Monday, May 05, 2008

More important than the Olympics ?

As news begins to gather about the mounting death toll from the cyclone to hit Burma, it will be interesting to see what China's reaction is.

Burma is a country tightly controlled by a military junta that despite various mass protests, most recently in 2007 when buddhist monks lead demonstrations, still clings to power.

Burma's closest ally is China and it seems unlikely the country would remain such a harsh dictatorship without Chinese government support.

It is notable that Burma (also known as Myanmar) has so far not formally requested international aid. This is very unusual but highlights the isolated nature of the country and the reluctance of dictatorships to admit any weakness.

China, as a bordering powerful country, has a duty to step in and help quickly. The death toll could very well already be in the tens of thousands.

Never mind the Olympics, never mind the nationalist bombasts about Tibet being eternally part of China, this should be far more important. It is also an opportunity for China to show that despite how many feel about it, it can also be a force for good in this world.

Whether China does help in a tangible way or focuses more on its GDP and its flame tour (sponsored by Coca Cola, Samsung and Lenovo of course) will be an interesting test of character for the emerging superpower.

For the people of Burma, it may be far more than that- a matter of life and death.

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