Will China accept help for earthquake?

Scott Tong May 13, 2008

Will China accept help for earthquake?

Scott Tong May 13, 2008


Kai Ryssdal: The death toll from yesterday’s earthquake in China’s Sichuan Province has now topped 12,000 and is expected to rise.

Aid offers continue to arrive. Earlier today, the White House pledged $500,000. The International Olympic Committee promised a million.

But as the day wore on in China, the big question was whether Beijing would be receptive to the offers or would the government choose to go it alone?

From Shanghai, Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports.

Scott Tong: Donation offers rolled in today from companies like Microsoft, Intel and Dow Chemical. Foreign governments offered help too, as did international aid groups. All Beijing needs to do is accept the help.

Kate Janis is with a non-profit, Mercy Corps:

Kate Janis: China is a country where everything goes through the government. Whether you’re working in the private sector, the civic sector, you need to wait for the go-ahead from the government.

Finally, late this afternoon, China said yes to money and to supplies, but no to relief workers, says Wang Zhenyao of the country’s disaster relief unit.

Wang Zhenyao: It’s impossible for even our own teams to reach the disaster areas. Conditions are not yet ripe for us to allow international rescue teams to enter.

Still, many praise China’s uncharacteristically quick response. 32 years ago, it rejected all outside help when a massive quake killed a quarter of a million people and this past winter, Beijing reacted so slowly to a record winter storm, it had to apologize.

Dali Yang: The Chinese government has apparently learned some lessons from that.

Dali Yang heads the East Asian Institute in Singapore. He says this time, Beijing sprung into action with it’s soldiers and doctors, all headed up by Premier Wen Jiabao.

Yang: How many premiers in the world immediately rush to a major disaster zone within a couple hours of the quake? This is truly a leadership that’s very determined to get things done.

As for the outside help, he says China can use the money, but not so much supplies and equipment since most of that tends to be made here.

In Shanghai, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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