China: The Power of Migrants

For two and a half years, Sichuan native Yu Hongbin has worked in Shenzhen, the Chinese boomtown on the coast opposite Hong Kong, making chips for Nokia cell phones. It's a good life for an 18-year-old. Yu has pulled in nearly $200 a month—more than some Sichuan farmers make in a year—and in the past, he would blow it all on karaoke, hotpot restaurants and his gym membership. But on May 12 he was back in Sichuan washing clothes by a stream when the ground started bucking and houses crumbled. He scrambled to find his mother and came across her, dazed, near the town's "1,000-year-old tree," which locals believe was a talisman.Now Yu sits in a bus station, on his way back to Shenzhen. The best way to help his family, he says, is to keep on working. "But I'm not going to waste money like I did before," he says. "Now I'm going to send $140 a month back home to my folks. The earthquake made me regret I never sent them money before." Multiply Yu's sense of responsibility by 20 million to...

Healing Sichuan’s Psyche

The last time China suffered a disaster on the magnitude of the recent Sichuan earthquake, its Maoist leaders spurned psychology as a "bourgeois" discipline. Survivors of the 1976 Tangshan quake, which killed some 255,000 people, were left to cope on their own with posttraumatic stress. But on May 12, Communist Party leaders ordered an unprecedented mobilization of mental-health workers alongside disaster-relief efforts. The need is great: as many as 80,000 killed, 5,500 orphaned and 5 million homeless. Reports say 600,000 citizens may need psychological help."Some survivors act tough, but they really are having problems," says Dr. Yuan Linfang, head of a crisis-counseling team. Among the reactions Yuan observed in students caught in a collapsing school: fear of returning to class, and of opening textbooks.Trained aides like Yuan are in short supply. In 2006 China had just 19,000 mental-health professionals and psychiatric treatment still carries a social stigma. Experts also say...

A Culture Rethinks Psychology

The last time that China suffered a natural disaster approaching the magnitude of the recent earthquake in Sichuan, its Maoist leaders considered psychology a "bourgeois" discipline. Survivors of the 1976 Tangshan quake, which killed at least 255,000 people, were left to cope on their own with posttraumatic stress disorder. On May 12, however, for the first time in its history, China's Communist Party leaders ordered a large-scale mobilization of mental-health workers alongside disaster-relief personnel. The need is great: the calamity killed as many as 80,000, created at least 5,500 orphans and left 5 million homeless. According to one local news report, 600,000 residents may need psychological assistance.Help was available for 15-year-old Xiang Li, who along with 900 schoolmates was in class when the Juyuan Middle School collapsed. Pinned for three hours in the rubble, Xiang kept shouting encouragement to her friends. Out of her class of 66, she was among only 25 to survive. "I...

Winds of Change

Cyclone Nargis may have done more than just wreck Burma's cities. It may also spell doom for the government.

A Race Fight Roils China

With Tibet in turmoil and the 2008 Olympics looming, Beijing is trying to repair its international image. The strategy is a familiar one: control the story. China's state-run Xinhua news agency has packaged official FAQs on the Tibet unrest, while its CCTV released a 15-minute video of "the [March 14] beating, smashing, looting and burning incident." Domestic media paint a graphic scene of Lhasa bloodshed—the blood of ethnic Chinese, that is. Rioters, they report, killed an 8-month-old baby, sliced off a woman's ear and fatally trapped five saleswomen inside a burning store. Chinese TV showed shopkeepers grieving for the dead. "[Tibetans] don't want to work," said one Chinese woman. "They just want to destroy our prosperity."To justify its crackdown, which according to Tibetan rights groups has claimed some 140 lives altogether, China has portrayed the turmoil as a plot led by the exiled Dalai Lama to foment racist attacks against Han Chinese. This portrayal has triggered anti...

Interview: The Dalai Lama on Tibet

In an exclusive interview, the Dalai Lama talks to NEWSWEEK about the violence in Tibet, his vision of the future—and how he manages to sleep in spite of his distress over the killings.

More Bloodshed in Tibet

As police clashed with Tibetan protesters in Lhasa last week, shops were set on fire, vehicles overturned, ethnic Chinese attacked and crowds turned back by tear gas in the worst civil unrest to seize the remote region in nearly two decades. Although reports are difficult to confirm, Western media estimates of the death toll ranged from two to as many as 20. As in 1989, the last time such violence racked Tibet, relatively modest protests against Chinese rule escalated into wider unrest after authorities cracked down with detentions and brute force. The apparent cause of the turmoil, once again, was the March 10 anniversary of a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.But there's another factor adding to the tension: Beijing will host the 2008 Olympics in less than five months. Obsessed with pulling off a picture-perfect Games, Chinese authorities seem rattled by even minor PR setbacks. After the singer Björk shouted "Tibet! Tibet!" during a recent concert in Shanghai,...

Sex, Lies And Family Planning

Even in the west, the scandal would be juicy. During a Dec. 28 gala launch in Beijing for the Chinese state-run TV network's Olympics coverage, newscaster Hu Ziwei seized the microphone from her husband, celebrity sports anchor Zhang Bin, and publicly denounced him for an alleged affair. The video clip wound up on YouTube, and Chinese blogs exploded with gossip, naming yet another TV personality as Zhang's mistress and the mother of his illegitimate child. But the bloggers further alleged that Zhang's wife was also pregnant at the time of her outburst—and that makes the scandal doubly controversial. If true—and Zhang would not confirm or deny the rumor—it makes him one of a number of wealthy Chinese officials, entrepreneurs and celebrities who have flouted the country's family-planning regulations barring most urban couples from having more than a single child. Breaking that ban can result in penalties of up to $100,000, which most Chinese citizens can't afford. But the country's...

Mao to Now

China is thousands of years old but has been made anew in the last three decades, and my family with it.

In This Life, Or The Next

Autocrats worry about Buddha power. In much of Southeast Asia, monks occupy the loftiest of moral high ground. According to the Buddhist concept of reincarnation, misdeeds in past lives affect problems in the current one. Do something bad in this life and you'll probably come back as a "sentient being" in your next one—but not necessarily a human. During Burma's bloody crackdown in September, some soldiers tried to "defrock" monks prior to detaining them, in a bid to soften their own karmic crimes. In 1988, I saw a Burmese soldier trying to give alms to Buddhist monks, who refused him by turning their begging bowls upside down. The guy seemed upset. He didn't want to be reincarnated as a toad, I suppose.Authorities in Beijing, who've been criticized for supporting the Burmese junta, have reason to be queasy about monk-led protests both at home and abroad. Opposition to the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1951 erupted first in Buddhist monasteries. Resentment still simmers. On Nov. 19...

A ‘Modern’ Boss Rises In Beijing

Henry Paulson, U.S. Treasury secretary, once called Xi Jinping "the kind of guy who gets things over the goal line." This month Xi scored the goal of his career. He has emerged as the favorite to become China's most powerful man, startling many analysts. For years they'd assumed Communist Party boss Hu Jintao was grooming prot?g? Li Keqiang to take over once he retired. But when the party reshuffled its personnel deck during its mid-October congress, last-minute horse trading among competing factions was intense. Hu got his satisfaction with Li's appointment to the party's nine-man leadership committee and the retirement of key rival Zeng Qinghong. But Hu had to relinquish something in return, so he signed off on Xi, 54, joining the party's top lineup in a rank above Li. If all goes according to script, Xi will become party chief in 2012, while Li will succeed Prime Minister Wen Jiabao—and in Chinese politics, the party boss outranks the prime minister.Xi's candidacy got a boost...

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