Tuesday, 15 March 2011

China watches the unfolding disaster

Plenty of comparisons continue to be made between the Japanese earthquake and the Wenchuan disaster. The Canton Daily reported that Chinese students studying in Japan had seen skyscrapers “dancing” in the quake, but that when the shaking subsided there’d been scarcely a crack to be seen, or even broken glass. It’s not escaped people’s attention that in Wenchuan the buildings collapsed at the first sign of a tremor (as the Chinese phrase goes, they were made of soybean dregs 豆腐渣). Why? Because after six decades of corruption the builders were able to buy off the officials who were meant to be guaranteeing the build-quality in Wenchuan, as everywhere else in China; in Japan, so the Chinese appear to be acknowledging with a grudging and envious air, the rule of law is respected and people take civic responsibility seriously, not just mouthing the words. Whereas China is the triumph of form over substance, Japanese society comes up with the goods when it really matters. My apologies for the number of cliches in that sentence.
Another thing that’s been pointed out in Chinese articles and blogs is people’s lack of faith in the messages aimed at them from above: Japanese schoolchildren are drilled in earthquake safety from a very early age, and they heed and trust what’s told to them; in China, people grow up sensing that messages emanating from above are the Party’s self-serving propaganda and not necessarily in their own best interest, meaning that any worthwhile messages get ignored with the rest. You could call it a deficit of public faith. Wangyou seem to agree that they'd rather be caught in an earthquake in Japan than in China.
My previous post translated a couple of typically virulent anti-Japanese tirades, gloating about the destruction and praying for more Japanese deaths. Other internet users in China have pointed out that Japan’s role after the Wenchuan quake has been pretty much ignored. Tokyo sent a reported 530,000,000 yen in aid, along with specialist rescue teams, but how many Chinese are even aware? “How do our fellow countrymen respond to the Japanese quake?” asks one blogger. “With pure schadenfreude.” After Wenchuan, he notes, there wasn’t a whisper of such sentiment on Japanese blogs. The Chinese government is, thankfully, sending aid to the disaster zone, though I can’t help feeling that this is not unlike a neighbour who’s kind to your face but then slags you off behind your back. The Chinese Communist Party, after all, is wholly responsible for perpetuating China’s seemingly endless anti-Japanese feeling.
On a possibly more positive note, the two posts I translated the other day seem not to have been followed up by the same wangyou with subsequent venom. Perhaps they’ve had time to reflect on quite how nasty they look, now that the death toll’s risen to at least five figures, when they were baying for as many Japanese dead as possible; or perhaps they’ve continued to post under other names. They were 学飞の雀雀 and zhynusan if anybody would like to see what they’re up to.

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