My friend and fellow Grinnell alum, “Sunny” Seong-hyon Lee emailed me the other day to express his regrets for having been out of both Beijing and Seoul (where he usually is) when I was in both cities last month. More correspondence revealed he had just returned from Chengdu. Sunny wrote an amazing account of what he saw there for Harvard Magazine, (where he got his masters degree) The article is Hope amid destruction in Chengdu, and though I am sure most of you have already read countless articles on the quake, I urge you to read one more.
Much of the article chronicles what Sunny sees at a makeshift hospital for new and expectant mothers, but it also veers off into discussing the politics:
One reason why the Chinese government has proactively provided candid disaster information and allowed media access to the site is to prevent unfounded rumors from wreaking even more havoc, a taxi driver, Mr. Liu, explains. “Besides, this is such a big disaster that people will find out about it sooner or later. If you suppress information, rumors will be rampant,” he says. “Besides, given the massive financial loss here, the government will need to turn to the public to raise money,” he says.
Overall, Mr. Liu gives the government high marks for its disaster response. “Premier Wen Jiabao rushed to the disaster-stricken sites early on to oversee rescue efforts. That was a good move,” he says. “The radio is also doing a good job of providing information 24 hours a day. Yesterday, I was listening to FM 91.4 and the radio announcer kept talking for more than four hours straight in the evening. I am sure she didn’t have dinner. It was touching.”
By the time the taxi arrives at Xinhua Park, a voice on the radio says: “Dear comrades, please don’t panic. Please don’t listen to groundless rumors. Trust what the government says.”
Check it out.