Of course all eyes have been on China these past few days, and I’ve thought in particular of a colleague in Chengdu, who works at the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade Sichuan. His English name is Ben, and we occasionally chat by Skype, and I’ve long wanted to publish something about the work he does.
I couldn’t believe it when I saw his green icon glowing on Skype this morning, but there he was, in his office, working. He says that the road is “broken,” and there are transport delays, but otherwise seems unperturbed. Thinking back to the days when I lived in London, during the heaviest of IRA bombings, I realize how much news reports are geared to provoking emotion, rather than providing significant information in context–and how different the experience and perceptions of people who are actually living the event are. And I’m just plain relieved to hear that Ben is okay!
By the way, I met Ben in late 2004 in Rome. I was then just thinking about publishing on China, which made me alert to the group of Chinese staying in the hotel, and he wanted to practise his English. We got into conversation in the hotel lobby. His group was there to meet with Italian companies about import/export trade, while I was attending a conference of history documentary makers.
By the way, here are a couple ways to donate to the relief efforts: Red Cross Society of China and
MissionFish. Whoops. I just looked more closely at MissionFish, and it seems to have quite a number of Christian charities on its list–not straight disaster relief. (What was I thinking? “Mission” and “fish”? But I got the link from the Skype profile of a Chinese person.) I’m especially reluctant to recommend this after having heard, first person, that fundamentalist U.S. Christian churches have been sending high school and college students on “tours” to China as part of missionary efforts. I was told about this by a distant cousin who was thinking of going.
It’s hard to believe, but there is nothing on the International Red Cross site at the moment, midday on Thursday 15 May, about donating to Chinese earthquake relief. Since wire payments even within the U.S. cost $50, and cause considerable confusion. I’m not interested in asking about making a wire donation payment to a Chinese bank! How easy it is, by contrast, to donate to presidential candidates, who spend their money on buttons and banners and vast amounts of television advertising.
Added 19 May: The National Committee on U.S-China Relations has set up a webpage with links to a variety of organizations helping in the disaster area. Here’s where to go to get various options and make a donation to help victims of the 12 May Sichuan earthquake: http://www.ncuscr.org/aid-victims-may-12-sichuan-earthquake.