Monday, May 12, 2008


The final toll from today's M7.8 earthquake centered in Sichuan Province may run to the tens of thousands.

One thing this disaster reminds me forcibly is the importance of building codes. One of the large losses of life was at a school in Juyuan. Buildings likes schools, apartments, hospitals are all now required to be built to earthquake-resistant standards in the International Building Code. But...

As always, enforcement is the crucial part. In countries like China, where many laws and codes are not enforced, or enforced selectively based on the connections and wealth of the enforcee, well, you get things like this.

The other reality this event drives home is that for much of China the notion of China as the "next superpower" is a laughable fiction. The slum dweller in Guangzhou, the child in the unheated orphanage in Fujian, the farmer still using muscle-powered equipment in Hunan...these people are still living in a China that the Qing officials would recognize.When I look at the faces of these little girls all I can see is my own little girl, and think of how I would feel knowing that she was huddled terrified under a flimsy desk in an ancient unreinforced masonry school building. My heart goes out to all the parents in China tonight.

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