Earthquake in Japan

Praying for Japan

After two atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it took Japan only two years to adopt a new constitution emphasizing liberal democratic practices and only 11 years to join the United Nations. In the late 1960′s and only two decades after the war, Japan was already experiencing a period of rapid economic growth that was later defined as the “Japanese post-war economic miracle”.

Wars, Tsunamis and earthquakes have all been an inseparable part of life for the Japanese people. Despite reoccurring disasters, Japan has become of the most influential nations in the world: It is a global innovator and a major economic power (the third biggest economy in the world after the United States and China); It has a modern military (despite being a peaceful country), and it is a member state of the United Nations since 1956 and has served as a non-permanent Security Council member for a total of 19 years, most recently for 2009 and 2010.

How, one might wonder, does a country that has been severely beaten by nature and by man throughout history amount to such great achievements in such short periods of time?

The Cultural Factor

One of the most distinct cultural characteristics of the Japanese people is their great skill to quickly recuperate after a disaster; The Japanese do not waste time in self pity; They rather focus on immediate recovery. This cultural element is a consequence of many years of experiencing natural disasters, and it seems that the Japanese have simply been accustomed to accept the fact that nature is something humans cannot control, so it is best to move on with life as soon as possible. This cultural element helps explain how Japan has not only overcome hardships throughout history, but how it has become stronger as a result: The process of realizing some phenomena are beyond our control is a crucial element in the way towards recovery and towards success.

The Tsunami that hit the coast of Japan three days ago, however, is a test for Japanese resilience and strength: “The earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear incident have been the biggest crisis Japan has encountered in the 65 years since the end of World War II…We’re under scrutiny on whether we, the Japanese people, can overcome this crisis”, said Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

The Japanese people, despite their experience with previous disasters, will undoubtedly need assistance from other nations to overcome this one. Fortunately, more than 60 nations have offered help, yet Japan has been somewhat reluctant, thus far, in accepting it: Tokyo is still trying to asses what kind and how much help it needs, and disaster areas are still mostly unapproachable.

The Opportunity for China

Although the Japanese-Sino relationship has been rocky, it is at difficult times that true friendships are valued the most. A saying in Chinese: “大难不死,心有后禄” (Dà nàn bùsǐ, xīn yǒu hòu lù) means that after surviving a great disaster, one is bound to have good fortune in later years. As I have written in one of my previous posts, “China as a Role Model“, China must begin to demonstrate leadership, and the disaster that hit Japan is an opportunity to do just that.

So far, Beijing has risen to the challenge: Only several hours after the quake hit, Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, had already expressed “deep sympathy and solicitudes to the Japanese government and people”. Wen, on behalf of the Chinese government, sent a message to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan that China is willing to offer necessary assistance to the country. Chen Jianmin, the director of the China Earthquake Administration, said that rescuers are ready to join the Japanese relief efforts at any time.

Not only the government expressed willingness to help Japan and the Japanese people: Breaking news and headlines in China are constantly covering the disaster, and many Chinese citizens have offered to help in any way they can: According to tech.sina.com, a popular micro-blogging website in China, more than 4.5 million messages were posted online in merely four hours since the earthquake had rocked the country – most users expressed wishes that Japan will overcome this disaster as soon as possible.

Beijing must play a more important role in helping the Japanese people – it must use this disaster as an opportunity to not only strengthen its relationship with Tokyo but also to strengthen its position globally; Another Chinese saying, “患难见知己” (Huàn nàn jiàn zhī jǐ), means “A friend is best found in adversity”. Well, this is adversity, and it is up to China to be the friend.

Watch this amazing rare footage from the Tsunami: