Northwestern Events Calendar


The Mirage of Development: The Sichuan Earthquake, One Decade Later

When: Friday, March 9, 2018
10:00 AM - 11:30 AM Central

Where: Scott Hall, 201, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Elizabeth Morrissey  

Group: Equality Development and Globalization Studies (EDGS)

Co-Sponsor: Department of Political Science

Category: Lectures & Meetings


EDGS and Political Science Speaker Series on “Society and Politics in the Asia-Pacific”

Christian Sorace, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Colorado College.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, it is worth reflecting on the post-earthquake reconstruction from the perspective of what was built, why was it built, and ultimately for whom was it built? Based on my book Shaken Authority: China’s Communist Party and the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake, I argue that the Chinese Communist Party viewed the post-quake reconstruction as an opportunity to achieve a political “miracle” and “great leap of development” in the Sichuan countryside.

But many of the earthquake survivors did not experience the reconstruction as something intended to improve their lives. Instead, they perceived the reconstruction as an elaborate performance of the Communist Party’s glory and benevolence, which often times was enacted at their own expense, and in contrast to their own perceived needs and desires.

I argue that the Communist Party is discursively path dependent on specific narratives of legitimation, which constrain its ability to govern and be responsive to people's needs. In particular, I will discuss the post-2008 Sichuan earthquake reconstruction of Yingxiu township, which was reconstructed to perform the Party's benevolence, with scant consideration for its impact on the lives of local residents.

Christian Sorace is currently an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Colorado College. He is the author of Shaken Authority: China’s Communist Party and the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake published in May 2017 with Cornell University Press. His articles have appeared in Critical Inquiry, Comparative Politics, The China Journal, and The China Quarterly among other journals. He is also the editor of the Arts and Culture section of a new open-access quarterly journal called Made in China. His new research focuses on comparative urbanization and land-rights in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, China.

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