Who Rebuilds? Civil Society in Post-Disaster Recovery in China and Japan



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This dissertation explains how and why the work of civil society in post-disaster recovery varies under the ‘strong state’ settings, comparing recovery efforts of Wenchuan Earthquake in Sichuan, China (2008) and the Tohoku Disasters – officially known as Great East Japan Earthquake (2011). Drawing upon data collected through interviews, participant observation, as well as primary and secondary sources, I analyze the varying relationship between the state and civil society and the factors leading to civil society survival. I find that while China’s centralized and quick rebuilding left little space for civil society organizations to operate for long after the immediate relief phase, Japanese government’s decentralized recovery planning and centralized decision-making specifically incorporated local civic associations to be part of the planning process. I argue that the relationship between civil society and the state is not only important but critical in determining the survival of civil society activities.