Devastating Snow Evokes China’s Stormy History

From Los Angeles Times:

The image of a catastrophic natural disaster that humbled a powerful leader may have stalked Chinese Premier as he made rapid-fire visits last week to areas devastated by snowstorms, but it probably wasn’t Hurricane Katrina. Try going back a few centuries.

In a country where is never far from the surface, the events back in 1351 and 1644 may weigh on leaders’ minds. In those years, natural disasters led to the downfall of Chinese dynasties at a time of inflation, social unrest and corruption.

“Chinese leaders are very aware of the latent threat behind this disaster,” said Ong Yew-kim, a professor with the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “And Premier Wen Jiabao , who puts a lot of emphasis on history and culture, certainly thinks about this when dealing with this crisis. As we know, there is a life cycle for every dynasty.”

Few see a serious risk to the Communist Party’s grip in the storms that have killed at least 60 people, caused$7.5 billion in damage and left millions of frustrated people struggling to return home for Chinese New Year.

See also a report from the New York Times about the government’s response, or lack thereof, to the snow:

Many victims, however — as many as 100 million people were directly affected — equate surprise on such a huge scale with lack of preparation.

For migrant workers unable to take their annual leave for the , or for others stuck at home without electricity, water, regular supplies of food or even reliable news, the government, instead of an unpredictable weather system, increasingly appears to be the culprit.

In the last week the Chinese government has worked as hard at public relations over the crisis as it has over crisis management itself.

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