China Aviation Law

The Chinese Reaction to the Sendai Earthquake

Japan Quake Tsunami


On March 11, 2011, a record-breaking earthquake struck Japan. While damage from the earthquake itself was relatively minor, the north coast of the country was devastated a tsunami that was triggered by the earthquake. Initial estimates peg the damage from the earthquake to be in the thousands of lives and the billions of dollars.

Immediately after the quake, the international community responded by flying relief workers and aid into the country. While most of the international response has been positive, some have used the tragedy to dredge up previous wrongs committed by the Japanese government. Americans on social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, have expressed comments that the earthquake was karmic payback for Pearl Harbor. However, the most complex, vocal and negative reactions to the quake have come from the Chinese community.

Immediately after the earthquake, the Chinese web-boards lit up with commentary on the disaster. Predictably, there were two themes of commentary on the quake. One group of commentators expressed sympathy for the victims of the earthquake. Another group expressed a negative and celebratory tone about the Japanese earthquake with comments like, “[w]armly welcome the Japanese earthquake.”

Chinese government censors have worked overtime to present the earthquake in the best light to the people. First, when the negative comments were picked up by western blogs in China, these blogs immediately hit with DDOS attacks from within the country. Second, certain positive comments that contrast the resilience and quick response of the Japanese government have been censored. As one comment, which was quickly removed wrote, “[t]he casualties from an 8.9 event in China would be hundreds of times higher than in Japan." Chinese government censors have had a similar schizophrenic response in the wake other recent nation and international tragedies – media coverage of the Chilean miners’ success was downplayed and the Chinese media very quickly buried news of the Yichuan air crash.

Finally, the Chinese government has been slow to offer aid to Japan. During the Wen Jiabao’s annual news conference, 4 days after the quake, he did not comment on the Japanese disaster until 2 ½ hours into his presentation. The Chinese have pledged $167,000 in aid and sent a 15 member search and rescue team to Japan. This number has been overshadowed by a $3.3 million pledge by the Taiwanese government and it less than the donations of surrounding countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Korea and Mongolia.


Given the sorted history between the two countries, it is not surprising to see this response from the populace. Those who grew up in China have poignant memories of stories about the Japanese occupation, which are reinforced by annual visits by Japanese Prime Minister to the Yasukuni Shrine war shrine. Additionally, the Japan is in no hurry to accept help from its former enemy as one commentator and Japanese lawyer put it, “we welcome the assistance of the United States but not China.”




Posted by Casey DuBose

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