On 12 May, 2008 a massive earthquake struck Wenchuan in western China. In August 2008 the Chinese government launched a three-year reconstruction plan. This paper examines the progress made in the first year of reconstruction in rural Wenchuan and the challenges that remain. As the area struck by the earthquake was poor, the paper pays particular attention to the relationships between reconstruction, disaster mitigation and poverty alleviation. The research shows that the speed and qualityof state-led reconstruction ishigh,and that the effectiveness ofre construction depended vitally on aclear action plan andconsistent and effective coordination and integrationo factors involved in its implementation.Existing research also shows that poverty is a major driver of the impact of disasters. This research shows that priority was attached to resettlement of the rural population and that poverty alleviation features strongly in the reconstruction plans. Although there is evidence of pro-poor policies, most resources were not concentrated on the poor population within the zone. The main reason why is that the allocation of resources was driven by damage assessments. House reconstruction in particular has however occurred at the expense of substantial increases in household indebtedness. Indebtedness along with a reduced flow of public expenditure at the end of the plan period suggest that there is a high risk of an economic downturn, observed elsewhere in a ’forgotten phase’ of earthquake reconstruction. Earthquake recovery is a long-term process requiring a seven-to ten-year economic development, risk mitigation and poverty alleviation programme.