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China: Q&A with Premier Wen

While the Chinese internet moved out of its three-day mourning period earlier this week following the 5.12 earthquake, many questions remain to be answered.

And the questions are being answered. Phoenix TV reporter and editor Rose Luqiu had a chance to ask Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao a few while he visited earthquake victims living in tents in Sichuan's Pengzhou city this week, and was nice enough to post them and his answers in full on her My1510 blog in a May 24 post, ‘Q&A with Premier Wen’:

1。能不能告诉我们,灾后重建从那几个方面展开?

1. Can you tell us in the ways in which the post-disaster reconstruction is being carried out?

wen.jpg

摆在我们面前最紧迫的任务,就是灾民的安置,首先是灾民的安置。灾民的安置目前突出三件事情,第一件事情就是住的问题,因为吃的问题和使用洁净水的问题我们还能够解决,但是住的问题,老实讲我们比较困难。因为房屋倒塌,已经超过一千六百万间,需要大量的帐篷,而且从长远考虑,光靠帐篷还不行,因为还有县,乡的搬迁,因为地震的原因,不能在那里再建乡镇,以至于县,就像北川,你们都去过。这就需要给我们时间,群众也需要有一个安居的时间,所以我们在建活动板房,这个图纸你也看到了,活动板房的设计师非常周到的,考虑到全部生活的需要,你比如说大家非常关心的,一千套活动板房要建一所学校,这个学校,活动板房是按教室设计的。两千套活动板房要建一所中学,每五十套活动板房要建一个厕所,一个垃圾站,所有的活动板房都要通电,这样所有的居民就可以居住在那里一年,两年,以至于三年。我们做最困难的准备,我们调集了各方面的力量,集中来建活动板房,初步计划是用三个月的时间。向灾区运送到一百万套,第一批六千套已经运到了,现在每天都在生产,如果在其间还能够扩大生产能力,我们还要增加。这是第一事情,第二件事情,就是确保灾后无大疫,这不仅是我们关心的,也是世界关心的,确保灾后无大疫,就需要做好两方面的工作,一个方面就是要配备足够的防疫人员,不仅有喷洒药物的一般的防疫人员,我指的,最重要的,是技术人员和督导员。这个已经派了三千五百人了,视情况,如果不够,还要派,这是一,第二,使药品。药品,你知道,是缺的,特别是杀菌的,灭菌的药剂,量太大了。第三,难度最大的一个项目工作,就是切断污染源。切断污染源我们要依法办事,所以就要清理那些产生污染的场地。现在北川已经开始喷洒药物了,就不让人进了。这也是国际惯例,也是为了人的安全。如果不把污染源清理了,水流经下来,它还是会带来病菌的。第三件工作,可能你不够熟悉,那就是昨天我们连夜研究到很晚,就是这次地震,造成次生灾害最大的,就是堰塞湖。堰塞湖不是所有的湖都具有威胁性,但是还是有部分的具有威胁性。其中最大的一个就是唐家山,就是在北川西北边。这个湖里,已经出水量超过一亿方,它形成的岩石的垮坝,或者叫做天然坝,相当之大,多大?六百米乘八百米,三十二万立方米的方石量,因此必须做好两个方案,一个方案,就是科学的施工促险方案,一个方案是就是下游人民移民避险方案,这样才能够把这一亿立方米以上的水,把它排下去。我觉得这三项工作是我们在居民安置工作中具体碰到的。

这段时期,应该说是最困难的时期,如果说前一阶段,任务重大紧迫,那末这段就是繁重艰巨,而且时间会很长,很多矛盾问题会暴露,时间久了,群众的情绪也会发生变化,所以作为记者,要给与理解,同情,同时给政府时间。

The most urgent task we face right now, first off, is the looking after of the earthquake victims. In looking after the disaster victims, there are three prominent issues. The first issue is the problem of housing, because the problems of providing food and clean water, these we are able to resolve. But housing, to tell the truth, we're finding rather difficult. Because there are over sixteen million buildings that have collapsed, we need large numbers of tents, and looking at the long-term of this, simply relying on tents isn't going to work, because there are entire counties that need to be relocated. And because of earthquakes, these townships and villages can't be rebuilt here, entire counties even, like Beichuan, which you've been to. So we need to be given time for this, and people need time to settle down, so this is why we're building portable homes, you saw the blueprints for them, a lot of thought has been put into their design, consideration of all life's needs. Take for example what everybody is paying close attention to, that for every thousand portable homes a primary school will be built too, schools built of portable units designed as classrooms. For every thousand portable homes, a high school will be built; for every fifty portable homes, a toilet will be built, and a trash station, and every portable home will have electricity. This should be enough for residents to live here a year, two years, even three years. We've made the most difficult preparations, gathering all sorts of forces to come build portables, and for the preliminary plan three years have been alloted. Of the million units that will be sent to the disaster area, the first shipment of six thousand has already arrived, and more are being produced every day. If during this time production capability can at all be expanded, we'll then increase output. This is the first issue; the second is in ensuring that no epidemics appear now. This isn't just something we're concerned with, this concerns the world. In preventing the outbreak of post-disaster epidemics, there are two areas in which work must be done: one area is in deploying sufficient numbers of epidemic prevention personnel, and not just standard epidemic prevention personnel to keep spraying disinfectant; by that I mean that most important right now are technical and monitoring workers. Of those there have already been 3,500 dispatched, so we'll see, and if that's not enough, we can send more. This is firstly, and secondly, is medicine. Medicine, you know, is short, particularly sterilization medicines, the quantity needed is too large.

The third issue, and the project of the greatest difficulty, is cutting off the sources of pollution. Cutting off sources of pollution will be done in accordance with law, so we'll be clearing up those areas which are creating the pollution. Beichuan now has already begun being sprayed down with the chemicals, so people cannot go in. While this is just standard international practice, it's also for people's safety. If the pollution is not cleaned up, and water trickles down, it could be carrying with it harmful bacteria. This third area of work, you might not be so familiar with, but it was in studying this that kept us up very late last night, that being, the greatest secondary disaster created by this earthquake, barrier lakes. Not that all barrier lakes present a threat now, but there are some which are presenting a threat. The largest of those is at Tangjia Mtn., just to the north of Beichuan. The water yield from this lake has already exceeded 100 million cubes, and the breach in the stone dam, or what can be called a natural dam, that has formed there, is relatively big. How big? Six hundred meters multiplied by eight hundred meters, that's 3.2 million 320,000 cubic meters of stone. For this reason, we've had to come up with two plans: one is to have the people downriver moved out of danger, which will then allow us to let the hundred million cubic meters of runoff flow out. These three work projects are the ones we are up against in our work in looking after the residents here.

This period, it ought to be said, is the most difficult. If the tasks of the preceding phase were enormous and urgent, then those of this coming period will be more numerous and difficult and the time needed will not be short. Many conflicting problems will appear, and as time goes on, people's feelings will change. So as a journalist, you have to give the government understanding, sympathy, and at the same time, time.

2。那怎末确保善款和救灾物资不出现贪污的情况?

2. Well then how are you ensuring that no instances of corruption occur with the donation funds or goods?

对,这我很早就注意到了。现在说,估计国外和国内的捐款达到一百六十亿,昨天的数字,实际到位数字没有这末多。我们必须保证,所有的款项全部用在救灾上。这件事情不能等救灾以后再去查,必须做在前头,因此由中纪委,监察部,财政部,民政部,审计署五家,下发了一个救灾款物的管理办法,我们不仅下达通知,而且派出若干个审计检查组,开始检查物品,资金发放和使用的情况,这也是对我们各级政府,非常重要的考验。

Yes, I noticed this quite early on. Now, though, I estimate that both foreign and domestic donations have reached 16 billion RMB, those are yesterday's figures, but actual figure of what's in place is not that high. We must ensure that all funds are used entirely for disaster relief. This matter cannot wait until rescue is over to be investigated, it must be kept at the forefront, and that said, the Central Disciplinary and Inspection Committee, the Supervision Ministry, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the National Audit Office these five bureaus have issued a set of guidelines for management of donated funds and goods. We haven't just sent down a notice, we've dispatched numerous audit inspection teams, have begun examining goods, the details on how money is being released and used; this is also an extremely important test for us government, at all levels.

3。可以看到这次很多民间的团体和个人积极地参与,对于他们的这些爱心,政府是怎样的态度?特别是现在政府要求指定的机构来做,但是一些民间人士还是不太放心,钱到哪里去了,政府怎样让大家放心?

3. With all the civil society groups and individuals that can be seen actively taking part now, what is the government's attitude with regard to their compassion? Particularly since while the government has required that only specified institutions be doing this, some individuals within civil society don't feel so assured as to where the money's going. What is the government doing to reassure everyone?

对,我们对民间人士献爱心,搞捐助活动,我们非常感谢,这体现,大灾无情,人有情。我们在感谢的同时,一定要把他们的捐款使用好。而且有的还要特别照顾他们的意愿,比如有些捐助大笔的款项想用在建学校,还比如有的捐助大笔的款项想用在给残疾人买轮椅,我们尽量照顾他们。而且我们将来,要一笔一笔,把他们的钱是怎样花的,要给他们一个回复,看到他们的钱所起的作用。这项工作,也是我们执政能力,和公信力的考验。

Right, we are extremely grateful for people from civil society's caring contributions and organizing of donation drives. This just demonstrates the notion that ‘catastrophes maybe be pitiless, but people aren't.’ At the same time that we're thankful, we must make sure that their donations are used properly. In some cases, we have to pay special attention to their wishes, for example some large-sum donations are intended for the building of schools, and then for example there are other large-sum donations that are intended for use in purchasing wheelchairs for the disabled, and we are doing our best to attend to these. Furthermore, in the future, we'll have to look at how each and every sum was spent, and show donors what purpose their money served. This task is also a test of our administrative ability, as well as our ability to win the public's trust.

4。怎样防止豆腐渣工程再出现?

4. What's being done to prevent the recurrence of “tofu buildings“?

现在这个问题,我们还应该认真的进行总结,也需要时间。你比如说,北川这个地方,我们目前还是救灾,消毒,但是北川这个地方未来还是要考虑要清理。清理的过程我们考虑的是非常细致的,将来需要通过立法,政府法规,或者人大法规,地方立法。立法的话,我简单的想,几件事情是必须要做的,第一它是全国唯一的一个羌族自治县,因此有关羌族文化遗址,要尽量地把它保存下来,这是第一,第二,它又是地震死亡人数最多的县,因此重要的地震科学,具有地震科学价值的资料,包括实物资料,要把它保存下来。第三,就是你关心的,我们已经由建设部牵头,汇同地方建设部门,对于所有能够鉴定的倒塌的建筑物要进行鉴定,并且要提供完整的资料。

Now this problem, we still need to give it a sincere conclusion, but that also needs time. Say, for example, here in Beichuan. At present we're still in rescuing people, disinfecting, but Beichuan for the future still has to consider how it will be cleaned up. We've been extremely careful in considering the process of how it will be cleaned up, and that in the future this will need to be done through legislation and government statutes, or else National People's Congress statutes and local legislation. As for working through legislation, just thinking simply, I see a few things that must be done. The first is that this is the only Qiang ethnic minority autonomous county in the country, so with regard to the Qiang cultural ruins, they need to preserved as best as can be done. That's first. Second, this is also the county which had the highest number of earthquake deaths, so important earthquake science data, that of value to earthquake science, including physical data, needs to be preserved. Third, is what you're concerned with, and we have already been working through the Ministry of Construction to meet with their local departmental counterparts to determine all that there is that can be determined with regards to the buildings that have collapsed, as well as obtaining complete information.
  • subjectivelistener

    Good Job, John.

    By the way, 豆腐渣 should not be translated as Tofu, in my opinion.

    Any suggestion from others on how to translate the word?

  • http://listentochina.blogspot.com/ Bob Chen

    Shoddy works? But that’s somewhat losing the figurative touch. “Tofu” could be understandable for its softness and fragility, and see if it could be a borrowed word into English.
    Hope it won’t be a representative word of China……

  • http://www.myspace.com/myjerusalem Andy

    The phrase is spread all over the Internet:

    May 23 (Bloomberg) — “Tofu buildings.” That’s what rural Chinese have long called structures thrown up with remarkable speed. They look fine on the outside, but aren’t much sturdier than the bean curd on last night’s dinner table.

    It seems to work so I dug alittle further and found the following.

    Although the origins of this word remain shrouded in mystery it’s place in early texts spell out a remarkably familiar tale.

    Whether derived from the Mandarin word doufu, Taiwanese: dauhu or Hakka: teofu, it literally meant “rotten beans” and dates from atleast 950 CE when it was affectionately referred to as the ‘vice mayor’s mutton.’ In other words a meat substitute; a meal for officials too poor to buy the real thing. (according to the American Chamber of Chamber in Taipei)

    How apt that today it is used to discribe buildings made of little substance and built by people who were at first short of cash. It seems this common meat substitute has stood the test of time far outliving those tofu buildings we now see in rubble.

  • Knights

    I think the local officials and business people who colluded in cutting corners should be punished by PRC.

  • http://www.myspace.com/myjerusalem Andy

    As mentioned above there seems to have lived a vice mayor (named Jishu) too poor to afford real mutton. I doubt that the ancient Chinese went around using the phrase “vice mayor’s mutton” simply to refer to Tofu without there being a broader use of the phrase. The English idiom “Mutton dressed as Lamb” wont be found on any British menu and I’d think the “vice mayor’s mutton” would be the same.

    Could it be that schools in the Sichuan province where the ‘vice mayor’s mutton’ along with any other unfortunate Tofu structures?

  • subjectivelistener

    dofu pulp?

  • Sonagi

    By the way, 豆腐渣 should not be translated as Tofu, in my opinion.

    Any suggestion from others on how to translate the word?

    豆腐渣 could be translated more precisely as “tofu residue,” but English speakers unfamiliar with Asian cuisine wouldn’t really understand what it is anyway, so I think simply “tofu” works.

    Shoddy works? But that’s somewhat losing the figurative touch. “Tofu” could be understandable for its softness and fragility, and see if it could be a borrowed word into English.
    Hope it won’t be a representative word of China……

    Agreed, Bob. A more literal translation is better. Media addressing a foreign audience unfamiliar with China might follow up with a brief explanation the first time the term is used.

  • http://www.myspace.com/myjerusalem Andy

    yes, Pulp Fiction!

  • http://bokane.org Brendan

    I’m fond of the translation “tofu suds” for 豆腐渣, but something like “gimcrack construction” could work as well.

  • justname

    豆腐渣constructions or buildings
    is sugguested to be translated as
    “quality-cheated”, “quality-taken-away”
    buildings or constructions

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