[Viewpoint]Crisis preparedness

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[Viewpoint]Crisis preparedness

The entire world has descended into chaos because of money. The United States, Europe and Japan are no exceptions. Needless to say, Korea is in confusion. So how about China?

To examine the state of China, let’s look at a few examples. China was full of confidence after hosting the Olympics, but its pride was hurt almost immediately by the melamine scandal. The aftermath of the toxic baby formula spread around the world. China tried to use the Shenzhou 7 space mission to outshine the crisis, but to no avail. The Olympics and the space show were unable to erase images of sick babies.

There were voices of internal criticism as well. A commentator wrote a column titled, “China has the Bird’s Nest but does not have formula.” He argued that the Chinese are good at grand projects such as the construction of the Beijing National Stadium but lack attention to detail.

Let’s look at another example. Recently, a China-friendly Japanese politician visited Beijing. The veteran legislator met with Chinese President Hu Jintao after first meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi, whom he told he wished to discuss economics with the president.

He asked the foreign minister to tip the president about the topic so that Hu could prepare. Minister Yang smiled and responded that there was no need. When the Japanese legislator met with President Hu, he understood what Minister Yang meant. The president was eloquent in domestic and international economies, finance and flow of trade with reference to specific statistics.

The politician’s observation was accurate, but he did not see the whole picture. President Hu is not the only one so knowledgeable about the economy. Members of the Politburo have equally expert knowledge on economics, trade, the environment, climate change, international law, intellectual property rights and history. The reason for their expertise is simple. They are constantly studying.

Since President Hu came into power on Dec. 26, 2002, he has led over 50 Politburo study sessions starting with one about the Constitution. University professors, researchers at national institutes and foreign scholars have been invited to teach the group.

It is not simple for those responsible for leading a country of 1.3 billion people to get together once a month on average and study through the day. However, China is greatly benefiting from the investment. The leaders have accumulated the knowledge they need to respond to any crisis.

To cite a third example, one of the most visited Internet sites in China is the Shi Jin Ba Bao network. Shi Jin and Ba Bao are names of Chinese dishes that are easily associated with Hu Jintao’s “Jin” and Wen Jiabao’s “Bao.” It is essentially a political fan club for President Hu and Premier Wen. As soon as the site opened, 60,000 users registered to become members. Their postings are not much different from the admiration and affection for celebrities.

In conclusion, China does not seem to be overly concerned. It is relatively prepared for a crisis. The leaders are ready, and citizens encourage them with affection and praise. The stock and real estate markets have collapsed and unemployment is rising, but most citizens seem at ease.

How about Korea? Sighs rise from everywhere. The man in charge of economic policy makes vain promises, and a working-level official makes comments that encourage instability. In reality, people trust the forecasts of private companies over government statements.

Last week, I met with Yen Hsueh Tung, the director of the Institution of International Studies at Tsinghua University. Along with Wang Jisi, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University, Mr. Yen is considered the authority in China on international studies.

Mr. Yen advised that the crisis Korea is going through today is certainly different from the crisis in 1997 in terms of content and background, but we must find the causes that contributed to both crises. It sounded as if a leader is not qualified unless he finds the origin of both catastrophes and writes effective prescriptions.

*The writer is the Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Jin Se-keun
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