Rapid economic growth and urbanization in China are increasing the severity of the country’s disaster challenge. China’s national disaster risk reduction (DRR) plans have been critical to ensuring that the country’s disaster reduction practices are guided by appropriate planning. An excerpt from our knowledge note, Learning from Experience: Insights from China’s Progress in Disaster Risk Management. Read the full chapter here.


By Professor Wei Xu, Ms. Yu Qiao, and Professor Jidong Wu Academy of Disaster Reduction and Emergency Management, Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University


Responding to the United Nations’ International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) initiative, in 1989, the Chinese government set up an IDNDR committee, now called the National Disaster Reduction Committee. An inter-ministerial coordination mechanism under the State Council of China, the committee is responsible for drafting key disaster reduction policies and plans. Located in the Ministry of Civil Affairs before March 2018, the committee is now housed in the Ministry of Emergency Management.

In the three decades since its inception, the National Disaster Reduction Committee has taken the lead in drafting the development of comprehensive, national disaster reduction plans: the Disaster Reduction Plan of the People’s Republic of China (1998–2010), the National Comprehensive Disaster Reduction 11th Five-Year Plan (2007–2010), and the National Comprehensive Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Plan 12th Five-Year Plan (2011–2015). Each of these plans was released by the State Council of China. On October 25, 2019, the Committee began preparations for the National Comprehensive Disaster Reduction 14th Five-Year Plan.

China’s national DRR plans have been critical to ensuring that the country’s disaster reduction practices are guided by appropriate planning. In line with the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005–2015) and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015–2030), each of these plans also underscores China’s commitment to integrating DRR into its sustainable development agenda.

“Persist in the principle of prioritizing prevention and combining prevention with relief. Persist in integrating constant disaster reduction efforts and inconstant disaster relief efforts. Strive to realize a shift from focusing on post-disaster relief to prior-disaster prevention, from responding to individual disasters to responding to multiple disasters, from reducing disaster losses to reducing disaster risks.”

Source: National Comprehensive Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Plan (2016–2020)

Since 1998, the Chinese government’s disaster reduction work has been guided by the principle of prioritizing prevention and combining prevention and relief. A closer look at China’s recent national disaster reduction plans reveals several key trends in the evolution of the country’s national disaster reduction planning.

From Reactive to Proactive Disaster Reduction 

From the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006–2010) to the 13th (2016–2020), the plans reflectthe transformation of China’s comprehensive disaster reduction work from reactive to proactive, from disaster loss reduction to DRR, and from single hazard to multiple hazard disaster reduction. In line with this transformation, China’s national comprehensive capacity for disaster prevention and mitigation has been strengthened on multiple
fronts, including a significant improvement in disaster prevention and mitigation mechanism systems, disaster monitoring and information processing capabilities, and disaster emergency response and comprehensive risk prevention capabilities.

Focus on reducing disaster mortality and direct economic loss

China’s disaster prevention and mitigation plans have always focused on reducing disaster mortality and direct economic loss. Since 1991, the country’s disaster mortality rate and direct economic loss as a percentage of national GDP have shown a clear downward trend (Figure 2A.1 and Figure 2A.2), in line with the expected goals of the plans.



From the 11th to the 13th Five-Year Plan, the reduction of disaster mortality and economic loss have been the two most important objectives. Strikingly, the planning targets have become more quantitative rather than qualitative over time (Table 2A.1). The 13th Five-Year Plan committed to a “mortality rate less than 1.3 per million people” and annual economic loss ranging from “less than 1.5% of GDP” to “less than 1.3% of GDP.”

A Commitment to the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

China’s emphasis on reducing disaster mortality and economic losses from disasters—and its commitment to measure progress on a quantitative basis—are consistent with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030. Furthermore, the objectives of the Sendai Framework are in line with the national planning objectives spelled out in the five-year plans, including strengthening infrastructure fortification capabilities and escalating the disaster monitoring and forecasting and information platform.

Compared with the 11th Five-Year Plan, more attention has also been paid to disaster prevention, recovery capacity enhancement, risk management, and comprehensive prevention in the main tasks and initiatives of the 12th and 13th Five-Year Plans. This is also in line with the Sendai Framework, which emphasizes “strengthening disaster preparedness to respond effectively” and “building back better” in recovery and reconstruction.

China’s commitment to planning for DRR reflects the country’s view of disaster reduction as a top priority. Supported by the comprehensive framework of a national DRR plan, disaster prevention and mitigation are now firmly integrated into the country’s sustainable development agenda, laying the foundation for China’s active participation in international cooperation on DRR.