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      Shades of Schadenfreude in China's Coverage of Japan Disaster

      Frequently pilloried for their neglect of safety and environmental concerns, Chinese authorities are only too happy to highlight Japanese problems.
      By Aryeh Ben Hayim
      First Publish: 3/22/2011, 2:54 PM / Last Update: 3/22/2011, 3:56 PM

      The Chinese press is keeping its readers fully abreast of the situation in disaster-stricken Japan, as opposed to its rather skimpy coverage on Middle East protests and revolutions. The twin messages being conveyed by the communist government-run press are that Chinese authorities insist on Japanese transparency regarding the disasters, and that the Chinese government was taking all necessary measures to protect its population.

      Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu called for "timely, accurate and comprehensive" information about radioactive leaks from  the Fukushima plant. China, she continued, views the radioactive leaks from Japan's nuclear power plant in Fukushima as "a global issue," and "attaches great importance to the accident."  

      China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine announced it was regularly conducting port surveillance, and testing foods imported from Japan to ensure food safety,.

      The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), told the Chinese news agency Xinhua that it was checking the safety of the country's existing nuclear power plants. A "safety first" policy would also be adopted to guide the future evolution of the Chinese nuclear industry, it explained.

      One can speculate that a major reason for the complete coverage of the earthquake's aftermath, aside from genuine concern over radioactive fallout, is the opportunity to demonstrate that some of China's most notorious problems are actually worse in Japan.

      China's food industry has come under severe criticism over the years, both foreign and domestic, as food products were found to be tainted and injurious to health. There were cases in which death sentences were imposed on those found responsible. In its headlong rush to industrialize, the government has been accused of damaging the environment and concealing accidents such as acid spills. Now the Chinese government appears in a favorable light, as the Communist Party insists on food safety and transparency.