Monday, 21 March 2011

Trying to Win Brownie Points

In the last few weeks China seems to be showing a "people first" attitude in first evacuating over 35,000 of its citizens from Libya and now thousands of Chinese from quake-hit Sendai and the surrounding area.

And then last Wednesday the State Council announced it was suspending approvals for nuclear power plants and would conduct comprehensive safety checks of all of the ones currently in operation in response to the possible meltdown of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Only days earlier officials had said China would press on with its ambitious nuclear power project despite concerns.

A Western observer commented on the Chinese evacuations from Libya, saying it was "a masterful demonstration that China had entered the big leagues as far as global logistics are concerned".

Could this mark a new development for the government, showing true concern for its people?

"Those moves reflect the 'people first' policy, as the government attaches greater importance to people's lives, which has won praise everywhere," said Mao Shoulong, professor of political science at Renmin University's School of Public Administration.

Jin Canrong, professor of Renmin University's School of International Relations believes this 'people first' focus is a response to the demands of the middle class who are highly educated and have a high tendency for networking.

However Wang Yizhou, professor of international relations at Peking University believes government actions were the result of public pressure thanks mostly to the internet.

While it is impressive for China to be proactive in getting its citizens out of dangerous situations, what about applying this 'people first' attitude when it comes to properly compensating people who are being pushed off their land, or justice for the victims of the tainted milk scandal and the earthquake victims from the shoddily-built schools?

Evacuating people from overseas looks good from the outside. But what about helping those from within?

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