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China: White Paper on Disaster Relief

(June 10, 2009) The Information Office of China's State Council (Cabinet) issued the White Paper on Disaster Relief on May 11, 2009, marking the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province and coinciding with the first Disaster Prevention and Reduction Day, held on May 12, to commemorate the quake. The six chapters of the document cover: 1) natural disasters in China; 2) strategic goals and tasks to reduce disasters; 3) construction of legal and institutional frameworks and a working mechanism related to disaster reduction; 4) enhancement of disaster-reduction capability; 5) public participation in disaster reduction; and 6) international cooperation in disaster prevention and reduction.

Among nine major tasks set forth in the White Paper to reduce disasters are strengthening management capability over hidden risks of natural disasters and relevant information, e.g., by building a database of risks of natural disasters, drawing up a national diagram of the situations in high-risk and key areas, and building statistical data collection and reporting mechanism systems; strengthening capability in the monitoring, early warning, and forecasting of natural disasters; strengthening overall capability to prevent and combat natural disasters; and strengthening the state's capacity for emergency rescue and relief work.

The White Paper provides a long list of laws and regulations on disaster prevention and reduction, noting that more than 30 have been promulgated since the early 1980s. The document provides details on the institutional aspects of disaster reduction as well. It states that China

has established a series of disaster emergency mechanisms, including a disaster emergency response system, disaster information release mechanism, emergency relief materials reserve system, disaster early warning, consultation and information sharing system, major disaster rescue and relief joint coordination mechanism and emergency social mobilization mechanism.

Similar working mechanisms, it adds, have been set up by local governments at various levels. (China Issues First Disaster-Relief White Paper on Quake Anniversary, XINHUA, May 11, 2009, available at [with link to full-text English translation of the White Paper]; Zhongguo de jian zai xingdong (quan wen) [China's Disaster Relief Actions (Complete Text) [White Paper in Chinese], XINHUA, May 11,2 009, available at

According to Zou Ming, director of the disaster relief department under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, speaking at a press conference on May 11, China “is amending its state-level contingency plan for natural disaster relief and will ask local governments, rural and urban communities to make corresponding plans.” Zou stated that there are also plans “to increase the number of state-level storage facilities for relief materials, such as tents, blankets, medicines and rescue devices, from 10 to 24 so that [China] will react faster in face of a serious disaster.” (Id.) A new draft regulation on disaster relief has been published for public comment with a view to establishing some standard rules for disaster relief, given that many existing laws and regulations target specific types of disaster. (Id.; Solicitation of Views on “Disaster Relief Regulations” Draft Preliminary to Clarifying Disaster Relief Management System [in Chinese],, Apr. 11, 2009, available at