Chinese see quake-hit Japan as role model, engage in self-reflection
March 14, 2011Jing Gao20 Commentscorruption, Education, governance, Japan, japanese sendai earthquake, manners, national image, natural disaster, preparation, rescue effort, shoddy construction, sichuan earthquake, Sino-Japanese relations, tofu-dregs construction, Yunnan Yingjiang earthquake
On March 11, Japan was rocked by a magnitude 8.9 (later revised to be 9.0) earthquake, which triggered several extremely powerful tsunamis that engulfed much of northeastern Japan’s coastline and razed countless buildings and villages. As of Monday morning, the official statistics put the death toll at 1,600. However, over 20,000 were unaccounted for, and the casualties are expected to soar dramatically as rescue effort continues. The nation’s four nuclear plants were faced with likely meltdown and explosion after blows knocked down power supply.
The world’s eyes are fixating on Japan. So are Chinese. However, Japan has had more repercussions in China than in most corners of the world because of not only the proximity but some sharp contrasts between the two countries in the face of deadly disasters as well.
China has been hit by three major earthquakes in the past three years. The heaviest blow of the three, with a magnitude of 8.0, struck southwestern Sichuan Province on May 12, 2008, and claimed lives of nearly 70,000. The latest one took place in Yingjiang, southern Yunnan Province just one day before the one in Japan.
Many parallels can be drawn between the two quake-hit countries. Despite the long-time feud with its neighbor, many Chinese stand in awe of Japan.
First, it is the seismic performance of architecture. In the amidst of earthquakes, thousands of China’s school buildings ridiculously collapsed, calling world’s attention to the shoddy tofu-dregs construction and rampant corruption that encroached upon public funds earmarked for schools.
In Japan, construction of school houses has to be engineered to withstand sustained shaking. The safety standards applied are even more stringent than to some other architecture, as school children are more susceptible to injuries. Therefore, when photographs of children as well as adults seek shelter at schools were posted, Chinese were constantly reminded how tens of thousands of Chinese students could have been saved.
Chinese also marvel at Japan’s preparedness and resourcefulness. There is still much to be done to raise Chinese people’s knowledge and awareness of self-protection against earthquake. Most Chinese, when asked what to do if an earthquake comes, know nothing else besides hiding under the table/desk. Earthquake evacuation drills are rarely carried out, and if there is any, it is for the purpose of propaganda.
The following pictures have been shared in Chinese micro-blogosphere. One is of school children wrapped in yellow padded covers as hoods, which are usually placed on classroom chairs as cushions and designed to come in handy in case of an earthquake. The other is of manholes transformed into makeshift restrooms. Chinese netizens, impressed by the pictures, cannot help but show their respect for Japan’s consideration for its citizens.
Chinese are also angry with the government over its sugarcoated response and rescue effort. A reporter with Jiangxi TV named Zhou Ming wrote in his microblog that “On the one hand, Japanese foreign affairs department is giving green light to foreign reporters who apply for visa, one the other hand, police in Yingjiang (epicenter of the magnitude 5.8 earthquake on March 10) told domestic reporters from elsewhere not to get any close to the county government. Friends, it is really not that our media don’t care about Yingjiang.”
Two pictures speak louder than words. One shows a rescue soldier in Yingjiang’s quake zone playing computer game on his laptop. The other shows rescue soldiers plant banners bearing names of government organs on rubble and pose for the photo. A net user commented, “It’s rescue effort with Chinese characteristics.”
A Chinese microblogger named “慕容嗷嗷”(Murong Aoao) wrote, “Yunnan people, please hold on. You gotta believe in yourselves. Japanese people, please hold on. You gotta believe in your country.”
Another who goes by the name “这货有意思”(The_stuff_is_cool) wrote, “Weird. Why don’t Japanese media broadcast videos of cadres inspecting the scenes? Why don’t they invite experts to dismiss ‘rumors’? Why don’t anchors play the impassioning trick? Why don’t reporters at the scene grab the family of the victim and ask ‘who do you thank first now that you’ve survived?’”
The most impressive thing in the eyes of Chinese is the calmness and manners demonstrated by most Japanese in disaster-stricken regions. Many Chinese imagined that should an earthquake of this magnitude, which is 20 to 30 times greater than that of the one in 2008, hit China, it would render the entire quake zone into total chaos and anarchy. Ghosts of the 2008 earthquake still haunt many Chinese, when a high school teacher named Fan Meizhong, abandoned his students and was later boastful about his self-preservation, when thieves availed themselves of the weakest moment, when people scuffled over relief and when speculators snagged huge profits on panic-buying.
However, Japanese patience and order has dawned on Chinese that the nation has more that deserves admiration besides its wealth.
A Chinese student studying in Japan told Xiaoxiang Evening Post that when it was shaking, the instructor ordered the class to duck under the table immediately. She stood right in the middle of the classroom. When the shake was lighter, she asked us to leave the building as soon as possible. She was the last one to leave the classroom.
“It would be uncivilized to try to push and shove, and what good would it do anyway?” Kojo Saeseki, who was then helping his wife onto a crowded train on the city’s outskirts, was quoted by Los Angeles Times as saying.
Pictures of Japanese waiting in lines and quiet crowds circulated in China, where quite a number of its population are short-fused queue jumpers.
@南方游子2010：Japanese sit beside handrails to ensure smooth flow of traffic in the middle. This is the result of education. It cannot be won with GDP.
@权静: My friend in Tokyo tweeted that hundreds of people sought shelter in a square. During the entire period, not a single person smoked. Servants ran about to provide blankets, hot water, cookies. All men helped women by going back to the building to get things for them. They got electricity supply and plugged in the radio. Three hours later, people left. Damn. There was not a scrap of trash. Not even one.
@Moe_DD：Japan encountered M8.9 mega earthquake. While I am sending wishes to Japanese, I have to say, I have learned so much from the natural disaster. After the quake, Japanese company Suntory announced that all its vending machines would be supplying for free. Just a click of the button, beverage will come out! Japan’s 7-11 and FamilyMart will be providing free food and drink! …I am so deeply moved…This is the national image. It doesn’t need any Games (to exemplify). Even though Japan is hit by the disaster, Japanese have taught the entire world a lesson.
The following set of pictures is captioned by a Chinese net user. Ministry of Tofu has translated the Chinese caption into English.