Ten Observations About The Post-Earthquake Mess

(My1510.cn)  The Miscellaneous Mess Beginning With The "Sunglases Gate" Scandal.  lzhwolf108.  May 26, 2008.

[in translation]


Finally on the evening of May 16, I decided to watch the news program on Gansu TV in order to learn about the situation of the Wenchuan county earthquake.  But I was disappointed with the results.  The headline news story was about Gansu province party secretary Lu Ha consoling disaster victims in Wenyuan district while directing the disaster relief work.  The video showed Party Secretary Lu looking as spirited, energetic and suave as always.  He was neatly dressed, and he intentionally wore a pair of sunglasses.  If you were not careful, you would have thought that this was a scene from the classical movie <A Better Tomorrow>.  After this first story, there came news stories about how the various provincial and city departments are seriously studying the spirit of the Central Political Bureau's meeting and the various sectors of the province and cities are giving their love to the disaster area, and so on.  Concerning the vital information about the damage in Wenyuan, the state of the earthquake relief work and the progress on the restoration of the Baocheng railroad line, there was not a single film shot.  After the news program ended, the television serial drama followed.  It did not look as if Gansu was the province which suffered the most damage from the earthquake right after Sichuan province.

I am not saying that it was wrong for Party Secretary Lu to visit the disaster area.  I only want to remind him to read Professor Jin Zhengkun's <Talk About Social Manners> so that he could learn how to dress appropriately in any situation.  As common people like us know, when you pay respect to the dead or visit the sick, you should dress plainly and solemnly.  It is advisable not to wear sunglasses.  But Party Secretary Lu appears to be an important local official taking a leisure stroll during this emergency.  Not only did he stroll before the camera, he also made idiotic remarks to the disaster victims such as: "An earthquake is really not such a bad thing.  We can build new houses that are definitely better than the old ones ..."  I would like to ask Party Secretary Lu: "Houses can be rebuilt, but what about the dead people?  If this occurred at your home, would you comfort your family members with those words?"


On May 19, Gansu Daily News spent a lot of front page space to an article about National Political and Legal Committee Secretary Zhou Yongkong going to the Longnan disaster area to oversee and direct.  At the end of the article, Gansu province political and military leaders such as Lu Hao, Xu Shousheng, Liu Jukui, Lu Wucheng, Jiang Xinzhi all made an appearance to say that they want to do the relief work well.  But on this very night, there were only just over 30,000 tents in Longnan.  In the worst hit area of Bikou town, there were only 35 tents.  Meanwhile, 35,000 persons were homeless in Wenyuan.  Bikou town needed 1,000 tents while Wenyuan needed 100,000 tents urgently.

On that night, there was a heavy rain in Wenyuan.  The people were trapped in a hilly region.  If there should be a mudslide, the disaster victims can only wait for their demise.  There was no discussion about evacuation plans.  So what did these senior officials conclude in their meeting?  On that night, I was sleepless as I thought about the homeless people in the rain.


Since May 13, it was the top national priority to save lives and relieve the victims.  But from reading the various local news, it appeared that the various levels of government have been busy learning the spirit of the Central Political Bureau's meeting and educating themselves about the spirit of Comrade Hu Jintao's speech.

Premier Wen Jiabao said: "Faced with this disaster, the whole country has to go all out together" and "we must seize every moment to save lives."  While Grandpa Wen has made it clear, it is not clear that the local officials understood what is to be done.  In the face of this catastrophe, do they need to hold meetings to decide what to do?  Why can't they take action immediately?  Why do they need to hold a meeting to implement?  The provinces need to hold meetings to implement the central government's orders, the cities need to hold meetings to implement the provincial government's orders, the county needs to hold meetings to implement the city government's orders ... this goes on forever while valuable time is being wasted.  How can they improve governance if they keep doing this?  Is it possible that local officials are all kindergarten children who need the guidance of adults to tell them what to do?


On May 17, Gansu provincial party secretary Lu Hao and others proceeded to Wenyuan.  On May 19, Sichuan provincial party secretary Liu Qibao proceeded to Mianyang.  The official description is that they "were inspecting and directing the disaster relief effort."  On television, these officials put on an act to show they are "close and intimate with the people."  Wherever they went, they were met with elaborate recepton (such as cleaned streets, police car escorts, luxurious dinners, etc).  In normal times, they create enough turmoil when they visit the grassroots.  Now that there is a natural disaster after which the victims become homeless and hungry, they create even more problems.  Are these people human?  Disaster relief is a fairly professional kind of work.  There are more than a dozen government departments working in the disaster area and they are supposedly professional.  What do these senior government officials know?  How dare they say that they were "directing the relief effort"?   Under their direction, the water level of the Beichuan quake lake keeps rising while the victims of Wenyuan still have no place to stay.  Are these their accomplishments?


Recently, the Gansu and Sichuan province party secretaries, governors and vice-governors have held repeated meetings, and appeared on television, pointed out, emphasized, emphasized again that all the problems can only be solved by consulting with the central government.  Why bother holding so many meetings and waste so much time to do these things?

I have questions for these senior government officials.  In normal times, you already monopolize the television screens and newspaper pages.  When there is a disaster, could you back off, do more and talk less?  Please reserve the television screens and newspaper pages for real problems that need to be publicized on behalf of your people?  That would be a good deed!


On May 16, Japan and other countries decided to send rescue teams into the disaster zone.  But there were complications.  Japan is a country with frequent earthquakes and their rescue teams must have rich rescue experience.  One person saved is one less person dead.  This would be a "great victory" in the struggle against the earthquake.  But the Internet angry young people said that this was be a loss of face for the nation, as if the sky would fall down if a foreign (and especially Japanese) rescue team should come.

Dear Angry Young People, the Japanese come here to rescue people, not to invade China.  Why are you so afraid?  Why are you so like the Red Guards with their bravado and idiocy?  Once upon a time, Japan invaded us.  But that was that.  Now they are coming here to rescue people.  Why do you want to prevent them?  Are you happy only if the number of casualties keep rising?  The way I see it, the Japanese came too late.  If they had come earlier, nobody knows how many people they could saved.  Dear young generals, haven't you learn the lesson when the Chinese government declined foreign aid after the great Tangshan earthquake?  Please be more magnanimous!  If you are backwards, you admit it.  That is the correct attitude.  You can talk about boycotts, interference and cursing all of the time.  What is the different between you and Lu Xun's Ah Q then?  It has been almost 100 years since the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, so why do you still feel like being Ah Q?  It has been 32 years since the Cultural Revolution, so why do so many people want to become Red Guards?  This is really perplexing.  I only hope that you can come out of the quagmire soon and become a normal person with human feeling as opposed to being a machine that only knows how to chant slogans.


I was reading the news on the Internet and I came across a post that said that CCTV had come up an "Earthquake disaster special issue advertising plan." There were detailed price lists:  At least eight time per day, at least 350,000 RMB per 5 second commercial and 1,190,000 RMB per 30-second.

I don't want to accuse CCTV of making money off the national disaster.  After all, they have to make a living too.  But if only they can donate one-tenth of the advertising revenue towards the disaster zone, many lives would be saved.  Even better if they can build more Project Hope schools.  But CCTV has given no indication so far.

Meanwhile, why are those corporations so anxious to build up their images?  If they can donated the advertising expenditure to the disaster zone, they would have fulfilled their corporate social responsibility.  Isn't that an ever better image?  Could it be that these large sums of money were spent on totally ineffective TV advertisements in order to gain some political capital for their bosses on their way to join the Chinese Communist Political Consultative Conference or National People's Congress?


Ever since the wave of donations began in society, some websites have been setting up ranking charts for corporate donations and celebrity donations.  The netizens can see what the websites are showing.  So those who donate not as much become targets.  Suddenly, people want to boycott Motorola, Walmart, Pepsi Cola, McDonald's, Wang Shuo, Andy Lau, Yao Ming and others.  They are labelled "international iron roosters" or "unpatriotic." (Note: "iron rooster" is the Chinese name for a miser, with the idea that an iron rooster has no real feathers to lose by accident to benefit others)

I want to tell you that people or corporations are free to donate as much or as little as they feel like.  Why is Cultural Revolution-style language being used to attack them?  As for boycotting the "international iron roosters," this is something that only a weak nation does.  Stingy wealthy people are dislikeable, but why use something intangible concepts such as morality to accuse them?  Why not start with ourselves and do more for disaster relief and make the nation strong and wealthy.  These ranking charts are more ridiculous.  Donations should come from the heart spontaneously.  Instead, pressure is now applied to the corporations and persons.  The result is that while donation should be a good thing, it has now become a burden that everybody wants to avoid.  This is somewhat myopic thinking.


CCTV organized an evening charity gala.  It was very touching, but the actual scene did not appear not that way.  All the corporate donors had people waving placards with the names of their corporations and their donated amounts.  It looked more like an auction hall.  For the past few days, the various television stations are imitating this example.  The scenes showed nothing but masters of ceremonies stirring passions up and corporate representatives toting their placards.

Dear corporate bosses, is it possible to pass on this chance for exposure during this disaster?  You need to understand that this is not the moment to fight for exposure.  A movie said, "The more able you are, the greater your responsibility is."  Now is the time for you to live up to your corporate social responsibility.  Please learn from Comrade Lei Feng by doing things without leaving  your name.  Do not treat a solemn offering of genuine love and concern like a comical farce.


At 9:50am on May 24, the Baocheng Railroad Line finally re-opened after twelve days of stoppage.  According to Gansu Daily News, many important military and political figures of Gansu province came for the re-opening ceremony.  It was a very exciting scene at which the senior officials delivered important speeches.

I would like to ask the person who came up with the stupid idea: Did you know that the daily economic loss due to the stoppage of the Baocheng Railroad Line was 100 million RMB per day?  Did you know that the stoppage of the Baocheng Railroad Line meant that disaster relief materials and personnel could not sent into the disaster zone?  Did you know that the disaster zone is presently threatened by those quake lakes and therefore materials are urgently needed?  If you do know, then why did you still arrange for this ceremony?  Isn't this wasting people's time and money?  And it will also delay the resumption of normal traffic on the Baocheng Railroad Line and thus slow down the disaster relief effort!

It has been 30 years since the reforms began.  Why are we still do this sort of pointless things?  A ceremony wastes at least one hour of time.  A train can travel 160 kilometers in one hour.  Isn't it an even more meaningful thing to have the materials arrive at the destination earlier?