China has selected over 12,000 communities nationwide as demonstration communities for disaster risk reduction (DRR), with the goal of promoting capacity building on DRR in surrounding areas. Demonstration communities now cover every province in China. 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 Saini Yang, Ms. Jingyan Wu, Academy of Disaster Reduction and Emergency Management, Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University 


Building resilient communities can mitigate natural disaster risks (Michel-Kerjan 2015). Since the concept of a disaster-resistant community was first proposed in the United States in 1994 (Geis 2000), community-based disaster risk reduction (CBDRR) has been seen worldwide as a crucial approach to effectively improve disaster response capabilities, mitigating disaster losses and risks.

The most basic administrative unit in China, communities (or “villages” as they are called in rural areas), have played an increasingly important role in the country’s comprehensive DRR efforts in the 21st century. Underscoring China’s commitment to community-based disaster risk management, in 2007, the National Commission for Disaster Reduction of China began to implement a nationwide project to designate selected communities as demonstration communities for DRR. The goal is to promote and encourage capacity building on DRR in the surrounding vicinity, in large part by strengthening awareness about DRR.

Under the project, which is called the National Demonstration Communities on Disaster Risk Reduction, or NDCDRR, communities can apply to their respective provincial departments of civil affairs to become a Comprehensive Disaster Reduction Demonstration Community. The evaluation of the application covers three main components: infrastructure, community residents’ capacity, and disaster management. If the application is successful, the community is subjected to a standardized evaluation of its DRR capacity building efforts. All communities across China are encouraged to mobilize all possible resources from all types of stakeholders (e.g., various level of governments, industries, nongovernmental organizations, academia, volunteers) to facilitate DRR capacity building.

Below are several key trends on the progress and challenges in the development of China’s DRR demonstration communities.

Village in Zhejiang Province. Photo: 邱 国 标

Demonstration Communities Have Risen Nearly Fortyfold since 2008

The number of DRR demonstration communities in every province in China has risen dramatically over the past dozen years, especially since 2011. By the end of 2018, the total number of these communities had exceeded 12,535, nearly 40 times higher than the figure of 284 in 2008. Between 1,000 and 1,500 new demonstration communities have been added each year since 2011. The provinces with the most DRR demonstration communities are Guangdong Province, Zhejiang Province, Shandong Province, Jiangsu Province, Hubei Province, Sichuan Province and Hunan Province.

By the end of 2017, DRR demonstration communities had achieved 100 percent coverage at the provincial level and 87 percent coverage at the county and city level.

At the country level, the coverage rate varies considerably (Figure 4.1). Ninety-five DRR demonstration communities are located in Dongguan City, Guangdong Province—more than any other county. Counties and cities in the capital circle (Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei), the Yangtze River Delta (Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang) and the Pearl River Delta (Guangdong) account for over a third (35 percent) of the total number of DRR demonstration communities in China.



National Plans, Regulations, and Standards Have Helped Drive the Growth of DRR  Demonstration Communities

Much of the growth in the number of demonstration communities has been driven by goal setting in national plans and policies. In November 2011, the General Office of the State Council issued the National Comprehensive Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Plan (2011–2015), which set the goal of creating 5,000 national comprehensive disaster reduction demonstration communities, in line with the broader aim of strengthening grassroots disaster prevention and mitigation capacity building in both rural and urban areas. The National Comprehensive Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Plan of the 13th Five-Year (2016–2020), issued by the General Office of the State Council, set the goal of adding 5,000 more demonstration communities during this five-year period.

“The result of the joint efforts by the government, communities, enterprises, and other key bodies is that China’s progress on the development of its disaster risk reduction demonstration communities has occurred in tandem with the country’s reforms of disaster prevention and mitigation measures.”

At the same time, the Chinese government has consistently made the development of regulations and standards that can guide the continued development of DRR demonstration communities a top priority. In December 2011, the Ministry of Civil Affairs promulgated national standards for the establishment of comprehensive DRR communities. This was followed in 2016 when the General Office of the State Council promulgated the National Comprehensive Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Plan (2016–2020), which required the “strengthening the overall planning of disaster reduction resources and forces at the community level, and deepening the establishment of comprehensive disaster reduction demonstration communities.” This commitment was reaffirmed in 2018 when the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the China Seismological Bureau, and the China Meteorological Bureau jointly issued the Interim Measures for the Establishment and Management of National Demonstration Communities on Comprehensive Disaster Reduction. The establishment of the Ministry of Emergency Management of China in 2018 is expected to give further impetus to the growth of CBDRR. 

DRR Demonstration Communities Are Encouraging DRR Capacity Building in Surrounding Areas, Albeit with Significant Regional Variation

Based on an analysis of spatial agglomeration using the Global Moran’s Index, China’s sustained development of DRR demonstration communities in 31 Chinese provinces seems to have led to the emergence of demonstration communities in surrounding areas. In fact, the significance of this relationship has been increasing. The global Moran index of the spatial distribution of demonstration community in 2008–2017 is positive, and the Z value of the significance test index increases with time (Figure 4.2).


The analysis reveals, however, that there are significant differences in the demonstration effect of  communities. This must be a key consideration for policy makers and planners in the next phase of growth for DRR demonstration communities. The demonstration effect seems to be stronger in Jilin, Heilongjiang, Beijing, Eastern Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Hunan, Hubei, Chongqing and Guangdong. The effect, however, seems to be weaker in Hebei, Shanxi, Guangxi, Yunnan, western Sichuan, Tibet, and southern Xinjiang.

Disaster Risk Reduction Benefits Are Evident in Demonstration Communities

An analysis of disaster loss data also reveals that DRR demonstration communities are not only encouraging DRR efforts in neighboring areas, but they are also generating demonstrable DRR benefits within their respective localities. We categorize the districts and counties into two groups: a district or county with fewer than average demonstration communities (the low-value group) and one ith more than average demonstration communities (the highvalue group). We calculate and compare the population loss per 10,000 people and direct economic loss caused by disasters in these two groups respectively in order to evaluate the disaster reduction benefit of the demonstration communities (Figure 4.3).* The average loss rate of disaster-related population the low- value group is about 2.02 times that in the high-value group. The average direct economic loss rate due to disasters in the low-value group is about 1.32 times that in the high-value group. This difference shows that the disaster reduction benefits of demonstration communities is more pronounced when they reach a certain scale.


It should be noted that there are significant spatial differences between the DRR benefits from demonstration communities seen in urban versus rural areas. Rural areas in China still account for about 50 percent of the total population, but only 30 percent of DRR demonstration communities are located in rural areas.** Over 70 percent of the communities can be found in cities and towns. This is expected to be a pressing issue in the National Comprehensive Disaster Reduction 14th Five-Year Plan, which is now being prepared.

The result of the joint efforts by the government, communities, enterprises, and other key bodies is that China’s progress on the development of its DRR demonstration communities has occurred in tandem with the country’s reforms of disaster prevention and mitigation measures, such as the improvement of infrastructure resilience, monitoring and early warning, emergency response, and so on.

Looking ahead, a key challenge will be how to sustain the progress that has been achieved. Regulations released in 2018 clearly put forward the “withdrawal mechanism,” which states that demonstration communities that fail to meet these requirements must take remedial measures, and the communities that continue to fail to meet these standards after efforts to rectify will be delisted. The effectiveness of this new mechanism remains to be evaluated in the future. 

Notes on Data and Methods

In order to analyze the spatial and temporal distribution characteristics of the comprehensive disaster reduction demonstration community and its disaster reduction demonstration effect in the past 10  years, the relevant data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Ministry of Emergency Management, the National Statistical Bureau, and the National Disaster Reduction Center of the People’s Republic of China were collected. These data included the list of the national demonstration community on DRR and the county disaster information (including the number of deaths and the amount of direct economic losses); county social and demographic, economic data; and the 2017 edition of the national provincial, municipal, and county administrative divisions. The spatial correlation and  clustering characteristics of demonstration communities by province are depicted by the global Moran index and the local Moran index respectively. 


Michel-Kerjan, E. 2015. “We Must Build Resilience into Our Communities.” Nature 524 (2015): 389.

Geis, D. E. 2000. “By Design: The Disaster Resistant and Quality-of-Life Community.” Natural Hazards Review 1 (3): 151–60.


* Because of limited county-level disaster loss data availability, when analyzing the DRR benefits of demonstration communities, the demonstration communities are matched to each county.

** The Sixth National Population Census of China (2010).