Eighty days back from the publication day of this issue of Beijing Review, on May 12, the worst earthquake in China in more than five decades changed the way of life of 46.24 million people in west China.
Sichuan Province, at the epicenter of the quake, suffered the most. In addition to a death toll of nearly 70,000, the quake-affected population and areas amounted to 29.83 million and 280,000 square km, respectively. Among the 6,443 large industrial enterprises that were closed down after the temblor, 5,610 were in Sichuan, leaving millions of local residents jobless.
The huge losses constitute a big challenge to post-quake reconstruction efforts. The Central Government pledged to provide quake victims with a stable life within three months. For this purpose, 70 billion yuan (about $10 billion) has been allocated from the state coffers in relief funds, and 19 economically developed provinces have been designated to help with infrastructure rebuilding in severely hit counties. With technical and personnel assistance from around the country, water and power supplies, roads and telecommunication networks have been restored to the pre-quake level in most affected areas for the time being.
While help was pouring in from many sources, quake survivors did not stand idly by. Days after the devastating quake, many Sichuan farmers returned to work at their fields, risking frequent aftershocks. They made great contributions to another bumper harvest of the province, which, according to the provincial department of agriculture, saw a year-on-year increase of 50 million kg in grain output and an increase of 150 million kg in oil seed output.
Official statistics show that, until July 8, 83 percent of large industrial enterprises in Sichuan and more than 90 percent of local commercial businesses had resumed operation after quake-caused halts. Dongfang Turbine Co. Ltd., China's second biggest power-equipment maker, which is located in worst-hit Deyang City, for example, made its first post-quake generator delivery on May 20.
What is more significant is that life is gradually returning to normal in the quake zone. More than three quarters of homeless quake survivors have moved into temporary homes from tents. Schools have reopened. Tourist sites are once again accessible. Restaurants are welcoming a growing number of diners.
In Chengdu, the less-affected provincial capital, local media initiated a campaign as early as June, encouraging local residents to consume and invite their friends throughout the world to visit this charming city that is home to a number of tourist attractions.
A recent program devised by the Sichuan Provincial Government said that after a three-year reconstruction period, people in affected areas will have far better living and business conditions than those before the earthquake struck.
Though the fulfillment of this long-term commitment will no doubt encounter obstacles, the successful reconstruction efforts in the past three months have promised a bright future for Sichuan's full recovery. The belief is built not only on the province's abundance in natural resources, but also on the local people's optimism and industriousness, because of which the province and its capital city Chengdu, in particular, have been called the "place of heaven" for more than 2,000 years.