While the past 10 years have seen a GDP that grew more than fourfold, helping to maintain the Communist Party's vice-like grip on power, the country has also faced scandals outrageous enough to severely test its legitimacy. First was SARS, in 2003, when the World Health Organization accused the government of covering up the seriousness of China's outbreak, which hindered efforts to slow the disease's spread. In 2008, an earthquake measuring 8.0 in magnitude struck Sichuan province, killing around 70,000 people and injuring almost 400,000. Schools and hospitals around the province collapsed, raising serious questions about the corruption and incompetence lurking beneath the surface of China's building boom. These, along with ongoing food safety issues and the proliferation of suspiciously wealthy officials, have fueled calls for reform leading up to the power transfer.
Above, a woman cries amid the ruins of Beichuan county in Sichuan province on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake.
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