Eating Your Charitable Red Heart Out

In May 2008, when a devastating earthquake struck Sichuan province, killing at least 68,000 people, Chinese society sprang into action. Many people volunteered their time to help earthquake ravaged regions in west China, and many others donated money to support relief and reconstruction efforts. China also happened at that time to be in the midst of a nationalistic fervor as many Chinese looked ahead with pride to the Beijing Olympics and the country suffered much international criticism for its policies in Tibet. One common gesture of national pride and support in China in 2008 was to post red hearts online, the red heart being a mixed and loaded symbol from China’s Communist past signifying national unity but also (at least potentially) support of the government the Party. This month as China passed the fourth anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake on May 12, there was speculation that much of the money donated for earthquake relief had never reached the areas affected. Further, no officials have been held accountable, four years on, for the death of schoolchildren in shoddy school buildings, despite Premier Wen Jiabao’s initial pledge to hold corrupt leaders to account. In this cartoon by artist Kuang Biao (邝彪), shared across Chinese social media, Kuang depicts the Party (inferred by the style of the jacket) as a ravenous crocodile devouring a plate heaped with bleeding red hearts, symbolizing the unbridled greed of unchecked power misusing the goodwill of the public. The crocodile is pouring the red hearts out of a box labeled “5.12″, for May 12, 2008, the day of the quake.

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