Once afflicted by frequent episodes of famine, China-particularly the Chinese state-is growing in importance as a player in the overseas aid and development sector. This paper examines four famines in modern China-defined as the period since the First Opium War of 1839-42-to shed light on the changing nature of state involvement in disaster relief in the country, while also demonstrating the breadth and diversity of relief agency in the past. It makes the case that traditional disaster relief principles and methods were active well into the twentieth century, and that the statist model of today's People's Republic is not an essential characteristic of Chinese humanitarian organisation. Rather, the extent to which the Chinese state will continue to assume a dominant role in the country's re-emerging civic and charity sector is, as in earlier times, a function of the political developments and struggles that lie ahead.
- Disaster relief
- Role of the state