China's Earthquake Death Toll Climbs

May 13, 2008 2:12:15 PM PDT
The death toll surged to 12,000. A desperate operation is underway to rescue victims of a massive seven-point-nine magnitude earthquake. The actual death toll could be much higher. The Chinese government is responding to this disaster forcefully - with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao at the tip of the spear, bullhorn in hand, trying to front the crisis with an image of strength and control.

Though, Chinese leaders are loathe to admit they need outside help for domestic problems - and there's no indication yet that China will refuse international assistance. But with the Olympics now only three months away officials are aware that failure to deal humanely and efficiently with this quake will be a public relations disaster.

China is still reeling from recent criticism of protests in Tibet, has already been harshly criticized for its handling of a child foot-and-mouth disease epidemic sweeping across the country.

The image of china as a modern economic powerhouse could also be shaken if the response to the quake falls short.

Chengdu, near the epicenter of the quake is also one of the most important commercial cities in China a manufacturing base for big companies like Intel, Boeing, and GE among others. And then there's the judgment from the people, the victims which might pose the biggest threat to China's communist leaders.

China's one-child-per-family rule means many families have now lost their only children, which could prove to be painful for generations to come, wounds not likely to heal anytime soon.

And putting all the more pressure on Chinese leadership is that all the world is watching its every move, ready to judge it's every success and it's every failure.


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