It is more than just a coincidence that in both episodes, communist authorities attempted to cover up the tragedies by imposing a media blackout and lying until the truth surfaced. In fact, the manner of handling human and natural disasters is their preferred method of dealing with crises. The scale of the tragedy of the Tangshan earthquake, which hit China 27 years ago, for example, is still shrouded in mystery.
China's handling of the SARS epidemic not only shows the regime's disregard for public health and safety but also reveals its lack of humanitarian consideration in promoting economic development. The health and safety of a handful of top communist leaders, rather than that of the population in general, has become the priority in the fight against SARS. The attitude changed only after international pressure became irresistible and the rapid spread of the epidemic threatened to negate China's hard-earned economic achievements.
Suddenly, Chinese citizens as well as outsiders came to realize that the havoc brought about by SARS showed that the Chinese economic giant has feet of clay. Small wonder that China's new leadership headed by Hu Jintao has left no stone unturned in trying to beat the epidemic. The reason they did so, however, was to save their own skins.
Taiwanese investors have pumped more than US$100 billion into China. The crisis triggered by Beijing's poor management has become a nightmare. Many have withdrawn managers and staff or are trying to repatriate their investments.
China admitted that the crisis will greatly reduce international contact, scare away investors and reduce trade. This, in turn, will have a great impact on economic development, employment and social stability.
Meanwhile, investors are deeply worried that China's poor leadership will trigger a new round of internal power struggles to the detriment of social order and economic development.
China may eventually overcome SARS; however, there is no question that many are now more realistic about the "great" Chinese market. In fact, many have indicated a strong desire to reinvest in Taiwan as soon as the government implements measures to improve the island's investment environment.
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