This is an interesting and touching article written by Xinhua writers. 2008-05-25 16:02:45
by Xinhua writers Ni Siyi and Lou Chen

BEIJING, May 25 (Xinhua) — The year 2008 will be remembered with mixed feelings by the Chinese, not only because of the impending Beijing Olympics and the many crises in the run up to the event, but also because of the totally different reaction of the Western world toward China over these tragedies, through which they have come to know how much they are divided and how much they could have in common.

Just a few weeks ago, China was fiercely attacked by those who didn’t have the slightest idea of the truth of the secessionist riot in Tibet. The nation’s feelings were offended by seeing a wheelchair-bound woman torchbearer attacked by those who sought to sabotage the Olympic torch relay.

The Chinese, like any other people, were offended and humiliated at being called “goons and thugs” and having part of their territory called “a country”.

Over more than 30 years of reform and opening up, China has been reaching out to the world through consistent and extensive engagement, with an expectation that its political system, its way of development and its people should be gradually known, understood and acknowledged.

But what happened in the last few months made the average Chinese wonder how the Western world can be so opinionated that riots, arson and murder could be interpreted as the government’s “crackdown” on a “peaceful protest” by Tibetan monks.

The worldwide protests against the Western media’s biased and hurtful reports and the Western world’s indifference toward China’s indignant defense also made the Chinese people ponder: is there any chance that China and the West can make peace with each other, given the huge misunderstandings and the vast gap in their political, cultural and social backgrounds?

But in less than two months’ time, the Western stance toward China shifted in the face of another disaster, the Sichuan earthquake. The death toll from the disaster could exceed 80,000 and the event plunged the whole nation into grief.

To the surprise of many Chinese, the Western media this time reported the Chinese government’s rapid response and efficient disaster relief efforts with unprecedented acknowledgement and even admiration. And they also touched upon a side of the Chinese people they had never covered before: the people’s calm and courage in the face of a terrible disaster, soldiers and volunteers who came to help at the risk of their own lives, and officials who lost their families but still led rescue efforts with a strong heart, and even a policewoman who helped by breast-feeding others’ babies.

These things, in their truest forms, were laid bare in front of the world, and this time, the finger-pointing is over, and the world is portraying China with a totally different image.

Even CNN, which was targeted by millions of Chinese at home and abroad for its questionable Tibet coverage, won credit for truthful coverage this time. One Chinese blogger wrote: “I was moved by the Chinese government and also by a CNN report.”

The CNN report used the following words to describe a local Communist Party official at the rescue scene: “Tears flowed down his cheeks, and he made no efforts to wipe them away. He says that as many as 500 are dead, including his parents, his wife and their two children. In the midst of his anguish, there is a call over his radio. He’s needed again, and he runs off — with apologies –to go back to work.”

Grassroots officials like this man, however, used to be portrayed negatively in the foreign media. Similarly, those in uniform, whether police or the army, were described as tools of the government’s tight grip on the country and a symbol of China’s “military threat.”

World leaders also expressed their grief over the loss of life in China and their admiration for the Chinese people and the government. French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the Chinese people: “I feel your grief.” Rescue teams, materials and donations flooded in. And many Chinese citizens were surprised to hear that Saudi Arabia, which many of them know little about, offered a hefty amount of money to quake survivors.

In the aftermath of the killer quake, the world has come to know the uncompromising nature of the Chinese people and the Chinese have a better idea of the goodwill and support people from other nations can offer. One of the unexpected developments was that the Japanese rescue team’s resilient work style in the Sichuan quake area dramatically boosted Chinese people’s respect for the Japanese, even though they failed to pull out anybody alive.

How could the once somewhat hostile and deeply divided West and China come to stand together and feel each other’s shining human nature and goodwill? The answer lies in some universal values they share: respect for human life, and for all the good human nature of bravery, selflessness, and perseverance in face of difficulties.

In other words, different peoples with varied political, religious and cultural backgrounds can unite as one, when faced with the common threats to humanity’s existence and development. That’s why the Chinese people have had the sympathy of the world in the past weeks and both the West and China learned to appreciate and admire each other.

In this regard, even the worst tragedy might have a blessing: people could through such disasters come to realize that it’s easier for different peoples to understand and appreciate each other, when politically charged bias is peeled away. And those differences, disputes and even conflicts, inevitable in a diversified world, just don’t matter that much in comparison with the shared concern for human life and pursuit for human development.

With this in mind, the West and the East can have a better understanding of a slogan for the Beijing Olympics — “One world, one dream” — after so many tragedies and disasters, whether they were man-made or inflicted by Mother Nature.