When Disaster Strikes: The 1954 Yangzi River Flood and Competing Responses in Communist China


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation Travel Grants to China




The 1954 Yangzi River flood was the first major natural disaster that occurred after the establishment of the communist regime in 1949. It tested the new government’s ability to handle natural disasters and its political legitimacy to govern the country. Going beyond a state-centered narrative, my dissertation examines how the state extended its power to local society by the means of flood control, and how local people combated the flood and mobilized natural and social resources to serve for their own interests. By investigating previously unused county archives in Central China, this study uses flood as a lens to understand the dynamic relations between state control and local strategies in coping with natural disaster in the communist regime.