China and Burma: a Seismic Shift

"China responds to disaster with compassion; Burma remains criminally negligent," from the Times:

Two terrible natural disasters have affected two neighbouring countries within eight days. In Burma, the cyclone that left up to 100,000 people dead or injured now threatens the lives of thousands more people because of the criminal refusal by the junta to accept and deliver urgently needed foreign aid. In China, the worst earthquake for more than 30 years is known to have killed at least 12,000 people but has probably taken the lives of three or four times that number in Wenchuan alone, the epicentre that remains cut off from the world. China's leaders, however, have reacted with exemplary speed and concern, mobilising a massive national effort to rescue survivors and prevent the outbreak of disease. The contrast could not be more poignant.

For China, where old habits of secrecy still linger, the new openness and concern are heartening. Wen Jiabao, the Prime Minister, flew immediately to the disaster area, voiced national grief and sympathy, visited survivors and repeated his call for even faster efforts to reach those trapped under buildings or buried in the rubble. More than 50,000 troops have been mobilised to aid the emergency teams and distribute food. Helicopters have been put on standby to drop medicines and provisions. Nearby airports have been closed to civilian traffic to aid the emergency effort. Priority has been given to restoring electricity and clearing roads. An appeal has gone out for blood and television provides frequent bulletins.


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