"Spirit of Chinese People"
Op-Ed, The Korea Times
June 16, 2008
Author: Shacheng Wang, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 2007-2008
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
This year has been a rough year for China. The Chinese people have been faced with troubles from all fronts. In January and February, snow crippled China's railroad system during the annual Lunar New Year holiday.
In March and April, events surrounding its Olympic torch relay damaged China's image around the world. And in May, violent earthquakes in Sichuan have sent convulsions deep into the heart of China.
Facing such catastrophe, the Chinese have been undaunted. Instead, they are feeling what Franklin Roosevelt called the warm courage of national unity. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the Chinese government will stick to its "people-first" policy in its future rescue operations and reconstruction works.
"Wenchuan, we are staying with you." Wenchuan, a county of Sichuan province in China, is the earthquake's epicenter. Volunteer groups blossomed around the world, holding vigils and prayers for victims.
Paper cranes and blessing cards still hang from everywhere in China. There continues to be an overarching message: the earthquake victims are not alone.
"I will be a doctor volunteer and go to the quake zones tomorrow." An alumna from Peking University told me soon after the quake. More than 32,000 medical workers immediately raced against time to offer medical services to the victims in the disaster zones from all parts of China.
People from all walks of life lined up to donate blood, money or goods throughout the country, hoping to contribute to the need of the quake-stricken areas.
The motto "not one less" has continued to appear throughout China's mainstream media, the idea that not one victim should remain without help.
The whole country is working together to share information and help with disaster relief. The PLA (People's Liberation Army) and the armed police have acted as the backbone throughout all rescue efforts.
All the roads, power equipment, and communication apparatuses were destroyed in the earthquake in Wenchuan. The earthquake was followed by heavy rain and a class six gale. However, for the tens of thousands of people who were out of touch, 200 PLA troops entered Wenchuan in 21 hours after 90 kilometers' hasty march.
They rescued and relocated several thousand people. The number of PLA and armed police dispatched to quake-hit areas reached nearly 100,000 soon after the earthquake, with 148 military and civilian aircraft used immediately for disaster relief.
By the midnight of June 8th, over 1,383,977 people trapped and injured during the quake had been rescued. There continue to be many moving stories.
"Let me save one more child!" shouted one soldier. More than 100 children were buried under the ruins of a school building. Ten more survivors and twenty more bodies have since been carried out. With the aftershocks and crane operations, the ruins might collapse again.
Realizing the dangers of the operation, the on-spot commander ordered all soldiers to exit the ruins. When a soldier came out, he found another child in the ruins. Just as he went to go back to rescue him, the ruins collapsed.
He was stopped by force by his brothers in arms for his safety. "Let me save one more child!" he wept and shouted as he knelt by the ruins.
"Saving people is equal to saving my family," said one rescuer, Li Shaojie, who helped in the rescue. His grandparents were killed and his parents badly injured in the earthquake.
Ironically, as he worked and helped save injured people in his hometown of Jinhua, he had little time to take care of his own family.
My sentiment, along with many others inside and outside of China is summed up in one sentence that continues to travel on foot and on the web: "Hang in there, Wenchuan; hang in there, Sichuan."
Wang Shacheng is a predoctoral research fellow at the Belfer Center's International Security Program at Harvard Kennedy School and a Ph.D. candidate in intelligence at the Department of Information Management at Peking University. He can be reached at Wang_Shacheng@ksg.harvard.edu.
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