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Deadly earthquake mirrors China's challenges
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Wiping away tears for those succumbed in the deadly earthquake, China should begin pondering over the challenges it faces as reflected by the May 12 disaster.

First, the quake is likely to further enlarge the already widening gap between urban and rural people.

According to Duan Degang, a professor with the Xi'an University of Architecture and Technology who was vice head of an expert team to the quake zone, seriously damaged buildings were mostly in villages and townships, while in urban areas, the impact of the earthquake was limited.

As a result, it was farmers who bore the brunt in the disaster. To rebuild their houses, the thousands just back from verge of death are immediately confronted with a second heavy blow -- economically this time.

Even if they get new houses after all, funded by governments and non-government organizations maybe, how to make a living would be another conundrum.

The quake has so far killed 68,858 and left 18,618 others missing. It was unknown how many victims were teenagers and only children of their families, but about 7,000 schools reportedly collapsed in the catastrophe.

Therefore, among the bereaved, many could be middle-aged and unlikely to have another kid. Who would take care of them when they get old, since "raising kids to support one in one's old age" is still recognized a golden rule in rural areas where social security is underdeveloped?

The silver-haired, though with surviving children perhaps, may also face this problem, because Sichuan is a major origin for migrant workers. For instance, in many villages of the worst-hit Beichuan County, more than half of the villagers were working elsewhere, leaving behind only the elderly and the children.

Maybe one solution, just as some Sichuan-based migrant people are doing or planning to do, is to bring their aged parents with them to places where they work.

Joining the expanding migrant group are young farmers. Through this quake, they have had their farmland ruined and began to realize how harsh the local condition is.

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