China Leaders Grapple With Political Aftershocks

From AP, William Foreman and Anita Chang report:

Chinese leaders moved to contain the political aftershocks of last week’s deadly earthquake, promising a big rebuilding fund, reining in the recently aggressive media and trying to keep despair from turning to anger in the disaster zone.

… The confirmed death toll from the earthquake rose to 41,353 and another 32,666 remained missing, said a spokesman for the Cabinet.

In the last day of a three-day national mourning period, the communist government was also reverting to well-tested methods to impose its authority.

A message of unity in the face of adversity was prominent in state media and on the streets of the hard-hit city of Shifang. Huge billboards stood in the shopping district in the center of the city, showing pictures of the quake’s damage, including collapsed buildings and injured people. A huge slogan read: “Everyone come together with one heart.”

In nearby Xinhua, a community of farmhouses and low-rise apartment blocks, a dozen soldiers milled around the protesting crowd of farmers, while others guarded the government office.

State-run media, which conducted unusually probing reporting in the first days after the May 12 quake, shifted to a more positive tone. Deng Yaping, four-time Olympic gold medalist in table tennis and a national hero, was shown on state TV talking to children in the city of Mianyang, where many refugees had been taken from nearby mountains.

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