Tuesday, May 13, 2008
A cyclone has devastated Myanmar, leaving tens of thousands of Burmese dead, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, homeless. The Myanmar military government has reacted by actively resisting foreign efforts to send food and medical aid to the Burmese victims of the cyclone. The reasons seem to be that both local and national officials expect substantial bribes to let the rescue effort proceed.
Yesterday an enormous earthquake leveled large areas of Sichuan province in China. About ten thousand Chinese are thought to have died and hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, are homeless. Units of the People's Liberation Army have been sent to do rescue work. The local police have been directed to do rescue work. Civilian agencies from all over China have been sent to the area to help with the rescue and recovery effort. Premier Wen Jibao has flown to the area from Beijing and is directing the rescue effort. There has been criticism of the Olympic torch festivities going on at a time of national disaster and they have been scaled back.
The Myanmar government is able to extract bribes from Western governments and aid agencies because the Westerners care what happens to the Burmese people and are strongly motivated to do something about it. The Mayanmar authorities both as individuals and as an institution clearly don't care. They are conscious of the difference to be able to extract money from the Westerners on the basis of the difference of motivation. The government's indifference to the suffering of its people suggests that it is not a legitimate government, but rather a tyranny of usurpers.
The Chinese Communist government, though no more elected than the Burmese government, is highly motivated and is eager to do everything it can, and is eager to be SEEN to do everything it can to succor its people. The Chinese government is not elected and cannot be said to rule through the will of the people. But their eagerness to help and to be seen to help suggests that they rule with the consent of the people. It is an example of how a government can be legitimate though unelected.
The government of China is legitimate. The government of Myanmar are a bunch of bastards.