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Shaken Authority: An Interview with Christian Sorace

In the early afternoon of May 12, 2008, a devastating 7.9-magnitude earthquake ruptured the countryside of China’s southwestern Sichuan Province. More than 85,000 people died, including at least 5,000 children killed when their schools collapsed—victims of corruption on the part of local officials and building contractors, who had skimmed from the top of building funds and erected shoddy “tofu-dregs schoolhouses” that stood no chance against the earthquake’s might. In the first weeks following the quake, parents staged protests and called on the government to punish those deemed responsible for their children’s deaths. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) quickly moved to silence the outcries and control the narrative about the earthquake. Government propaganda and news stories steered attention away from the manmade disaster (renhuo) caused by corruption and focused instead on the natural disaster (tianzai) of the earthquake and the CCP’s leadership in rescue and recon ...

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