The purpose of this paper is to explore how emergency management in China was affected by governmental decisions to release or withhold information during a crisis.
This relationship is studied in four case studies: the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome epidemic, the 2005 Songhua water pollution crisis, the 2008 snow storms and the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.
In the earlier cases, governmental organizations withheld information in an attempt to retain control over the disaster. The actual effects, however, were often rather unexpected, if not perverse. The control over information eroded citizens' trust in the government's ability to deal with the crisis. This led to behavior on the part of the citizens' that in some cases actually exacerbated the emergency.
These experiences have led to dramatic changes in information disclosure during emergency management, changes that went directly against the dominant practices with the Chinese state apparatus.
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