Tsunami and China

After the Tsunami hit South East Asia I have been following the news on
an hourly basis. Partly because of the disastrous impact, partly
because many of the places hit, I visited before. It’s a weird idea
knowing the lodge you once stayed is gone, it’s uncomprehensible to
understand what the people must have gone through. The whole world
seems to be collecting money now to help the victims and I think that’s
great. Goverments are also throwing in their weight by promising money
and even the cynical me should be happy about that.

I am but then again, I am not because apparently most of the money promised never gets there. An article in the Washingtonpost tells that

“The pattern in many previous disasters is not encouraging in that
regard, aid experts said. Governments often pledge huge amounts when
crises are in the headlines and then fail to deliver anywhere near
those sums, they said. An example is the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran,
where officials report that only a small fraction of the more than $1
billion pledged was sent.”


“In an apparent reference to that pattern, Louis Michel, the European
Union’s commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, yesterday
warned at a news conference, “We have to be careful and not participate
in a beauty contest where we are competing to give higher figures.”

And this seems to be happening, it becomes a beauty contest. In China
it’s also a power contest. Initially the Chinese government pledged 3
million US. Some time later, after Taiwan pledged 50 million, suddenly
it became 63 million. On TV and in the papers a lot of attention is
giving to all the great contributions of China and it’s people to the
hit countries. Even in my building there is a poster keeping track of
the contributions of the tenants. Mister Wu donated 10 kuai, mister Li
donated 500 kuai. A big picture today of a medical team from Shanghai
that returned from it’s mission to one of the affected countries. They
got a welcome like heroes. Speeches from notaries etc. Nothing wrong
with the fact that Chinese people help, it’s great actually, but using
it too much as a propaganda tool doesn’t seem so appropriate.

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