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Saturday, 17 May 2008

Soldiers "just for show" says John Garnaut (in Szechuan) for The Sydney Morning Herald. The article is hilarious and in stark contrast to the official images that emerge from the depths of western China.

With 500,000 homeless and an official death count still below 30,000, we can be sure there will be more stories - of a New Orleans type - coming out of the middle kingdom.

smh.com.au image from website front page

smh.com.au image from online video
Some buildings, obviously, survived. The image below screened on smh.com.au and shows a very recent construction - evident in the rounded windows (dormer), green-blue glass, and overall elegant conception.

It would be useful to know the name of the contractor in this case, as in others - most tragically schools - the materials (they're calling it 'tofu' concrete; note that 'tofu' has another connotation - a woman's breasts - in China) are substandard.

smh.com.au image from online video
SMH 17 May 2008, story by John Garnaut and Hamish MacDonaldGarnaut has been busy filing at least one - more often several - story daily from Szechuan. In the SMH's News Review supplement (which doesn't make it online) he teams up with Hamish MacDonald (erstwhile China correspondent for the broadsheet).

Here, the story is one of genuine concern and anguish. Unlike the soldiers (getting in the way), in this story there are real heroes.

And because the media has been let in - it was a different story in 1976 when the last big earthquake hit China - better stories are getting out. And so we get a more nuanced and credible picture of how Chinese people really are.

Away from the centre, it is possible to get closer to the truth. It's a truism about China that the further south you go, the more, different voices are heard in the public sphere.

These voices do not recreate officially-sanctioned stereotypes but, rather, tell simple stories of average men and women taking care of each other.

It's moving, really.

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