China has acted fast, sending disaster relief and organizing the evacuation of its own citizens from the disaster zone. This disaster also has caused some Chinese to view Japan through fresh eyes.
China’s 15-person search-and-rescue team was dispatched speedily to the Japanese quake zone. This was in part to reciprocate the help given by a Japanese military team that aided China after its own massive earthquake in Sichuan three years ago. As the first Japanese troops in China since the end of the brutal Japanese occupation, their presence was politically charged.
When China’s Premier Wen Jiabao gave his annual press conference Monday, it was hard not to wonder whether troubled bilateral ties were the reason it took him 2 1/2 hours to get around to expressing his condolences.
“I want to use today’s opportunity to extend our deep condolences over the lost lives in this disaster and express our sincere sympathy to the Japanese people,” he said, just before winding up. “China is also a country that is prone to earthquake disasters, and we fully empathize with how Japanese feel now.”
China is stepping up. It’s sending $4.5 million worth of rescue materials, including blankets and flashlights. Beijing has promised more, if necessary.
From China Real Time Report:
Shortly after Mr. Wen spoke, the state-run Xinhua new agency quoted China’s Ministry of Commerce as saying Beijing planned to provide roughly $4.6 million in humanitarian assistance to support disaster relief efforts in Japan. The report noted that a 15-member Chinese rescue team had arrived in Japan on Sunday and said an initial shipment of blankets, tents, emergency lights and other relief materials will be sent to Japan from Shanghai. A team of 30 doctors, nurses and radiation control experts has also been assembled and is ready to be dispatched to Japan if needed, Xinhua said.
Reuters has compiled a list of contributions from around 70 countries, according to which China’s Health Minister has pledged “whatever medical aid is needed at a moment’s notice”. The Defence Ministry, meanwhile, has offered relief materials and “medical, rescue, or disease prevention teams or a hospital ship”, according to Xinhua. The state news agency has adopted an unusually fraternal tone in the wake of the disaster:
Many Chinese still remember that after a magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck China’s Sichuan province in 2008, Japanese rescuers offered valuable help, ordinary Japanese people lined up to make donations, and even some mayors and municipal legislators took to the streets to solicit contributions.
The willingness and readiness to help each other is just a natural reflection of the time-honored friendly bond between the two neighboring Oriental civilizations. The virtue of returning the favor after receiving one runs in the bloods of both nations.
Among the immediate recipients of Chinese aid are Chinese nationals in the affected areas who, according to Voice of America, are being evacuated by bus:
Thousands of Chinese are reported to be stranded in tsunami and quake hit areas of Japan that are also facing a radiation threat, and China has become the first country to order a mass evacuation of its nationals from the country. The meltdown fear at the Fukushima nuclear power plant has also put the spotlight on China’s expanding nuclear power program.
China says it will evacuate its citizens from areas worst affected by Japan’s earthquake and subsequent damage to nuclear reactors.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu says the Chinese embassy in Tokyo is arranging buses to carry Chinese out of the affected areas also threatened with a radiation leak.
This urgency in rushing Chinese citizens to safety echoes the recent evacuation from Libya, as the government again attempts to display the willingness and ability to protect its people upon which its legitimacy has come to rest.