China and the importance of a robust civic society during a crisis
The importance of a robust civil society can be invaluable during a time of national crisis as shown by the current events in China. In the past China was under-resourced and overwhelmed by natural calamity, and the government was quick to bury the evidence of their incompetence as was with the Tangshan earthquake. In contrast China this time around has found itself in the unusual position of being showered with international praise, both for its reaction to the disaster and the openness with which it has allowed the details to be reported.
The NYTimes reports that from the moment the earthquake struck on May 12, the Chinese government dispatched soldiers, police officers and rescue workers in the type of mass mobilization expected of the ruling Communist Party. But an unexpected mobilization, prompted partly by unusually vigorous and dramatic coverage of the disaster in the state-run news media, has come from outside official channels. Thousands of Chinese have streamed into the quake region or donated record sums of money in a striking and unscripted public response.
Here is a story of one such concerned citizen.
Hao Lin had already lied to his wife about his destination, hopped a plane to Chengdu, borrowed a bike and pedaled through the countryside in shorts and leather loafers by the time he reached this ravaged farming village. A psychologist, Mr. Hao had come to offer free counseling to earthquake survivors.
He had company. A busload of volunteers in matching red hats was bumping along the village’s rutted dirt road. Employees from a private company in Chengdu were cleaning up a town around the bend. Other volunteers from around China had already delivered food, water and sympathy.
“I haven’t done this before,” said Mr. Hao, 36, as he straddled his mountain bike on Saturday evening. “Ordinary people now understand how to take action on their own.”