Earthquake lessons from China: Coping and rebuilding strategies uri icon


  • The Wenchuan County earthquake of 2008 was the most severe earthquake, as measured in sheer magnitude, in the history of the People's Republic of China. Killing almost 90,000 people and creating economic losses of 845 billion yuan (US$132 billion), the earthquake also elicited a vigorous response from various government agencies, private businesses, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The ways these actors' responses to the earthquake proved effective in distributing appropriate aid to those in need and the areas where the actors' earthquake response needs to be improved are discussed and analyzed in Earthquake Lessons from China: Coping and Rebuilding Strategies. The authors identify three earthquake responses that proved helpful to earthquake-affected communities: the use of a pair-wise aid policy, in which a donor province or city is assigned to give aid to a particular earthquake-affected area; expanded NGO and volunteer involvement; and various kinds of public financial aid to earthquake-affected households. They also pinpoint areas that need further work: public aid specifically for home reconstruction, which has been inadequate, and the capacity of local communities to manage their own disaster responses, which is too low. Perhaps most important, the authors found that the high levels of NGO and volunteer involvement in disaster response should be expanded and sustained beyond what they were in the aftermath of the 2008 earthquake. The authors believe that increased nonpublic sector involvement can not only improve the level of response to natural disasters but also foster a robust civil society and grassroots democracy in China

publication date

  • 2016