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Op-Ed: Puerto Rico disaster shows US could learn from China about how to deal with natural disasters

By Curtis Stone (People's Daily Online)    13:21, September 29, 2017

If one ever doubted the fact that the Chinese government cares for its citizens or questioned the effectiveness of China’s system, the government’s responses to natural disasters, especially when compared to the US government’s half-hearted response in Puerto Rico, should cast those doubts aside.

China sometimes gets a black eye in the Western media, especially in terms of human rights, but the Chinese government’s all-out responses to natural disasters are solid evidence that China values human rights and will spare no effort to ensure the safety and wellbeing of its citizens, both at home and abroad.

From earthquakes to typhoons to flooding, the Chinese government has proven time and again that when natural disaster strikes it will move mountains to help its people. After a massive and devastating earthquake struck Wenchuan County in China’s Sichuan province in May 2008, the Chinese government sprang into action with a rapid, massive, and impressive response that won hearts at home and abroad. And after a powerful earthquake struck Jiuzhaigou County in the same province last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping immediately called for “all-out efforts” to respond to the quake and rescue the injured. It is for reasons like this that Chinese have confidence in their government and Chinese soldiers are loved by the people, as can be seen when the soldiers complete disaster relief operations.

China evacuates 462 nationals from hurricane-hit Dominica

More recently, the Chinese government’s responsibility to ensure that all Chinese are safe in the face of natural disaster was on display after Hurricane Maria devastated the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica. The Chinese government immediately expressed its concern about the safety of its citizens and took action to evacuate 462 Chinese nationals, including two people from Taiwan and a one-month-old baby. “Once again, China has successfully evacuated its people,” wrote a Chinese–language report. “While the US military evacuated from the island, China’s embassy braved the winds.” Many Chinese netizens lauded the government’s handling of the incident. “China is stronger and Chinese have more peace of mind. I’m proud,” wrote on netizen. “Because you are Chinese, the motherland is behind you wherever you go,” another wrote.

Compare all that to the US government response, or lack of, to the worsening disaster in the US territory of Puerto Rico, and it is easy to make the argument that the US government has failed in its responsibility to ensure that all Americans are safe. Hurricane Maria, the biggest catastrophe in the Puerto Rico’s history in terms of natural disasters, has devastated the island. “Make no mistake — this is a humanitarian disaster involving 3.4 million US citizens,” the island’s governor said Monday. But more than a week since the hurricane wreaked havoc, millions of Americans remain desperate for water and food and without power, and conditions are getting worse daily.

Puerto Rico is in “deep trouble”

Despite the dire situation, the US government has shown little genuine interest in rolling up its sleeves to help fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. The foot-dragging is frankly embarrassing for a powerful nation with massive resources and a powerful navy, and for some people, the lackluster response puts a huge question mark over US commitment to human rights. “Trump is letting Puerto Rico die - because its people are Hispanic,” GQ Special Correspondent Keith Olbermann claimed. Whether or not that is the case, it certainly appears as if the island has been hung out to dry. Puerto Ricans are literally begging for help, with one viral photo showing “S.O.S.” written on the pavement. “Americans in Puerto Rico…deserve to know that their government will be there for them, without question or hesitation,” US Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Monday.

When natural disaster strikes, Chinese know that their government will be there for them, without question or hesitation; and quickly mobilizing the nation’s resources to rescue fellow Chinese is not even a debate. Hopefully, the growing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico will get the urgent attention it deserves, but the depressing situation speaks volumes about how the two countries use their resources. “The Chinese army carries shovels into a disaster area, while American soldiers carry guns to save people. Do they want to save lives or fight a war?” the above-mentioned Chinese report asked. “One can only imagine the feeling of disaster victims seeing heavily armed soldiers and then friendly Chinese soldiers,” it added.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Wu Chengliang, Bianji)

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