Peripheral Revision

Unfiltering history as we live it

Chinese offers condolences and aid to Japan after massive earthquake

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China and the Earthquake in Japan
by Evan Osnos, Dispatches from China, The New Yorker

China offered to send earthquake rescuers and extended its “deep sympathy and solicitudes to the Japanese government and people” on Friday, marking some of the first sober words exchanged between the two nations in months. It is a grim context for a return to civility, but an encouraging sign of potential coöperation as Japan pursues its rescue and recovery efforts. Last fall relations between Beijing and Tokyo reached their worst point in years after Japan detained the Chinese captain of a fishing boat that had collided with Japanese Coast Guard vessels in a disputed stretch of the East China Sea.

Depending on whether Japan needs the assistance and accepts China’s offer, the effort could provide a visible display of China’s new reach as an emerging power in the region. Disaster aid and peacekeeping efforts have been a favorite of the Chinese government. Since 2003, China has sent rescuers to Algeria, Iran, Pakistan, Aceh, Yogyakarta, and, most recently, Haiti, where its teams were among the earliest skilled arrivals, according to a report by the East Asian Bureau of Economic Reasearch.

But China is still acclimating to the role of international aid-provider. After the Indonesian tsunami, for instance, China sent rescuers to Aceh and later constructed the “Friendship Village of Indonesia-China,” which locals know as the “Jackie Chan Village.” But, as a Bureau report concluded, China has been reluctant to involve itself in what it considers “internal affairs,” such as domestic debates about employment, even as it looked for opportunities for leadership that might elevate its stature as a regional leader. In these early days after the quake, these are abstract questions; so far China’s offers of aid to a longtime rival are a welcome gesture after several tense months.


Written by peripheralrevision

03/12/2011 at 6:30 am

Posted in China, Japan

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