"Tofu buildings fine on the outside, but not much sturdier than the bean curd on last night's dinner table." That's how the Chinese describe the dismal results of a building boom that has long emphasised haste over quality, says Bloomberg's William Pesek. But this month's devastating earthquake turned cynicism into terror. "Once the death toll figures are tallied, there will be a price to pay among government officials" as questions are asked on why schools crumbled so easily, and why another 420,000 more buildings fell in the aftershock.
The Chinese response to the country's worst natural disaster in 30 years was rapid and came with "uncharacteristic openness", says The Economist. One hundred thousand troops were deployed and state-owned TV provided non-stop coverage. There was no attempt to hush things up. That suggests the leadership is learning disaster management but once the rescue is over, can China learn longer-term lessons from a near-neighbour constantly threatened by the same problem?
The earthquake "makes me scared of my home and makes me wonder" about the men who designed and built it, says Leo Lewis in The Times, writing from Tokyo. In Japan, homes and offices are well built and the government spends huge sums on national quake-preparedness. But quake-proofing a country is expensive, says Lewis, so it's hard to see just how far Chinese outrage at shoddy economies in building can actually override the tendency to repeat them.
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Japan raised its quake-proofing standards last autumn. So far it hasn't been a great success. New home building was killed dead, the construction industry is now flatlining, and economic expansion came to a grinding halt. And the government? It's now despised for what the Japanese see as expensive over-precaution.
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