This week after the world had the weight of its criticism focused squarely on the Junta of Burma and the Chinese for its handling of the Tibet issue, something happened that has turned all that criticism on its head.
An earthquake of 7.8 struck killing more than 10,000 people at last count. While most people are still focused on the Burmese Junta's handling of the cyclone aid, their criticisms of China and Burma have suddenly waned. Call it the sympathy factor or the ADD factor.
Of course, at the same time, the Olympic torch relay has been reconfigured and seems to no longer be the main focus of the government. Unlike other governments around the world who have been criticized for their handling of a natural disaster, the response of the Chinese government has been praised to extents never seen.
The focus of the government has rightfully turned to rescue operations and they have implemented the usage of their military in a manner that is consistent with the military being the people's military. Even the US government failed in this respect with the Katrina response, at a time when it could have won the hearts and minds of the people. Now China has obviously learned from that and the Burmese government failures and they have squarely focused the full efforts of their military machine on recovery and rescue operations.
But are we being too soft on China now that they have their own issues? will the focus on their human rights abuses be lost in their great response to something that no one expected them to step up to the plate in? Or is the Chinese government the ultimate propaganda machine that has learned that the real way to help change people's minds is to do something that shows benevolence and compassion? Only time will tell, but I have noticed that the reporting in this disaster has been clear, numbers concise and accurate, and even the reporting by foreign press freely allowed, seemingly without restriction.
It is my feeling that the government of China will play this up, try to show it's best face in the Olympics and then go right back to being the over bearing, people beating, polluting country that it has been once the focus is off. But the only things people will remember will be the handling of the earthquake response and the Olympics. And in this, the people of Darfur, Burma, and Tibet will be forgotten once again and left to their own devices.