May 13, 2011
Tens of thousands of people lost their homes after an 8.0-magnitude earthquake devastated more than 100,000 square kilometers of land in China’s Sichuan Province in 2008. However, remarkable achievements have been accomplished in post-quake reconstruction in a short period of three years, and the lives of most victims have returned to normal. People cannot stop wondering how China, a socialist country, managed to help the disaster area achieve such a miraculous recovery from the dreadful disaster.
There is a growing consensus that the socialist system is a key contributor to the miraculous recovery. Time magazine reported that a strong central government, rapid economic growth and great assistance from relatively developed areas were China’s advantages in post-earthquake reconstruction. As can be seen from the reconstruction work in the past three years, the superiority of the socialist system has been manifested in two ways.
First, the socialist system can help a country concentrate efforts and resources on major tasks. One of the most important disaster response strategies of the Chinese government is to mobilize the entire country to help disaster areas. China launched a general mobilization and sent some 100,000 soldiers to the disaster area shortly after the Wenchuan earthquake. Furthermore, a massive post-earthquake reconstruction assistance program was launched 14 days after the earthquake, and a detailed aid plan named “One Province for One Severely Stricken County” was introduced 37 days after the earthquake. The central government gave full play to the superiority of the socialist system by mobilizing the entire country to respond effectively and efficiently to the disaster.
In addition to government efforts, countless individuals and organizations provided assistance to the earthquake-stricken area. With great support from all provinces, the earthquake victims devoted themselves to rebuilding their hometown with tremendous enthusiasm. Thanks to the central government’s great ability to mobilize and organize, the victims’ hometown was rebuilt and their pains were gradually healed. China is neither as rich as the United States nor as experienced as Japan in dealing with disasters, but it has an incomparable ability to mobilize the people and resources of the entire country quickly and efficiently.
The second is the innovation-based self-improvement in the process of addressing tough issues. As the catastrophic disaster was unprecedented to the people in earthquake-affected areas and tough problems successively emerged during the period of reconstruction, China should not only learn foreign experience but also work out solutions according to actual situations and find ways out through innovation.
In addition to the pairing assistance mechanism that is considered a major institutional innovation, infinite wisdom and vitality related to innovation at various levels and in different respects emerged in earthquake-affected areas.
Innovations tested the Party’s governing capability and showed the self-improvement and self-development abilities of the socialist system to turn the disaster into an opportunity. These innovations include raising reconstruction funds using market-based means, developing grassroots-level democracy to improve grassroots-level governance, introducing social management reforms to enhance the equality in urban and rural public services as well as improving the information disclosure system to ensure transparent reconstruction to empower those in the earthquake-affected areas to tackle reconstruction problems.
The innovations have caused a leap-forward development, rebuilt the soul of the development in the disaster-affected areas and provided new experience for the reforms and development of China’s other regions.
Archimedes once said, “Give me a fulcrum, and I shall move the world.” The “Archimedes fulcrum” that moved forward the grand reconstruction project in earthquake-hit areas in Wenchuan is the socialist system and the mode of development, both of which show Chinese characteristics. The areas that were destroyed by the earthquake and have already been reconstructed based on this fulcrum, like a wordless textbook, tell us that although mankind cannot prevent the occurrence of natural disasters, the superior socialist system can minimize losses from disasters, maximize the safety of people’s lives and property and make the most possible use of its resources to help disaster-affected people to rebuild their homes.