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Isolated Governments Handle Disasters Differently

Two Asian countries wary of international intervention are reeling from natural disasters. BBC took a striking look at the contrasting government responses to the Myanmar cyclone and the earthquake in China.

Both countries have denied foreign relief workers and journalists. But, the similarities between how Myanmar's military junta, and China's communist oligarchy are responding stop about there.

China's government is proving it intends to be swift, flexible, and open. It has scaled back Olympic torch events, and instituted a daily minute of silence. With its immediate and extensive relief effort, the government is sending the message that it is accountable for its citizens' well-being.

The Burmese government is stubbornly hesitant to accept outside assistance, despite the fact that they are desperately incapable of taking on the rescue mission. Aid is being randomly handed out, and the government is showing no signs of flexibility, going ahead with a constitutional referendum in the midst of the disaster.

China's wealth and strong infrastructure gives it an advantage to handling the rescue internally. But, do you think China's flexibility is a sign that it's becoming more open and accountable to its people? What can the outside world do to help, when a reclusive government doesn't want assistance? How much blame should a government take for the consequences of a natural disaster?


Join The Conversation
nicachica nicachica 9 years
We are a global community and we have a moral imperative to help those in need, especially those in DESPERATE need of our help. I think the way China has handled this is exceptional and it stands in stark contrast to the absolutely HORRIBLE way Myanmar has mishandled the disaster. If any country's government needs to be overthrown right now, it's Myanmar's! I think the UN should ignore that ridiculous military junta and start air drops of food, shelter and other supplies from flyovers and have a military escort. It's that serious people!!!!
Meike Meike 9 years
Well, China certainly has more than enough people to provide aid to its citizens. China's government becoming more open, flexible, and accountable is not just a sign of the times in the country. They are growing world power and will be watched with more scrutiny than they have been in the past. And, well, it's a good thing despite the reasons for its change. Quite honestly, I don't think there is much we can do to aid reclusive governments/countries other than to offer it. If they refuse the help, it's their choice and we have no right to overstep that boundary. Myanmar is not the only country with suffering people. Let's help countries that actually want our aid.
janneth janneth 9 years
It is not right to allow the junta to take the food and supplies. "They have hungry children too", huh? The UN should step in. The world can't sit by and watch thousands of people starve in misery. It is so avoidable. China on the other hand has gone up in the estimation of many.
DigitalChick DigitalChick 9 years
The earth quake happened in Sichuan is devastating. Around 15,ooo people died, 20,000 are still buried. Overall, I think Chinese government made the right move and should be praised. In 72 hours, the army reached all region affected by the earth quake. These are all remote rural areas. The army arrived by aircraft, skiff, bus or just hiking through the rocks. There is no point to do the blame game right now. Chinese need outside assistance. In fact, Chinese government welcome outside material aid. British, US, French, Russian government all sent out monetary or material aid. More is needed.
Auntie-Coosa Auntie-Coosa 9 years
Heavy questions. Before there was instant communications what did Nations or tribes or regions of people do? How was Pompeii handled? What could the government done differently? Why didn't they send in troops to move people out of harms' way? Where was the government in that crisis? Why didn't they have sirens to warn of the volcano eruption? Who is at fault? Caesar Bushus or whom? Fast forward to Myanmar. I don't think the world knows enough about their infrastructure to be able to make good guesses as to what's going on inside that Country. We all have a viewpoint based on our personal experience, but I am sure the people of Myanmar have a totally different viewpoint on their lives and the world. And the junta wants it kept that way. So what do Nations do to offer assistance? Do what we're doing. Let both Countries know we are available to assist ON THEIR TERMS. Even if we think it means that the Myanmar junta is going to keep the best food. They have hungry children, too. And if we offer them food and clothing and rebuilding supplies in the name of charity, and they misuse or abuse it, then the judgment falls on their shoulders. I don't think we should intend to give it to the 'ruling powers that be.' I believe we should have some sort of guarantee that the food will go to displaced persons, etc, and then if the junta takes it for themselves, WE did what was morally correct and THEY are responsible from that point in the distribution. I don't think we can stand by and see children starving and not try to help. We ARE the USofA, after all.
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