Within minutes of Monday's 7.9 magnitude quake, and long before details of the devastation it caused began to emerge, the nation's leaders were informing the state-run media that a national disaster had occurred.
In the ensuing days, Chinese media have covered the search and rescue effort, and reporting damage and fatality estimates from the front line.
It is an illustration of how much China has changed since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, which killed nearly a quarter of a million people.
In 1979, Time Magazine said it had taken nearly three years for Chinese officials to share details of that disaster.
Radio Australia's Xiaoning Mo has worked for China's state media, and says this week's catastrophe has tested the credibility of China's new leaders.
"This time the Chinese government is doing pretty well in terms of opening up its information and on transparency in terms of reporting the disaster," she told Radio Australia's Connect Asia.
"From an early stage after the earthquake, many government departments have been holding their own press conferences and giving updates on the situation in the quake area.
"Also, CCTV - the state TV media of China - and the Xinhua news agency both reported almost immediately after the quake happened, and have sent dozens of correspondents to the quake area".
Ms Mo says that better access to information technologies such as the internet and mobile phones has, to some extent, forced the authorities' hand on providing more information on this disaster compared to those of the past.
"More than a third of the Chinese population have mobile phones, and over 200 million people have access to the internet," she said.
"If you remember the 2003 SARS outbreak, very early in that situation there were messages circulating on mobile phones and also on the internet, before the state media came out and said what was happening.
"So the internet and mobile phones have forced the government to be more open in terms of urgent events that are in the general public's interest".
Ms Mo says the earthquake has prompted vast numbers of people to volunteer or offer blood to victims of the quake, and many have found coverage of Premier Wen Jiabao comforting victims "very moving".
"He was on the plane around two hours after the quake happened, heading to Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan," she said.
"It's not unusual for a Chinese leader to visit a disaster area and comfort victims, but it is unusual for a top leader to visit a stricken area in such a short time. It was a very rapid response".
However Ms Mo says the media are still not reporting "the whole story".
"The coverage has aroused the patriotism of the people, but it has been focusing on how swiftly the government is responding and how devastated the area is," she said.
"But it is not, to my knowledge, looking at how dissatisfied many affected people are or carrying any of their complaints".