Weighing the U.S. and China's responses to Haiti earthquake

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The world has been impressed with China's instant launching of a disaster relief effort and sending of its rescue team right after a strong quake rocked Haiti. Some foreign news agencies, including the AFP, reported that it was the Chinese rescuers, not the Americans, who were among the first relief personnel to arrive in the Caribbean country, even though China is farther away from Haiti than the U.S.

In an article published in the Shanghai-based Wenhui Daily, commentator Zheng Ruolin said Americans should have appeared in Haiti earlier than the Chinese, considering the distance between Haiti and the U.S., which is home to a large number of Haitian emigrants.

Zheng said although they are only some hundred miles away from Haiti - much closer than China - the US staffers hurried into the relief operation two hours later than their Chinese counterparts..

However, the U.S. administration succeeded in saving its reputation and even overshadowing the Chinese contributions thanks to its sophisticated public relations abilities, an area in which China is far behind. Zheng quoted the French-based L'Express Weekly as saying numerous Western TV networks, as well as China's Central Television and its local TV broadcasters, aired the video clip of President Barack Obama inviting two of his predecessors to the White House and calling for donations to Haiti.

In addition, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally visited the country, where the government has nearly collapsed in the deadly calamity that has killed thousands.

But outside of the move to influence TV screens around the globe, what did the U.S. actually do? How many loads of food, medicine and drinking water were provided to the devastated country, where people are suffering from shortage of everything?

The weekly said people have seen that the U.S.'s forces took control of the only local airport in order to conveniently evacuate U.S. nationals, causing French citizens to be stuck at the airport for days, and preventing a French cargo plane from a rejection to the landing of carrying equipment to set up a field hospital.

In contrast, China's rescue operation is often tangible in terms of the ways it's conducted and the results it achieved, Zhen Ruolin said. Take the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, for example - the Chinese people sent relief materials worth 500 million yuan, in addition to a 20-million-U.S.-dollar check, directly to ASEAN countries.

Zheng said Western donor countries, like France, have their relief goods and money controlled by relief organizations. Some of the money is used for salaries and administrative expenditures, while the remaining sum finally goes to victims. French people donated a total of 323 million euros to help victims of the 2004 tsunami. In 2005, France dispatched 24 judges to investigate how the donations had been used in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The investigation showed some of the donations were misappropriated to projects that had nothing to do with the tsunami. Meanwhile, there's no report in place regarding how funds had been used.

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