“An Analysis of Major Events in China”

This volume details the origins, course and lessons of 26 major incidents in recent Chinese history. The authors of An Analysis of Major Events in China hold that while the country’s emergency-response systems failed to keep up with social change and more frequent incidents, the 2003 epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) forced China to take the matter more seriously.

Uneven distribution of resources during social transformation, environmental pollution associated with rapid economic expansion and an increasing number of extreme weather events all have combined to produce a peak in major incidents over the last two years. Response to the SARS epidemic, the 2005 contamination of the Songhua River, the Sichuan earthquake and unrest in Tibet in 2008 and other incidents has become a major issue for Chinese society.

Commenting on an emergency-response system that suffers from a lack of centralised command, inadequate funding and low levels of professionalism, the authors say that social development requires “the reform of government emergency-response systems into diverse socialised response systems”, with “the government’s new role being to encourage and organise fund-raising and aid work by business and NGOs”. The government, then, should change the rules to allow NGOs to become more robust and able to play a greater role at these times, and also use the market to provide disaster insurance.

The book also points out that while reporting on natural disasters and public-health incidents in China is relatively open, reporting on public-security incidents is still under tight control.

A large part of the book is taken up with case studies – and indeed one failing of the work is that there is little comprehensive or in-depth investigation.

An Analysis of Major Events in China
Zhu Li, Han Yong, Qiao Xiaozheng, et al.
Nanjing University Press, 2009

— By Huo Weiya