China's Quake Relief Efforts Serve PR Purpose, Too

Forceful, and open, response shows government knows it's under microscope
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2008 9:57 AM CDT
A woman cries as she walks by a line rescuers just before they are going to search for victims after the earthquake at Beichuan County in Mianyang in Sichuan province, Tuesday, May 13, 2008.    (AP Photo/Color China Photo)
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(Newser) – China's devastating earthquake has kept the country in an international spotlight that's been too warm for comfort following recent Tibet and Olympic-torch troubles, the New York Times reports—and the country might be having a defining moment as it deals with the catastrophe. The country's swift, aggressive rescue effort contrasts sharply with neighboring Myanmar's, and with China's own approach to earlier calamities.

China's government seems aware the West is watching, and state media have been unusually open. A decision to scale back the Olympic torch relay after a public outcry is seen as a sign of a new responsiveness. "The government has drawn some lessons from negative feedback,” said a Beijing professor. “I think it reflects a trend of Chinese openness and reform.”