Tag Archives: earthquake

Hope for progress remains after devastating earthquake in China

29 Apr

Originally printed in The DePaulia, April 29, 2013


Photo courtesy of AP

Lightning is not supposed to strike twice in the same place, but the same doesn’t go for earthquakes. A 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit near the city of Ya’an in Sichuan province in central southwest China April 20, the same province where a 7.9 magnitude quake hit in 2008.

DePaul sophomore Yue ‘Ivy’ Li is from the city of Chengdu in theSichaun province. She was in middle school when the earthquake hit in 2008.

“We were ready to start class, and I was the person in charge of leading the songs, and while we were singing, that’s when it started shaking,” said Li.

Li’s mother came to pick her up from school, and instead of returning to their apartment in the city, they stayed in the suburbs, living in a makeshift tent for about a month.

“I hated living in the tent, but we were scared it was going to shake again,” said Li.

Their fears were not unfounded. A tectonic fault line runs through Sichaun province, making seismic activity a not an uncommon occurrence.

Li was in Chicago when the earthquake hit April 20. With phone lines down, she got in touch with her family using an instant messaging service.

“I wish I could have been with my family at that moment,” said Li. “Families take care of each other during hard times.”

Li’s family is unharmed, but wary of the dangers of future earthquakes.

“They’re staying in our apartment this time,” said Li. “But they’re worried anytime it shakes, that the house will fall down.”

The biggest difference between 2008 and 2013 is in the numbers. Most recent estimates place the death toll at about 200 for the April 20 earthquake, while the May 2008 event caused more than 70,000 deaths.

For Chinese students and faculty members studying and working at DePaul, another big difference between the two events was the increased role of social media in dispersing information about the quake in and outside of China.

China’s number one microblog sit, Weibo.com, has over 500 million users, roughly the equivalent of Twitter.Weibo has become an important source of information for many Chinese citizens as well as the Chinesediaspora.

“You can get first hand information from Weibo, from people who were affected by this disaster,” said Li Jin, Head of DePaul’s Chinese studies department. “Right now social media is really shaping the entire dynamic in China for people who are using the Internet.”

Weibo users face some of the same frustrations with social media in a time of crisis as users of sites like Twitter and Facebook faced in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.

“It’s really fast, so things spread immediately,” said Zhu ‘Summer’ Zhuquing, a first-year DePaul graduate student from Jiangsu province. “So there are many messages that are wrong.”

On the other hand, the Chinese media landscape is less diverse than that of the United States. State-run media generally dominates information distribution systems. However, the emergence of citizen journalism via social media is challenging China’s centralized media system.

“The Chinese government is really adept at censoring things,” said Jin. “People trust Weibo more than the government’s official media.”

Another big difference since 2008 is in how people have responded to the earthquake.

“We have experience now, so people can organize quickly,” said Zhuquing. “People know how to protect themselves, and how to react.”

“I think after the first earthquake they are more prepared,” said Jin. “They know now how serious these earthquakes can be,” Jin said.

Chinese students at DePaul raised $260 this week at an event for the DaringQ Foundation, a humanitarian organization that is fundraising for the victims of the earthquake. They are in the process of planning other events to raise money to support long-term rebuilding in Sichaun province.

“In the past, everyone was talking about moral decay in Chinese society, because of economic development and such a fast speed of social life, when a disaster happens,” said Jin. “It’s good to see that there’s still love, there’s still care between people. I want to say I feel warmed about this kind of compassion among Chinese people.”


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