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Gao Huan is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Government, Harvard University. Her research focuses on emergency management, local governance, and civil society development in contemporary China.

The Power of the Square: Post-earthquake Activism in Mianyang

The year 2008 saw an explosion of civic activities in China, ignited by the devastating earthquake in Sichuan province. Even amid this widespread activism, Mianyang city stood out as a unique site of popular mobilisation, with local people becoming active, self-organised, and creating a network of new NGOs that exists to this day. This kind of activism was a rare thing in Sichuan, where most cities only created new NGOs with the help of external actors. This essay considers how Mianyang’s distinctive pattern of local mobilisation was enabled by public spaces, in particular the emergency shelter at Jiuzhou Stadium.

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