China: Soldiers Shine In Earthquake Aftermath


May 22,2008: The recent earthquake in the southwest was a major test for the armed forces, especially the army and, to a lesser extent, the air force. The army had long been used for disaster relief, but until the last few decades, lack of mobility (most army units had few trucks) made it difficult to bring in troops quickly, over long distances. This has changed, and in the last decade military units have planned, and actually trained, to quickly move to a disaster area and do rescue and recovery work.

The government also relented on its initial orders to keep the media out, and the result was Chinese media giving lots of coverage to the massive military rescue efforts. The army has recently received new combat/work uniforms, so they looked good on TV as well. Every little bit helps. And the troops will be there for a while, since the quake, and the aftershocks, weakened hundreds of dams in the region. This requires disciplined manpower to evacuate threatened populations, examine and monitor the dams, and make repairs. As a result of the military's preparations, a disaster turned into a showcase for how professional and competent the troops had become. Sure, it wasn't a war, but it was the next best thing (a stressful situation that required discipline, planning and good leadership to overcome.) The government is spending $13 billion on the relief effort and immediate reconstruction. In addition to helping the victims, this effort will make China look good as thousands of foreign reporters come in this Summer for the Olympics. On the down side, with a disaster this large, reporters will have no trouble finding people who have fallen through the cracks and gotten a raw deal.

May 12, 2008: The largest earthquake in half a century hit southwest China, killing at least 50,000, injuring over 100,000 and leaving about five million people homeless and out of work.

May 10, 2008: China is investing $2.7 billion to establish an aircraft manufacturing company. The new China Commercial Aircraft Company will design and manufacture China's first wide-bodied commercial aircraft. For the last two decades, China has invested in dozens of aircraft technologies, from assembly of foreign aircraft designs in China, to manufacturing aircraft engines using foreign (licensed) designs and foreign advisors. In the next few decades, this will enable China to catch up with the West in military and commercial aviation technology.

May 4, 2008: The unrest in Tibet has been smothered by Chinese security forces and adroit diplomacy (that arranged a sham round of negotiations with Tibetan exiles and supporters of the Dali Lama). The unrest caused a lot of anger inside China, where people blamed foreigners (take your pick) for stirring up "bad elements" in Tibet to attack Chinese who were moving in and improving the economy and culture of the thinly populated and impoverished region.


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