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Two vastly different, yet very interrelated stories out of China today: a massive earthquake in Sichuan province that has reportedly killed at least 8,500 people, according to this report; and hopes from the Dalai Lama that talks between the Chinese leadership and Tibetan envoys will continue and that they are being held in good faith, not just for posturing ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

Coming on the heels of the over 32,000 deaths in the Myanmar cyclone, the Sichuan earthquake - the worst earthquake in China in over thirty years - is a tragedy of almost unimaginable proportions as we define tragedy here in the United States. And the political dancing act between China and the Tibetan envoys of the last few weeks brings up hope that both sides are talking in good faith, and serves as a reminder that there is so much about the relationship between these groups that is so precarious and that will take so much careful, thoughtful time to work out. Cynics abound in the China-thought industry; it's not easy to think hopefully sometimes about the prospects for change, at least on the timetables we impatient human beings are wont to wish for. That said, today my thoughts go out to those halfway around the world who are working to help the victims of the cyclone and the earthquake, and those working for the best interests of all sides in the China-Tibet dialogue. This one's not just about the Olympics - but I'll always believe that the rest of the world cared more, and pushed more, for positive steps forward in China in 2008, this Olympic year, than it ever would have if Beijing had not been invited to become an Olympic host city seven years ago. 

Asia-Pacific home page at the International Herald Tribune - detailed reports on both Myanmar and Sichuan

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