Will China accept foreign aid for quake?

The Chinese flag is seen flying in Shanghai, China.

TEXT OF STORY

TESS VIGELAND: Yet another massive quake shook the earth today. This time in China. It struck a remote rural area called Qinghai province. Hundreds are reported dead.

As with other recent quakes, people around the world will want to donate to the relief effort. But in China, where the government exerts tight control over everything, the question is will they accept foreign aid?

Marketplace's Rico Gagliano has that story.


RICO GAGLIANO: Though the death toll may not rival January's Haiti earthquake, the situation in Qinghai is dire.

Alex Mahoney is a manager of disaster programs for The Red Cross. He says at least 10,000 people are injured and shelter is a worry.

ALEX MAHONEY: It's cold there. It's getting below freezing still at night because it's mountainous. So people need blankets, they need shelter, they need food and water.

Even so, Mahoney says the Chinese government hasn't asked for foreign assistance yet. And he says that's not unusual.

MAHONEY: Typically China doesn't ask for outside assistance for disasters very often. The most recent time they did that was the Szechuan earthquake in 2008.

That quake -- in which around 90,000 people perished -- was supposed to have signaled a new era in China's disaster response.

Adam Segal is a China expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. He says at first, China rejected foreign aid, but...

ADAM SEGAL: Once they became aware of the massive scope and the huge number of death and displacements, then they started accepting assistance from neighboring countries. This was all kind of taken as a sign, both of a kind of greater openness from China and also that they had learned from previous disasters.

So will China do the same about-face this time around? Segal says that'll depend on the scope of the damage. And whether China's willing to allow foreign relief workers and reporters into a politically-charged Tibetan area.

Meanwhile, Alex Mahoney of the Red Cross says there is a way for concerned foreigners to give money now.

MAHONEY: We have an international response fund. And that enables us to be ready to respond if and when they ask for international assistance, and also for future disasters.

In Los Angeles, I'm Rico Gagliano for Marketplace.

About the author

Rico Gagliano is the host of Dinner Party Download.

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