Learning from Experience, Insights from China's Progress in Disaster Risk Management

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China has long known more than its fair share of disasters, including earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and droughts. The good news is that in recent decades, the country has made tremendous headway in building its resilience to disasters.
Learning from these efforts will be critical to strengthening resilience building efforts in China and beyond.

In that spirit, this Knowledge Note distills some lessons from China’s1 progress in many areas of disaster risk management. The note does not comprehensively cover the country’s achievements, but focuses instead on topics that might be of particular interest to DRM practitioners globally. Drawing on expert insights from China’s disaster risk management community, key themes highlighted by this note include:

  • The evolution of national disaster risk reduction (DRR) planning. Over the years, a shift from reactive to proactive disaster reduction, as well as a focus on reducing disaster mortality and direct economic loss, have figured prominently in the evolution of China’s DRR plans.

  • The rise of demonstration communities. Underscoring China’s commitment to community-based disaster risk management, the country has been implementing a nationwide initiative to designate select communities as demonstration communities for raising awareness about the importance of DRR.

  • Standardization of the disaster loss statistical system. Efforts to strengthen and standardize the disaster loss statistical system have led to a marked improvement in the ability of disaster risk managers to use and analyze the country’s disaster loss data for risk-informed reconstruction and planning.

  • Development of an agricultural insurance system. China’s agricultural insurance system has continued to develop rapidly, as evidenced by its growing market size, expanding list of insured perils, and increasing liability and coverage.

  • Establishment of a catastrophe risk insurance system. China has also made significant progress in establishing a catastrophe risk insurance system that allows for local innovations and pilots based on local characteristics.

  • Development of a comprehensive spacebased system of disaster and emergency monitoring. The development of this capability has strengthened the country’s disaster risk management practices, in part by enabling more timely, accurate, and comprehensive postdisaster assessments.

  • Rise of counterpart support for post-disaster recovery. In response to the devastation of the Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008, the Chinese government established a counterpart support program for post-disaster recovery, which designated select provinces and municipalities to support some of the most severely affected counties and cities.

Amid a changing climate, China is facing the specter of even more significant disaster risks in the future, which may also bring global cascading impacts. Taking stock of the progress that has been achieved so far, there is good reason to believe that the country will continue to learn and innovate toward a resilient future.