On 12 May 2008, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Wenchuan county, Sichuan province. Felt as far as Beijing, the tremors caused horrific damage: 69,229 people died and 17,923 went missing. Yet, the aftermath of the seism was also a time of hope—with Chinese citizens from all over the country outdoing each other to show solidarity with the victims. As local governments began to recognise the importance of NGOs in providing disaster relief and social services, 2008 was widely seen as a ‘Year Zero’ for Chinese civil society. At that time, hardly anybody could have foreseen the wave of repression against civil society that was to come and that is today the norm. This issue looks back at the legacy of this disaster, and the ways in which state and civil society actors renegotiate their positions during ‘states of emergency’.