Chinese Reactions to Japan’s Earthquake

I just wanted to quickly share the reactions of my Chinese co-workers to the earthquake in Japan.

On Friday I spent the entire afternoon trying to learn more about the earthquake, but my co-workers seemed oblivious to it (they weren’t working either). It turned out they had heard about the earthquake, and figured that Japan could handle such a large quake, and went on with their day.

When I showed them a video of the tsunami, their reaction was absolute horror. Watching the water rush over the farmland carrying flaming buildings looked like the end of the world. Grace couldn’t help whispering “Oh my God” a few dozen times as she watched the short clip.

In that moment the reality of the situation hit them.

Later on Friday afternoon when I told her that the tsunami warning was affecting the entire Pacific she questioned whether or not she would ever get a chance to visit Hawaii.

Grace was also surprised when I told her that the people of Tokyo had essentially lined up when bus service stopped, and started to walk home quietly. She said in China if there was this kind of disaster there would be wide-spread panic and chaos. She seemed jealous of the Japanese and their stoic public faces.

This morning the earthquake was the first thing Jasmine asked about. When I was talking with her, I said that it was fortunate that such a large quake had hit Japan because no other country in the world is as well prepared for dealing with such a catastrophic disaster. I think she understood that this was a nice way of saying that in China the death toll would already be hundreds of thousands. She was relieved to hear that the death toll was probably not going to be as high as that of the Sichuan Earthquake.

After our conversation stopped though she turned to Grace and said in Chinese (meaning not for my ears) “In China a dozen people die and nobody even notices.” She was critiquing her own country and how large a disaster has to be for China to even slow its pace.

For more reactions to the quake I suggest this post from which translated Chinese comments from internet forums as they reacted to the quake (Warning some bad language and disgusting nationalism), Ministry of Tofu also had an excellent post about the Chinese reaction to the civility shown by the Japanese after the quake (Chinasmack did too), as well as  “Schadenfreude and Sympathy in Shanghai” from

About T

I have been working in China for nearly five years now. I have traveled to more than 30 cities and towns, and have lived in 3 provinces. I am interested in issues concerning development in China and the rest of the world. I hope to provide a balanced look at some of the issues facing China as it continues its rise to power.
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13 Responses to Chinese Reactions to Japan’s Earthquake

  1. Dan says:

    You should see some of the American nationalist responses to the earthquake! Suggestion, don’t look up #pearlharbour on Twitter.

  2. john book says:

    My wife is in Japan now. At the time of the earthquake, she was on a train going to Tokyo. Usual travel time 2 hrs. The train stopped after much rocking. Stayed stopped.
    She walked with the other passengers and occasionally took too full buses and finally got to Tokyo. 10 1/2 hrs. later. I got to talk to her on Saturday morning, her time. She was going to try to get to Ichihara, (where the big refinery fire has been going on…. ). Since the trains weren’t running and roads were closed… I’d no idea how she would get there.
    She said she’d find a way. Her father is in hospital, dying. She wanted to be near him ASAP.

    I have not heard from her since. With all the nuclear stuff going off over there, I am a bit scared for her. My church and I are praying very often for her and her family.

    My son, in the Army, is over there now… helping … he says it is so much worse than the TV shows!

  3. Chopstik says:

    I’ll have to look at the links later but I appreciate your post on the Chinese reaction. I’ve seen some of the reports on the official Chinese media (CCTV-4, I believe) but can’t get a feel for it. How is it coming across in the country?

    • Tom says:

      Hard to say for the country. My feeling is that with internet responses (which two of those articles look at) bring only the people with the strongest feelings, and you miss the middle. The difference with my post, is my co-workers didn’t know that their words would show up anywhere else, so it may be a more genuine reaction.

  4. Pingback: Chinese Reactions to Japan’s Earthquake :: Seeing Red in China

  5. Pingback: Fresh From Twitter today | Fili's Tweet Digest

  6. Pingback: Chinese Reactions to Japan's Earthquake | Seeing Red in China | Japan EarthQuake

  7. Larry W. says:

    Personally, I could care less what happens to those f—ing NIPS!!! My money would’ve been better spent elsewhere, rather than sending donations to help those savages.

    • Tom says:

      Apparently you cared enough to post a racist comment months after the earthquake. Just curious what you’re hoping to accomplish with this?

      • Anonymous says:

        Unintentionally, he’s likely to prove that ignorant racists are pretty much universal no matter where you are and what you’re discussing. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending upon one’s point of view), you’re tolerant enough to allow such ignorance to remain here and address it directly. Somehow, I doubt the irony of that will be understood by Larry W.

      • Chopstik says:

        That last comment was not anonymous, it was me. I neglected to sign in first.

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