States of Emergency. The Sichuan Earthquake Ten Years On

States of emergency. The Sichuan earthquake ten years on. Made in China : a quarterly on Chinese labour, civil society, and rights. Vol. 3, n° 1, January-March 2018. [En ligne] URL : (Consulté le 20 avril 2018)


On 12 May 2008, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Wenchuan county, Sichuan province. Felt as far as Beijing, the tremors caused horrific damage: 69,229 people died and 17,923 went missing. Yet, the aftermath of the earthquake was also a time of hope. Chinese citizens from all over the country outdid each other to show solidarity with the victims, not only donating money and goods, but also rushing to the disaster zones to provide assistance. Young volunteers from all walks of life poured into Sichuan to help, with many of them going on to establish their own social organisations. As local governments began to recognise the importance of NGOs in providing disaster relief and social services, 2008 was widely seen as a ‘Year Zero’ for Chinese civil society.

At that time, hardly anybody could have foreseen the wave of repression against civil society that was to come and that is today the norm. Indeed, there were worrying signals even then—the threats against the parents of children who had died in the disaster and the trial of Tan Zuoren, for instance—but the general atmosphere remained forward-looking and optimistic. On the 10th anniversary of the earthquake, this issue of Made in China revisits the optimism of those early days and examines what is left.

Numéro intégralement en libre accès.

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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