No one expects western media to put a positive spin on China these days, but BusinessWeek is too obvious to find any story line (Blogging a Quake, Live from Chengdu) to stab at the Chinese government. What is shameful about the western response to the Sichuan earthquake tragedy is the politicization of it. China’s government and media may be far from perfect, but western governments and media have plenty of weeds in their own backyards.
In the aforementioned article, the BusinessWeek reporter quoted a famous Chinese blogger, Luqui Luwei (閭丘露薇), who raised a few questions on her blog: “Why were so many middle school students among the dead from the disaster? What did that say about the quality of those school buildings?”
Here’s the Chinese version from her blog: “第二，为何如此多的学生被压在了倒塌的学校里面，官方媒体的数字，九百名学生。是因为他们跑得不够快吗？第三，为何如此多的建筑会在地震中倒塌，是地震强度太大？还是楼房的建筑质量太差？”
I do not know if the reporter deliberately distorted the translation, but the original Chinese version did not question the quality of those “school buildings” specifically. Instead, her point is about buildings in general. (My translation of her questions: “Secondly, why were so many students trapped under collapsed schools, the official figure is 900 students. Is it because they did not run fast enough? Thirdly, why did so many buildings collapse during the earthquake, is it because the earthquake was too strong? Or is it due to the poor construction quality of buildings?”. Nowhere did Luqui Luwei infer that her third question is about “school buildings”. (However, the timing and insensitiveness of her questioning provoked some sharp responses from visitors – check the comments section.)
By conveniently linking those two questions together, the BusinessWeek reporter seems to insinuate that the high death toll of school students and building quality are somewhat related.
No doubt it is true that many buildings in rural China are of poor quality, but few buildings are able to survive such a strong earthquake anywhere in the world. Much weaker earthquakes in Japan (1995) and Taiwan (1999) caused tens of thousands of buildings to collapse, including hundreds of school buildings during the Taiwan earthquake.
All in all, the BusinessWeek article is too ignorant to warrant serious feedback, but some readers have taken pains to set the record straight. Below is a sampling.
I am a member of the forum on which “Necessity” posted his comments, and I notice that although you reported his words, you didn’t care to mentioned the overwhelmingly negative response to his post. In the face of such a great human tragedy, is selectively quoting from a internet troll the best you can do?
It is completely inhumane that articles like this with an ulterior motive of arousing anti-chinese government sentiments are still being written at this grave moment. The Chinese government could not have done much more to prevent this natural disaster, and it is doing its best right now to rescue the survivors. Shame on this reporter, and shame on everyone else who, instead of trying to find ways to help those poor people, are viewing this as an opportunity to once again attack the Chinese government. Your prejudices have reached an inhumane level.
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