Chinese scientists had made the first and arguably only successful prediction of a major earthquake in 1975, which resulted in the successful evacuation of Haicheng before the earthquake. In contrast, the 1976 Tangshan earthquake came without warning and killed hundreds of thousands of people. The Tangshan earthquake arguably ended the Cultural Revolution:
With China in the midst of the Cultural Revolution “belief in earthquake prediction was made an element of ideological orthodoxy that distinguished the true party liners from right wing deviationists”, and it was everyone’s duty to criticize those who doubted the feasibility of earthquake prediction However, the complete lack of warning and hundred-fold greater death toll at Tangshan stood in stark contrast to Haicheng; it was a palpable failure of earthquake prediction that undermined the claims of superiority made for Chinese methods and the socialist system.
As a backdrop to this, and of deep concern to the Chinese Communist Party, was a collectively recognized but unvoiced awareness that in traditional Chinese belief, natural disasters are considered disruptions in the natural order of “heaven” and may signify the loss of legitimacy of the current government.
The current Chinese government policy is to restrict free speech that disturb the social order. Those policies arguably severely interfered with a rapid early response to the coronavirus that may have prevented the epidemic.
The government response had been to blame local officials for the policy, and President Xi has been notably absent from the public in recent weeks. At the same time, there are disturbing reports that the death toll from the virus has been many times higher than official government figures.
Do you think that the coronavirus result in big changes in direction for the Chinese policy?
Are there any similarities between what happened in 1976 and what is happening now?