealing with climate change. We are still ominously silent about any topic dealing with social justice.We are, oh, so not much different than the Chinese, are we?

blasmaic Author Profile Page:

The schools weren't lousy. They were the best China could build. It's tragic, and let's hope better structures replace the demolished schools.

What about the people who died that weren't in buildings constructed by local Communist officials? Why are they forgotten?

They are forgotten because the media is wrongly using the earthquake disaster as a rhetorical device against the government of China. What could be more unoriginal or hackneyed than blaming the deaths of school children on Communism?

More and more, it is apparent to me that the media is stuck in a time warp. China has changed. America has changed. Newspapers haven't.

DupontJay Author Profile Page:

The undemocratic and oligarchical nature of China's one-party rule is obvious to us as Americans.

But the undemocratic and oligarchical nature of the USA's "two-party" system completely escapes us. To observers from the vibrant multi-party democracies of the advanced industrialized world, our system is quite nearly as much of a farce as China's.

In America, it is acknowledged that monetary campaign contributions largely determine the outcome of our elections. How is this democracy?

We mock the communist "elections" where candidates always get "95%" of the vote, but we are not equally critical of our own Congressional elections, where incumbents are re-elected 95% of the time (thanks to their huge funding advantage).

I'm no supporter of the Chinese system, but I'm vastly more interested in fixing our own democracy.

dahuanzhou Author Profile Page:

Yes, we might find the school buildings collapsed, while the other buildings nearby still stands. There are many reasons for that, you can not blam everything on the party leaders unless you have the evidence to show the cause and effect.If you have such kind of evidence then you will be more convincing, for example, part of the money for the school building had been misappropriateed for other purpose by certain leader so that the quality can not be assured, then this person got promotion instead, Try to make such story according to my suggestion.

Mickey2 Author Profile Page:

China learns a thing or two from American press controls over American soldiers killed in Iraq.

shane_beck Author Profile Page:

To be totally fair, how many Wall Streets Traders have gone to jail for their role in the Global Financial Crisis? Almost none. Because those in power make the rules on both sides of the Pacific.

simplesimon33 Author Profile Page:

No matter how one wants to look at it, China is and always has been ruled by Communist Party dictatorship, albeit with a capitalist mask. China’s Communist Party saw an opportunity to beat Capitalism at its own game when Nixon offered China in 1972 a vast US consumer market and a UNSC seat in return for China temporarily agreeing to be a counter weight to then US enemy no. 1 i.e. Soviet Union. Nixon and Kissinger were heralded as geniuses at the time for such a master stroke and Nixon rode to easy reelection victory in 1972 because of it. Thus anti-Communist Nixon is largely responsible for creating another Communist challenger to US now that Soviet Union is gone. US is going to rue that fateful day in June 1972 when Nixon embraced China’s Communist dragon to counter Russia’s Soviet bear.

Observer88 Author Profile Page:

As a father, I find the story completely heartbreaking. Given China's location on fault lines and population density, it is bound to experience this sort of tragedy from time to time. Who knows if there is any truth to allegations of shoddy building due to bribes/kickbacks - that could happen anywhere. But the state-sponsored thuggery apparent in the Financial Times video is just really disappointing.

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