Turning Disaster Into Renewal: Governmental Renewal Discourse in Rebuilding Wenchuan Earthquake-Damaged Communities

Yue Hu

Major Professor: Carl Botan, PhD, Department of Communication

Committee Members: Katherine Rowan, Xiaoquan Zhao

Robinson Hall A, #312
April 25, 2012, 01:00 PM to 11:00 AM


This study reviews and evaluates communication campaigns launched by the Chinese governments to facilitate long-term disaster recovery after the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008. The case is selected because the earthquake had a devastating impact on a large population and communication campaigns are believed to have helped in turning the disaster into an opportunity for renewal. Theories of discourse of renewal (DR) and government advocacy are employed to guide the study to answer the first question of how governments utilized communication to assist community recovering from a disaster, and even promote community growth. Steered by the co-creational perspective, this study also examines the effectiveness of renewal campaigns on residents’ satisfaction with, trust of, and support with renewal efforts made by the Chinese governments. A Discourse of Renewal Outcome Evaluation model is developed and tested. Furthermore, this study explores the informational obstacles that constrain the effectiveness of renewal efforts. In-depth interviews, content analysis and survey are conducted to explore the characteristics, strategies, effectiveness and obstacles of the campaigns. This study is the first attempt to explore DR in an eastern culture as China through case analysis and is an initial scientific test on the effectiveness of DR. Findings extend our theoretical understanding of, 1) how DR theory, which has heretofore been developed and applied mainly in Western culture , informs the study of crisis communication in Eastern culture especially in China, 2) how advocacy strategies can be applied in renewal discourse campaigns, 3) what are the factors that affect the outcome of renewal discourse, and our practical understanding of 4) how to better plan and execute a long-term disaster renewal discourse.