Response To Japanese Disaster-Duke, China, and U.S.

Although both extremely busy with an extensive list of internal affairs, both China and the United States offered aid to Japan, which was recently hit with one a devastating earthquake and tsunami. The death toll is feared to be over 10,000 people, and although the country has one of the best natural disaster responses in the world, it is still in dire need of help from abroad. The magnitude of the earthquake was recorded at an 8.9, which qualifies among the most severe. The destruction of an earthquake with that magnitude can “totally destroy communities.” Earthquakes such as these occur every 5 to 10 years.

Devastating Effects of Japanese Tsunami

The U.S. Department of Defense issued a statement expressing its deepest condolences to Japan and its citizens. In a news conference a few days ago, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, John V. Roos, spoke of the U.S. readiness to “support emergency relief efforts and minimize human suffering.” So far, the U.S. military has rerouted several ships, sent helicopters, and directed planes with emergency packets towards the coasts of Japan. President Obama claimed, “The images of destruction and flooding coming out of Japan are simply heartbreaking.” U.S. citizens have also gotten involved as small assessment teams and charitable groups have been dispatched to help.

The Chinese response to this tremendous disaster has also been immediate and substantial. Chinese Premier Wen Jaibo sent a message to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan offering not only his sincerest condolences, but also support. Although no direct military commitment has been reported, hundreds of Chinese humanitarian workers have headed to Japan with emergency supplies. China’s Red Cross Society donated roughly $152,000 to the relief effort, and Chinese billionaire and philanthropist Chen Guangbiao has also committed to giving an equally large sum.

It is good to know that both the U.S. and China step up when needed most, and I’m interested to see how this catastrophe is perceived on Duke’s campus. Will it be another occasion where students table on the plaza, and a small portion of money is donated? Or will a group of students actively seek to travel to the country such as many other U.S. and Chinese citizens? In the coming weeks I will look to see whether or not students a status quo manner or if they will be more aggressive, such as working to send small groups of people or assembling aid packages. Do not get me wrong, raising money is very admirable. However in order for the effects of this tsunami to be well known and for students to make a palpable difference, other efforts outside of fund raising will have to occur.

Chinese citizen Fei Ye said a few days ago “When confronting natural disasters, there are no Chinese or Japanese, but only global citizens.” Thus far the U.S. and Chinese governments have taken this notion to heart. Will Duke students?


1 Comment

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One response to “Response To Japanese Disaster-Duke, China, and U.S.

  1. Will Weir

    I think you are asking a little too much of a student body. Sending aid packages to Japan versus simply raising money for Japanese relief funds certainly shows a further interest in the effort, but will the aid the Japanese receive be any greater than it would be if this aid came from already established agencies, such as the Red Cross, through the funding of Duke students? Likewise, expecting Duke students to organize a trip for a group of people to come to Japan’s aid would be difficult when Duke is currently forbidding its students from traveling to Japan and the United States government is doing its best to get citizens OUT of the region.

    I think current efforts to raise money and awareness for the relief effort are the proper means to addressing this problem. By trying to organize their own relief programs, students are wasting their money on start up costs, about which the established institutions do not have to worry. I think the greater question will not be the breath of student aid efforts currently, but their longevity. Will students continue to show compassion to the Japanese in the weeks and months to come, after our 24 hour news cycle has moved on to the next story?

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